'Free Guy' Box Office Proves Once Again That No, Movies Are Not Back

It goes without saying that this is no normal box office year. Since theaters reopened in March, there's been considerable hesitance from would-be movie-goers around the country. No amount of additional safety protocols can hide the fact that the Delta variant is on the rise, or lessen the dangers of resuming pre-pandemic life. Where the box office is concerned, this makes those that manage some modicum of success all the more notable. But of course, some of it comes as no surprise.

When Black Widow premiered to sizeable numbers, as a huge piece of IP and a long-awaited addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it unsurprisingly smashed the pandemic box office. And though it exceeded expectations, this week's Free Guy didn't even come close to Black Widow's numbers, which in turn didn't come close to the numbers it would attain in a normal box office year. All of which returns us to the conclusion that movie theaters are not back in full, certainly not when COVID cases are worsening. Audiences have known as much for a while, and studios are catching on as well.

Free Guy's First Weekend

According to Variety, the Ryan Reynolds-led sci-fi comedy Free Guy debuted at $28.4 million dollars domestically and earned an additional $22.5 million at theaters overseas. With a global tally of $51 million, Free Guy has exceeded last week's projections for the film.

Especially after the dismal showing for last week's premiere contender, The Suicide Squad, which made only $26.5 million domestically against a much higher budget, expectations were set pretty low for Free Guy's premiere. The rise of the Delta variant has shaken people's confidence in returning to theaters and even made studios more hesitant about releases. And though Free Guy has the benefit of being exclusively released in theaters, with no streaming service sharing its premiere, the movie is also an original piece of IP. It lacks a built-in audience – or so we thought.

As it turns out, Ryan Reynolds's name is more than enough to move the needle. Chief analyst at Box Office Pro, Shawn Robbins cited Reynolds as the primary reason for the film's success. He said:

"In Detective Pikachu, his voice was a big part of that movie's success. That was a good bridge into Free Guy, especially with video game fans."

The running joke is that Reynolds has a tendency to play a version of himself in every performance: sharp, dark wit, and unending enthusiasm. While his character Guy is a lot breezier than his Deadpool character, Reynolds' fans will certainly be satisfied. It may also help that Free Guy originally had a July 2020 release date planned: trailers have been running for well over a year, as the film has been repeatedly delayed. In that, the film has the benefit of being a familiar title.

The Rest of the Box Office

Coming up behind Free Guy was the Sony horror sequel, Don't Breathe 2. A follow-up to the surprise 2016 hit, Don't Breathe 2 had name recognition on its side but may have been hurt by a decidedly controversial premise. The film made an estimated $10.6 million. To compare, the first premiered at $26.4 million and eventually tapped out after making $157 million worldwide.

Coming in at third was Disney's Jungle Cruise, making $9 million for a total of $82 million domestically. Unlike those above it, Jungle Cruise is making additional money for its studio via streaming, having premiered simultaneously on Disney+ with Premier Access. For an additional $30, the film can be viewed at home.

Behind Jungle Cruise is another film that premiered this weekend, the Aretha Franklin biopic, Respect. Its $8.8 million dollars domestically must've been a letdown but, ultimately, wasn't entirely shocking, The film appeals to an older demographic, those more in danger and all the more hesitant about returning to theaters, especially given the last few weeks.

In fifth place, The Suicide Squad has dropped tremendously from its previous #1 spot. Already a box office disappointment, the film only made an additional $7.6 million this weekend.

The Uncertain Future

With the Delta variant on the rise, theaters are spiraling back into uncertain territory. It's already beginning to show in the box office numbers, as well as the news. Sony recently pushed back the release of Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Paramount has delayed Clifford the Big Red Dog.

Next weekend, the biggest box office addition will likely be the Hugh Jackman sci-fi Reminiscence. However, as a Warner Bros movie, it will also be available to stream on HBO Max for 30 days. Streaming has been a huge factor for recent releases, especially where HBO Max is concerned, since the films are readily available with the subscription. Disney films have come out a little less hurt because of the $30 upcharge on Disney+.