Walt Disney Co.’s “Jungle Cruise,” based on a theme-park ride, opened as the top film in North American theaters, collecting a higher-than-expected $34 million sales in a still-tough climate for the nation’s movie theaters.
“The Green Knight,” a fantasy take on the King Arthur story from A24, opened in second place with $6.78 million in sales, researcher Comscore Inc. said Sunday. Last weekend’s leader, the M. Night Shyamalan horror film “Old,” landed in the third place with revenues of $6.76 million for Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures. The new Matt Damon film “Stillwater” opened with $5.12 million.
“Jungle Cruise” debuted in both theaters and online — available to Disney+ subscribers for an additional fee of $30 — the same strategy the entertainment giant employed with its Marvel film “Black Widow” a few weeks ago. The strategy has led to tension with owners of theaters, which are struggling to draw back fans after the coronavirus shutdown. That effort has been complicated by surging cases of the new delta variant.
“Jungle Cruise” features Dwayne Johnson as captain of an Amazon riverboat. His passenger, played by Emily Blunt, is seeking the flowers of a plant with healing powers. The film cost about $200 million to make, according to trade reports, and drew generally upbeat reviews, with 62% of critics recommending the picture at Rotten Tomatoes, a website that aggregates critics’ comment.
The movie’s debut sales exceeded industry’s expectation of about $30 million, according to market researcher BoxofficePro. It said the film could take in up to $135 million in domestic ticket sales during its full theatrical run.
Controversy over the simultaneous release of films in theaters and online has been heating up. Besides angering theater owners, Disney was sued by actress Scarlett Johansson, a star of the company’s Marvel films. She alleged in a lawsuit last week that the company broke its promise to release “Black Widow” only in movie theaters when it made it available for streaming. Her contract guaranteed her a share of the box-office receipts.
Disney countered that it paid Johansson $20 million and that the suit is without merit.
With Covid-19 cases on the rise again, theaters still face a difficult climate. Studios like Disney are trying to maximize revenue by giving film fans the chance to stay at home and watch new releases. New movies give the entertainment giants a showcase for their new streaming services.
Sales for the top 10 films this weekend rose by about 10% to $73.7 million, according to Comscore data. But that total is just a fraction of what weekly summer sales amounted to before the pandemic. In roughly the same weekend in 2019, the top 10 films delivered $144 million in revenue.©2021 Bloomberg L.P. Visit bloomberg.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.