BY PAMELA MCCLINTOCK | HollywoodReporter.Com
Troy Warren for CNT
The Disney adventure stars Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt. ‘The Green Knight’ and Matt Damon’s ‘Stillwater’ are also opening at the domestic box office this weekend.
Disney’s Jungle Cruise set sail Friday with $13.4 million, putting the event pic on course to reach $30 million in its domestic box office opening and come in on the higher end of expectations.
Jungle Cruise is playing in 4,310 theaters in North America, the widest count of the pandemic era.
The family-friendly adventure — based on the iconic Disneyland ride — is also being made available simultaneously in the home via Disney+ Premier Access because of ongoing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most recently, the virulent Delta variant has resulted in a surge in cases in California and other select states, leading to a new recommendation from the CDC that even the fully vaccinated wear masks again in public indoor spaces. In Los Angeles, county officials have reinstituted a face covering mandate for everyone.
Box office analysts say delta doesn’t seem to be having a dramatic impact on moviegoing this weekend — the box office had never fully recovered even before the variant — but need more data before reaching any conclusions.
They note that Jungle Cruise, starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, is actually coming in ahead of projections. Heading into the weekend, the movie had been tracking to open in the $25 million to $30 million range. Jaume Collet-Serra directed the $200 million tentpole, which hopes to launch a new franchise, much as the first Pirates of the Caribbean did.
Overseas, Jungle Cruise is setting sail in a number of territories across the globe. In some major markets, it is going up against James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, which is opening internationally a week ahead of its domestic bow.
In pre-pandemic times, a $30 million domestic opening would be considered a troubled start for a Disney event title featuring one of the world’s most popular stars. Jungle Cruise can also rely, however, on Disney+ Premier Access revenue.
Many box office pundits believe that such a day-and-date release threatens the future of theatrical.
Actress Scarlett Johansson filed a lawsuit Thursday alleging the Walt Disney Co. breached her contract when deciding to do the same sort of theatrical-streaming release for Black Widow. The claim says making the Marvel superhero title available resulted in diminished box office sales, which in turn hurt her compensation.
Disney shot back, saying that Johansson received $20 million in compensation and that she would have ultimately benefited from Disney+ revenue. The company declared that her claim showed “callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Disney earlier this month said Black Widow earned $60 million on Disney+ during its opening weekend but hasn’t provided any updated numbers (at the box office, it debuted to $80 million domestically and $158 million globally).
Dwayne Johnson has publicly endorsed a hybrid release for Jungle Cruise, saying it is the best way to provide consumer choice.
Elsewhere, A24’s new Arthurian fantasy The Green Knight earned $2.9 million on Friday for a projected domestic start of roughly $6 million, also slightly ahead of expectations. Directed by David Lowery, the critically acclaimed film stars Dev Patel.
Matt Damon-starrer Stillwater, directed by Tom McCarthy, also debuted this weekend and earned $1.8 million on Friday for an expected opening of $4.5 million to $5 million. Focus Features and Participant recently debuted the movie at the Cannes Film Festival.
The Green Knight is headed for a third-place finish behind Jungle Cruise and holdover Old. Black Widow is slotted to come in fourth, with Stillwater rounding out the top five.
Jungle Cruise received an A- CinemaScore from audiences, while Stillwater got a B-. Green Knight — the best-reviewed film among the three — was slapped with a C-.
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