Hybrid Release, Delta Variant Blunt SUICIDE SQUAD Reboot (BOX OFFICE)

James Gunn’s take on DC’s dirty dozen fights for its life in theaters as various factors conspire to keep audiences at home.

Just when the box office seemed to be showing signs of life, now opening wide in theaters it’s starting to look like a suicide mission again for mega-budget franchise flicks.

With a so-so debut weekend of $26.5 million, DC’s reboot of The Suicide Squad came in well below expectations. Industry estimates had it landing anywhere between the low 30Ms to around 40M. The low total is particularly notable considering that this heavily-marketed effort from the Guardians of the Galaxy guru opened on over 4000 screens, a massive count.

Struggling to overcome the poor reputation of its 2016 predecessor while also being saddled by a hard-R rating, writer/director James Gunn‘s gratuitously violent comic book movie already had a fight on its hands. Add to that a double-whammy of the movie’s simultaneous at-home release on streamer HBO Max and a resurgent pandemic, Warner Bros. may feel lucky to have eked out the $26M+ it did, especially as the haul stands as the best R-rated debut of the pandemic.

For context, the U.S. has jumped from about 10,000 daily COVID cases a month ago when Black Widow opened (at $80M) to around 100,000 daily cases today.

Even so, Disney’s Jungle Cruise — which is also available to stream at home on Disney Plus (via a $30 Premier Access fee) — enjoyed a solid second weekend at #2. Its $15.7 million in ticket sales marked a week-to-week dip of 55%, a respectable drop at a time when most other blockbusters fall by 65% or more. Its North American box office total thus far is at $65 million.

M. Night Shyamalan‘s thriller Old held fast at #3 with $4.1 million. Its $38.5M earnings to date is already $20 million past its moderate budget.

Black Widow also remains steady at #4 with $4 million, pushing it to a $174 million domestic total. That moves the MCU solo entry past F9 to become the biggest U.S. money-maker of the pandemic era, even as star Scarlett Johansson sues Marvel-owner Disney for breach of contract. The actress contends that Disney suppressed her backend theatrical earnings via the film’s simultaneous play on streamer Disney Plus.

Matt Damon‘s indie drama Stillwater rounded out the Top 5 with $2.86 million ($10 million total).

Next week, Ryan Reynolds‘ original action comedy Free Guy and Jennifer Hudson‘s Aretha Franklin biopic Respect — both PG-13 — will see if they can lure bigger audiences back into multiplexes. With no VOD or at-home streaming option, each movie will play exclusively in theaters.

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