LOS ANGELES – The Suicide Squad, the R-rated comic book adaptation directed by James Gunn, underwhelmed in its box office debut, collecting $26.5 million from 4,002 North American theatres.
However, those ticket sales were easily enough to lead domestic box office charts despite falling short of expectations heading into the weekend.
Several factors contributed to the film’s less-than-stellar start, including but not limited to growing concern over the Delta variant of COVID-19, the Warner Bros. film’s hybrid release on HBO Max at no extra charge to subscribers, and its R-rating.
Given the ongoing pandemic, an opening weekend below $30 million isn’t surprising, but it’s disappointing because The Suicide Squad cost $185 million to produce and many millions more to promote globally.
At the international box office, The Suicide Squad added another $35 million from 70 overseas territories, bringing its global tally to $72.2 million.
The Suicide Squad serves as a do-over of sorts to the 2016 Warner Bros. movie about a group of expendable super-villains on a deadly mission. It brings back Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Joel Kinnaman as Col. Rick Flag and Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, but original stars Will Smith and Jared Leto didn’t return for the fresh spin on the DC Comics adaptation.
Though Robbie and Davis are A-listers, The Suicide Squad likely suffered from a lack of star power. Despite the vastly different reception (the article-less Suicide Squad, directed by David Ayer, has a 26% on Rotten Tomatoes), the latest take won’t come close to reaching the ticket sales of the original, which kicked off with $133 million and ended its run with $746 million globally.
Of course, that film didn’t open during a deadly pandemic and wasn’t offered simultaneously on HBO Max.
Still, industry analysts thought The Suicide Squad would have a stronger launch because the film has excellent reviews; its target audience of younger males has been among the most loyal moviegoers during the pandemic.
Instead, The Suicide Squad didn’t collect much more than its fellow Warner Bros. and DC tentpole Wonder Woman 1984, which generated $16.7 million last December at a time when only 35% of movie theatres had reopened and the idea of a widely available vaccine felt like a far off dream. Today, more than 85% of US and Canadian cinemas have reopened, according to Comscore.
“Currently, this is an unforgiving market,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “Under normal conditions, a strong marketing campaign can overcome a few drawbacks and generate a good weekend. Under current conditions, that isn’t happening.”
Disney’s Jungle Cruise dipped 55% in its second weekend with ticket sales totalling $15.7 million from 4,310 venues in a distant second place on box office charts. The family-friendly film, starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, has grossed $65 million in North America and $121 million globally.
Disney reported last weekend that Jungle Cruise made $30 million on Disney Plus, but the studio did not provide an update beyond its initial outing.
Universal’s psychological thriller Old landed in third place with $4.1 million from 3,138 locations. After three weeks on the big screen, the M. Night Shyamalan movie has pocketed $38.5 million. The PG-13 film has amassed another $26 million at the international box office, propelling its global tally to $65 million.
At the No. 4 spot, Disney and Marvel’s Black Widow pulled in $4 million from 3,100 theatres. The superhero flick starring Scarlett Johansson as the eponymous Avenger has earned $174 million at the domestic box office and $359 million worldwide.
With this weekend’s total, Black Widow has surpassed Universal’s Fast and Furious sequel F9 to become the highest-grossing movie of the year in North America. Still, it ranks as one of the lowest-earning titles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Rounding out the top five, Matt Damon’s drama Stillwater posted $2.86 million from 2,611 theatres. The well-reviewed Focus Features film, about a man who travels to France to clear his daughter’s name, has crossed the $10 million threshold, which is a nice accomplishment for an indie film amid the pandemic.