Going into 2021, Zendaya had already collected an Emmy for her leading role on HBO’s Euphoria and was known to moviegoers for her parts in the Spider-Man franchise and The Greatest Showman. She is the subject of my second write-up for performers who had a meaningful 2021 and it’s no coincidence that she’s the second that appeared in Spider-Man: No Way Home (currently breaking all pandemic era box office records). The first was Benedict Cumberbatch… and we might not be done yet with Home costars.
Her inclusion isn’t just due to her onscreen (and apparently offscreen) pairing with Spidey himself, Tom Holland. The actress/singer began the year garnering Oscar chatter for the Netflix drama Malcolm & Marie with John David Washington. While she didn’t ultimately nab an Academy mention, she was on the Critics Choice Awards radar for her acclaimed performance.
By summertime, she lent her voice to Space Jam: A New Legacy (voicing Lola Bunny). Her involvement with Warner Bros/HBO Max continued in the fall with the long awaited sci-fi epic Dune. It looks to be her first picture that will achieve plenty of award nominations and the sequel is already lined up for 2023.
And, of course, she capped it all off with her third appearance as MJ in the massive MCU series. Zendaya expanded her reach in 2021 as her films reached plenty of homes this year. My Year of posts will continue…
Blogger’s Note (08/18): I am revising my PAW Patrol: The Movie estimate up from $7.9M to $10.8M.
Will young pups across North America be begging their guardian masters for the opportunity to see PAW Patrol: The Movie next weekend? That’s what Paramount is hoping for as the Canadian based Nickelodeon series hits the big screen. The animated show has been on tube since 2013 and the voice regulars (Kingsley Marshall, Keegan Hedley, Shayle Simons, Lilly Bartlam, and Ron Pardo) are heard here. We also have some famous to sorta famous faces lending their vocal talents. They include Iain Armitage, Marsai Martin, Yara Shahidi, Kim Kardashian, Randall Park, Dax Shepard, Tyler Perry, and Jimmy Kimmel. Cal Brunker (maker of Escape from Planet Earth and The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature) directs.
So will the intended crowd be down with PP? Clearly the TV show has a following. However, it certainly skews younger than most animated titles so the kiddie pool is limited. This will also be premiering simultaneously on Paramount+. While it may not have the reach of the streaming big daddies, it could still siphon away some viewers. Perhaps most importantly, mid to late August is a tricky time for this genre as children are heading back to school.
Family entertainment offerings like Space Jam: A New Legacy and Jungle Cruise have slightly exceeded expectations lately. It’s fair to say they didn’t face some of the hurdles PAW does. A slightly better comp might be The Boss Baby: Family Business, which recently debuted with just over $17 million. I’d be surprised if PAW matched it. It might be lucky to earn half of that and that’s what I’m thinking.
PAW Patrol: The Movie opening weekend prediction: $10.8 million
Uh oh. That is likely to be the prevailing refrain coming from not only Warner Bros today, but Hollywood as a whole. The August box office has kicked off with only one wide release this weekend and it’s a high profile one in The Suicide Squad. This is the hard R rated reboot of the franchise from director James Gunn, who’s had massive success in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the Guardians of the Galaxy and its sequel.
Hopes were riding high after this Squad received unexpectedly laudatory marks from critics with a 92% Rotten Tomatoes score. The 2016 Suicide Squad managed only 26% and still became a financial success story. In fact, its $65 million opening Friday set the August record five years back. It went on to gross $133 million for the weekend and $325 million overall domestic.
With the Delta variant rising across the country and the 2021 version being available on HBO Max, no one expected this to match the original. However, when it made $4 million on Thursday night, that seemed to correlate with a premiere close to $40 million (where I had it pegged).
What a difference a day makes. Reports have The Suicide Squad earning just over $12 million for Friday (this includes the Thursday preview numbers). And that means a debut in the mid 20s is where it’s headed. That is absolutely on the lowest end of forecasts.
In short… that’s bad. Usually comic book movies are critic proof if the reviews are mediocre (like Suicide Squad). One would think the unanticipated praise would’ve been a boost. Not so. To make it worse, 2020’s spin-off Birds of Prey focused on Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn character took in $33 million out of the gate. I can’t imagine Warner Bros ever imagined The Suicide Squad would fall short of that.
So what happened? There will be many theories. First off, 2016’s Squad was a hit, but audiences didn’t exactly love it and perhaps they weren’t clamoring for a reimagining. The original Squad had a PG-13 rating and that means youngsters had a better opportunity to turn out. The new Squad being on HBO Max. The absence of the franchise’s biggest star Will Smith.
These are all viable explanations and they might all be contributors (especially the general ambivalence for what we witnessed five years ago). Studios are really hoping the overriding rationale isn’t the Delta variant. If so, don’t be shocked if we see other major releases start getting delayed again. That would be a reversal from where things seemed headed even last month. There’s a whole lotta movie lovers hoping No Time to Die or Dune or Halloween Kills and more stick to their fall plans.
Family fare like Space Jam: A New Legacy and Jungle Cruise opened slightly above projections and both were available on streaming. Theaters owners had reason to feel hopeful. To be clear, one failure may not change the dynamic and The Suicide Squad could represent a blip where the aforementioned circumstances caused the lackluster performance. Yet there’s little doubt that radars across Tinsel Town are at full attention and that this never-ending story of uncertainty carries on.
Ryan Reynolds doesn’t know his life exists inside a video game in Free Guy, out August 13th. The sci-fi comedy comes from director Shawn Levy, best known for the Night at the Museum franchise. Costars include Jodie Comer, Lil Rel Howery, Taika Waititi, Utkarsh Ambudkar, and Joe Keery.
Originally slated for release during the July 4th holiday weekend in 2020, Free has seen numerous COVID related delays. Early word-of-mouth (the official review embargo is still in place as of this post) is pretty positive. Reynolds has had a mixed box office showing lately since Deadpool became his signature character. Just earlier this summer, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard struggled a bit and sits below $40 million domestic.
Several family pics have exceeded projections this season with Space Jam: A New Legacy and Jungle Cruise hitting debuts of over $30 million. Free Guy has the disadvantage of not being a sequel or based on a known property. And, of course, there’s also the Delta variant uncertainty.
This isn’t the first foray into video game based features for Reynolds. Two summers ago, Pokemon: Detective Pikachu amassed a $50 million plus start. Due to the aforementioned challenges (and let’s not forget Pokemon is a huge brand too), Free Guy is unlikely to accomplish a gross of $30 million or over. Low to mid 20s is my take.
Free Guy opening weekend prediction: $21.3 million
James Gunn’s version of The Suicide Squad hits theaters and HBO Max streaming this Friday and it’s got surprisingly terrific reviews as a bonus feature to bring viewers out. You can peruse my detailed prediction post on it here:
The first Squad from 2016 (the one without the THE in front of the title) landed just a 26% Rotten Tomatoes score while THE reboot is perched at an unexpectedly lofty 96%. However, with the Delta variant in play and the availability to HBO subscribers, I have this Squad achieving a low to possibly mid 40s start.
Margot Robbie and her devious friends represent the only newcomer. Jungle Cruise opened a bit above most projections (including mine). The question is whether its Disney Plus simultaneous debut will cause it to drop precipitously like Black Widow and other recent titles. I suspect the sophomore frame dip may not be quite as severe and mid 50s is my forecast.
The holdover battle for the #3 spot could be close between M. Night Shyamalan’s Old, critical favorite The Green Knight, and Black Widow. I actually think Widow could rise from 4th to 3rd with the smallest drop (assuming Old falls about 50%). Knight, despite the laudatory reviews and a larger than expected debut, only nabbed a C+ Cinemascore grade and that could mean a 60% range dip is in the cards.
And with that, my top 5 take on the frame ahead:
1. The Suicide Squad
Predicted Gross: $40.8 million
2. Jungle Cruise
Predicted Gross: $15.5 million
3. Black Widow
Predicted Gross: $3.7 million
Predicted Gross: $3.5 million
5. The Green Knight
Predicted Gross: $2.7 million
Box Office Results (July 30-August 1)
Disney had reason to celebrate over the weekend as Jungle Cruise with Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt opened at the high end of projections. The theme ride based adventure, sporting mostly positive reviews, landed with $35 million (ahead of my $28.4 million estimate). Additionally, the studio’s streamer Disney Plus reported $30 million in rental action. That’s about as rosy as scenario possible given the continuing complications for theaters.
Old dropped to second with a near 60% plummet at $6.8 million, in line with my $6.6 million take. It’s earned $30 million so far and that’s decent considering the small budget.
The Mouse Factory wasn’t the only studio that exceeded projections as The Green Knight was third with $6.7 million – well beyond my meager $3.4 million guesstimate. As mentioned above, the middling audience reaction could halt its momentum in weekend #2, but that’s certainly a better start than anticipated.
Black Widow was fourth with $6.4 million (I said $5.6 million) to bring its tally to $167 million.
Matt Damon’s Stillwater premiered in fifth with a muted $5.1 million. That’s right in line with my $5.2 million estimate as mostly solid reviews couldn’t bring adult moviegoers out in substantial fashion.
Space Jam: A New Legacy was sixth with $4.2 million (I was close with $4.5 million) for a three week $60 million total.
Lastly, Snake Eyes nosedived in its second outing after a disastrous opening with $4 million (I said $4.7 million). The ill-fated G.I. Joe reboot has amassed just $22 million.
Putting the “The” in front of the title isn’t the only change for The Suicide Squad as the DC Comics adaptation hits theaters August 6th. Arriving five years after Suicide Squad, James Gunn (best known for making both Guardians of the Galaxy pics for the MCU) takes over directing duties from David Ayer. Will Smith is nowhere to be found though Margot Robbie reprises her role as Harley Quinn. Other returnees include Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, and Jai Courtney. New cast members in the mix are Idris Elba, John Cena, Sylvester Stallone, Peter Capaldi, Michael Rooker, and Pete Davidson.
The tenth feature in the DC Extended Universe series, the film will be a test of just how much audiences wish for a return engagement in this particular subsection of the franchise. In 2016, Suicide Squad (despite mostly poor reviews) exceeded expectations with its opening weekend. It grossed a frontloaded $133 million out of the gate with an eventual domestic haul of $325 million. In the spring of 2020, spin-off Birds of Prey, centered on Robbie’s character, was a different story. Prey made a full $100 million less than Squad for its start at $33 million with an $82 million overall stateside gross.
The Suicide Squad, like all Warner Bros product in 2021, will open simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max’s streaming service. The studio has seen some positive results this year with that strategy including Godzilla vs. Kong (nearly $50 million in its five-day Easter debut) and Space Jam: A New Legacy at a better than expected $31 million.
Gunn’s Squad tale will not approach what was achieved five years ago. Yet I do suspect it will outdo the low 30s made by Prey. Hitting $50 million is achievable, but Delta variant complications and the availability of HBO Max could put it under that figure in the low to possibly mid 40s range.
The Suicide Squad opening weekend prediction: $40.8 million
Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt’s theme ride based Disney adventure Jungle Cruise should have no trouble topping the charts as July rolls to August at the box office. It opens alongside the Matt Damon drama Stillwater and David Lowery’s medieval tale The Green Knight with Dev Patel and Alicia Vikander. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on all of them here:
After a rather sluggish weekend where no newcomer topped $20 million, Jungle should easily cruise to that and more. Whether it tops $30 million is more of a question mark (especially with the Delta variant complicating matters). I’m putting it just under $30M while no other title should hit $10 million.
The jockeying for slots 2-5 could be interesting. Let’s get The Green Knight out of the way. While Lowery is an acclaimed indie filmmaker, I don’t see this having much initial crossover appeal. I have yet to see a theater count and my estimate of $3.4 million puts it well outside the top 5 (my estimate could change based on number of screens). **Blogger’s Update (07/28): the 2500 estimated screen count has revised my estimate for this up from $2.2M to $3.4M
Stillwater is a bit more of a head scratcher. It has solid reviews yet I can’t shake the feeling that this might have been better positioned for an autumn release. It could certainly open higher than my $5.2 million projection, but I also wouldn’t shocked if it went lower.
The position of Stillwater in the top 5 will be determined by the sophomore drops of Old and Snake Eyes and the fourth weekend performance of Black Widow.
Widow and Space Jam: A New Legacy have experienced hefty declines in their second frames. With mixed to negative reviews, I see no reason why Old and Snake Eyes won’t suffer the same fate. Both could see their fortunes fall in the mid 50s (that could be best case) or 60% or more. I’m thinking the latter. There’s a chance that Space Jam could stay in the high five if Snake Eyes dips in the mid 60s (I think it’ll be awfully close)
Here’s how I have all the action playing out:
1. Jungle Cruise
Predicted Gross: $28.4 million
Predicted Gross: $6.6 million
3. Black Widow
Predicted Gross: $5.6 million
Predicted Gross: $5.2 million
5. Snake Eyes
Predicted Gross: $4.7 million
6. Space Jam: A New Legacy
Predicted Gross: $4.5 million
Box Office Results (July 23-25)
Considering its low budget, the performance of M. Night Shyamalan’s Old isn’t necessarily bad news for Universal. However, it definitely came in on the low end of expectations with $16.8 million for a gold medal showing. I was more generous at $19.8 million. Word-of-mouth doesn’t seem very encouraging and I anticipate a sophomore drop in the 60% range.
There’s really no way to spin the Snake Eyes gross in a positive way for Paramount with its disappointing silver medal. The hoped for G.I. Joe reboot tanked with just $13.3 million compared to my $17.2 million projection. You could say it was a real American no show with audiences. With a budget in the reported $100 million range, this should easily put this franchise on the skids for some time.
Black Widow took the bronze in weekend #3 with $11.6 million (I went a little higher at $12.9 million). The MCU stand-alone feature has made $154 million thus far and will be one of the lowest performers of the MCU library.
Space Jam: A New Legacy plummeted from its #1 perch to fourth with a near 70 percent fall. The $9.5 million gross was way under my take of $15.8 million and the two-week tally is $51 million. There’s no chance the LeBron and Looney Tunes sequel will make $100 million stateside.
F9 was fifth with $4.8 million (I said $5.1 million) to bring its total to $163 million.
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions was sixth in its second outing with only $3.5 million (I went with $4.5 million) for $16 million overall.
Blogger’s Note (07/21): I am revising some predictions from my original Monday. Taking Old from $22.8 million down to $19.8 million; Snake Eyes from $21.2 million to $17.2 million; and Space Jam: A New Legacy from $14.8 million up to $15.8 million.
We could see a real battle for the #1 position this weekend as M. Night Shyamalan’s Old and the G.I. Joe reboot Snake Eyes both debut. I have both nabbing similar grosses and you can peruse my detailed write-ups on each right here:
My estimates have the pair landing in the low to mid 20s and I’m giving Shyamalan’s latest a slight edge. Truth be told, either one of them could over or underperform so this lends some genuine suspense to the forthcoming results.
Assuming both manage to reach high teens to $20 million, that should mean Space Jam: A New Legacy will drop to 3rd following its better than expected debut (more on that below) with a dip in the 50-55% range. Black Widow, after experiencing a larger than anticipated sophomore drop, should fall to fourth position. There could be a close competition for the five spot between Escape Room: Tournament of Champions and F9. I’ll say Vin Diesel and his merry band of racers triumphs since Escape might lose around half of the opening audience from its lackluster start.
And with that, let’s do a top 6 this time around:
Predicted Gross: $19.8 million
2. Snake Eyes
Predicted Gross: $17.2 million
3. Space Jam: A New Legacy
Predicted Gross: $15.8 million
4. Black Widow
Predicted Gross: $12.9 million
Predicted Gross: $5.1 million
6. Escape Room: Tournament of Champions
Predicted Gross: $4.5 million
Box Office Results (July 16-18)
In a surprise development, Lebron James and the Tune Squad dunked over Scarlett Johansson as Space Jam: A New Legacy opened ahead of projections with $31 million. That’s well above my $22.7 million estimate as the long in development sequel (which is also available on HBO Max) clearly brought in families and the nostalgic fans of the 1996 original.
Black Widow was anticipated to repeat at #1, but it fell to second with a massive 68% drop. The MCU stand-alone feature took in $25.8 million compared to my more generous $32.1 million prediction. The pic stands at $131 million as theater owners are griping about its simultaneous streaming showings on Disney Plus.
Horror sequel Escape Room: Tournament of Champions couldn’t emerge with an impressive start with $8.8 million. That’s about $10 million below what the 2019 original achieved and under my take of $11.4 million.
F9 held up better than I figured in fourth with $7.6 million (I lowballed it at $6.2 million). The four week tally is $154 million as it has become to second COVID era flick after A Quiet Place Part II to reach $150M+.
The Boss Baby: Family Business was fifth with $4.7 million (I said $5.2 million) and it stands at $44 million.
For reasons I cannot really explain, I never saw 1996’s Space Jam until yesterday. Followers of my blog know I’m a bit of a movie lover (hence the blog). Yet there’s plenty of films I haven’t watched. Gone with the Wind springs to mind. I still haven’t caught up with Demi Moore’s take on The Scarlet Letter and it came out a year before this one.
However, I was 17 when Michael Jordan’s collaboration with the Looney Tunes was released in theaters and it was a huge hit. I’m also a massive basketball fan and was an ardent admirer of #23 (who had just won his fourth NBA Championship in the months prior to Jam‘s release). Hell, I even had the soundtrack on CD. It featured Seal’s cover of “Fly Like an Eagle”. There was also “Hit ‘Em High” and it featured the divine hop hop quintet of B-Real, Coolio, Method Man, LL Cool J, and Busta Rhymes. The biggest hit causes some trepidation nowadays as the picture opens with the crooning of R. Kelly and “I Believe I Can Fly”.
It seems a bit silly to recount the plot all this time later, but here goes. Space Jam takes place in that strange time known as Michael Jordan’s first retirement. That’s when the superstar chose to play baseball and ended up in the Minor Leagues. That aforementioned first scene set to Kelly’s syrupy ballad is actually a touching one that features MJ as a young tyke on the court with his father. Followers of Jordan know why the sequence likely had some emotional resonance with him.
The comedy begins in another animated realm where Mr. Swackhammer (voiced by Danny DeVito) lords over his minions in a place titled Moron Mountain. That locale is part of an amusement park in need of more sizzling attractions. Swackhammer decides he wants to recruit the Looney Tunes characters (against their will) to join the party. When Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Sylvester, Tweety Bird, the Tasmanian Devil and others are given the proposition – they challenge the newly formed Monstars to a basketball game. If they win, they’re free to go and resume their normal cartoon hijinks.
Swackhammer won’t go down without some creative team building so he steals the bodies of NBA stalwarts like Charles Barkley, Muggy Bogues, and Patrick Ewing to join his squad. Bugs and company have an ace up their sleeve, however, with the greatest of all time.
The blend of animation and live-action still holds up quite well from the mid 90s. At the time, it was quite cutting edge. This Jam runs just 88 minutes and mostly flies by. Jordan isn’t asked to do Shakespeare here. He plays a version of himself and does it well. The screenplay even has some fun with his many corporate connections by name dropping his many commercial brands (from Hanes to McDonald’s) at one point. Wayne Knight (fresh off being decimated by Dinos in Jurassic Park) plays MJ’s pushy but good-hearted publicist. Jordan’s family (Theresa Randle is his wife) appear intermittently but aren’t really a focus. MJ has a game to win after all and he takes it personally.
Having the Looney Tunes posse allows for plenty of humorous moments. No, this isn’t them at the height of their glory, but they still deliver. Interestingly enough, I found myself wanting the script to delve more into certain subplots. Having been a viewer of Inside the NBA for many years, I have no doubt that Charles Barkley could have been utilized to better effect (the dude’s hilarious).
My overall reaction to Space Jam is that I totally get why it’s become so appreciated. Is it a classic? No. Does it take its limited premise and make it amusing? Yes. In 2021, Lebron James has become the face of his league and that’s warranted the just out sequel. I won’t wait 25 years to watch it and my review of A New Legacy is coming to the blog soon.
Not everything has changed in the last quarter century by the way. Bill Murray shows up out of nowhere at a couple of key times. You’re a Google search away from reading stories about the legendary actor doing that all over the world. Google may not have been a thing 25 years ago, but Mr. Murray popping up unexpectedly to make things better is timeless.
Lebron James will not become the first NBA superstar to score a Best Actor nomination and no, his former teammates Shaquille O’Neal (Kazaam) and Kyrie Irving (Uncle Drew) didn’t do so. #23 headlines the long in development sequel Space Jam: A New Legacy this Friday and reviews only have the live-action/animated mix at 42% on Rotten Tomatoes.
There is, however, one category where Oscar attention is at least feasible and that is Visual Effects. Even some of the negative critical posts mention the solid special effects. The original Jam 25 years ago couldn’t manage to get in the VFX derby. Back then, there were only three nominees and 1996’s winner was Independence Day over Dragonheart and Twister.
Could the expansion to five give LeBron’s iteration a shot? Doubtful. Warner Bros. already has three stronger hopefuls with Godzilla vs. Kong, Dune, and the fourth Matrix and it’s questionable whether much of a campaign would be done here.
Bottom line: Legacy could make the shortlist of possibilities for inclusion at the end of 2021. I would be surprised if it makes the starting lineup. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…