'Free Guy’ debuts at No. 1 with surprisingly strong $28.4 mln

'Free Guy’ debuts at No. 1 with surprisingly strong $28.4 mln

Free Guy’ debuts at No. 1 with surprisingly strong $28.4 mln

Despite concerns the delta variant would keep moviegoers at home, Ryan Reynolds’ sci-fi action comedy “Free Guy” had a better-than-expected start at the domestic box office.

The movie, from Disney and 20th Century Studios, collected $26 million from 4,165 North American theaters. Given its production budget above $100 million, those ticket sales wouldn’t be much to celebrate in pre-pandemic times, but isn’t a bad result as a plague sweeps the globe.

Overseas, “Free Guy” amassed $22.5 million for a global tally of $51 million.

“Free Guy” marks an interesting test for the film exhibition industry because it’s playing exclusively in theaters, which is a rarity these days. Many high-profile films that premiered during the pandemic, such as Marvel’s “Black Widow” and “The Suicide Squad,” were available on streaming platforms on the same day as their theatrical debuts. The few films offered only in theaters, like Universal’s “F9,” Emily Blunt and John Krasinski’s follow-up “A Quiet Place Part II” and Paramount’s “G.I. Joe” origin story “Snake Eyes,” were each sequels in popular film franchises, unlike “Free Guy,” which is based on an original concept and isn’t part of an existing movie universe.

Though COVID-19 is undoubtedly deterring people from visiting their local multiplex, “Free Guy,” directed by Shawn Levy and co-starring Jodie Comer and Taika Waititi, had several factors working in its favor. Thanks to strong reviews and an “A” CinemaScore from audiences, it enjoyed positive word-of-mouth over the weekend.

This weekend’s other new nationwide releases, Sony’s thriller “Don’t Breathe 2” and MGM’s Aretha Franklin biopic “Respect,” each arrived in line with expectations, though neither did much to galvanize ticket buyers.
The sequel to “Don’t Breathe” secured second place on box office charts, earning $10.6 million from 3,005 venues in its first three days of release.

“Respect” notched the No. 4 spot, with $8.8 million in ticket sales from 3,207 screens in the U.S. and Canada. The film, starring Jennifer Hudson as the Queen of Soul, received good but not great reviews, and it may struggle to achieve profitably in its theatrical run given its $55 million price tag. However, “Respect” has resonated with audiences, landing a strong “A” CinemaScore, which could give the film a long life on the big screen.

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