Ryan Reynolds’ Free Guy has earned $65 million in two weeks of domestic theatrical play, already earning 2.319x its $28.3 million opening and providing not a little assurance that the mere existence of a theatrical window (for films people actually want to see) can help create something closer to “business as usual” in these unusual times.
We’ll see how it holds up this weekend, although a 45% drop would mean around $10.2 million for a $76 million 17-day cume and keep it on the path for a $100 million-plus domestic total. That said, Jungle Cruise, which has been concurrently available on Disney+ “Premier Access,” should also cross $100 million domestic by Sunday night or Monday morning.
Anyway, Free Guy also nabbed a decent $5.36 million opening day in China. Hollywood has recently been mostly on the outs with Chinese moviegoers, save for surefire blockbusters like Godzilla Vs. Kong ($188 million) and F9 ($216 million). To be fair, most of the 2020 output was much-delayed Covid casualties (1917, Dolittle, Bad Boys for Life, Sonic the Hedgehog).
There just haven’t been that many “big” Hollywood releases in 2021, at least not in time to avoid the mid-summer blackout period (during which China only plays Chinese movies). Perhaps Hollywood waiting for F9 to go “first” may well have backfired, both in terms of infection rates (how I begged the studios to put something, anything in the late-April to mid-June portion of the year) and in terms of day-and-date China releases.
Nonetheless, I should again note that the “disappointing at the time” performance of Tenet, $58 million domestic (that’s bad), $305 million overseas (that’s good) and $66 million in China (also pretty good) looks ever-more aspirational. Now more than ever, Chinese moviegoers have enough Chinese blockbusters so as to no longer treat the Hollywood variety as necessities.
Luca opened with a $5.5 million weekend and (unlike Soul) didn’t soar to infinity and beyond in weekend two. It earned just $2.6 million on its second Friday, partially due to pristine Disney+ copies floating around pirate-infested waters since June. As such, a $5 million opening day for Free Guy counts as “measured optimism.” With decent word-of-mouth (9.2 on Maoyan and 9.0 on Taopiaopiao), we could see an over/under $20 million debut weekend.
Barring a fluke in either direction, that would point toward a final cume on par with the over/under $55 million likes of The Croods: A New Age and Soul. We’re obviously not looking at the next Ready Player One ($220 million in China, $135 million domestic and $581 million worldwide in 2018), but early 2018 feels like a lifetime ago.
And since Free Guy reportedly cost closer to $125 million than $175 million, it doesn’t have to break records to break even. It will be interesting to see if even well-liked franchises (Venom, Spider-Man, James Bond, etc.) can pull Chinese grosses on par with “business as usual” before the pandemic.