Universal Rules Friday Box Office Thanks To ‘F9,’ ‘Boss Baby 2’ And ‘Forever Purge’

For the first time since 2005, a single studio will own the top three spots at the domestic box office.

Universal is essentially the only game in town over the July 4 holiday weekend, with DreamWorks’ The Boss Baby: Family Business opening in theaters and on Peacock alongside the “in theaters only” debut of Blumhouse and Platinum Dunes’ The Forever Purge. Relative to “Covid curves,” both franchise titles are doing squarely “okay.” DWA’s The Boss Baby: Family Business opened with $7.72 million on Friday, good enough for a likely $20 million Fri-Sun/$26.4 million Fri-Mon holiday debut. Yes, that’s way below the $50 million Fri-Sun debut of The Boss Baby in 2017, but that was to be expected (see also: Peter Rabbit 2 and The LEGO Movie 2). If Universal thought this sequel had any chance in hell of matching the $175 million domestic cume of its predecessor, they wouldn’t have concurrently put it on their streaming platform.

Like a lot of animated sequels, even to well-liked hit predecessors, Family Business is dealing with viewers who were only curious the first time, as well as a franchise that has shifted from a four-quadrants flick to a for-kids-only sequel. The Netflix animated series (Back in Business) has been both steadily popular and likely a reason for folks to feel like another theatrical chapter is no big deal. And that Boss Baby 2 cost $82 million, compared to $125 million for the first one, no one requires equivalent business. Offhand, earnings on par with The Croods: A New Age ($59 million domestic and $171 million worldwide on a $65 million budget in late 2020/early 2021) along with presumably solid PVOD revenue (after a 60-day Peacock/theatrical window) will probably be “okay” for this one.

The Forever Purge continued its ghoulish tradition of opening over the July 4 weekend, again marking it as America’s most genuinely patriotic (as opposed to nationalistic) franchise. It is beyond sad that it 25 years we’ve gone from Independence Day being an idealistic fantasy to friggin The Purge: Election Year (which ended with not-Hillary Clinton winning over not-Donald Trump and abolishing Purge Night) being an idealistic fantasy. That’s partially what the $25 million-budgeted The Forever Purge is about. The “series finale” earned $5.72 million on Friday for a likely $13 million Fri-Sun/$16.25 million Fri-Mon debut. That’s not great (The Forever Purge earned $17 million Fri-Sun/$31 million Wed-Sun), but there’s a reason horror movies have been left mostly holding the bag this summer. They are cheap enough to take a relative dip and still break even.

Yes, for the first time in forever (February 2005), a single studio will own the top three spots at the domestic box office. Sony did it with the opening weekend of Will Smith’s Hitch ($44 million, still the top debut for a straight-up romantic comedy) and holdover business from Boogieman (a horror flick with a great trailer) and Ice Cube’s Are We There Yet? Say what you will about them, but they were all star-driven or concept-driven originals. By the way, Universal last pulled this off in September of 1989, thanks to Sea of Love (Al Pacino’s comeback flick and a precursor to 90’s-era erotic thrillers), Uncle Buck (the final movie of the pre-Home Alone era of John Hughes’ career) and Parenthood (back when a terrific family dramedy could leg out to $100 million).

A24’s Zola opened on Wednesday as one of the big arthouse/indie darlings of the season. Absent Covid-specific circumstances, this well-reviewed and buzzy comedy/thriller (based on an infamously viral non-fiction Twitter thread) likely would have platformed in conventional circumstances. However, especially with the Arclight currently closed and the new normal of buzzy flicks using their theatrical releases as glorified marketing campaigns for the swift (probably closer to a month than 90 days, natch) PVOD release, A24 went wide into 1,468 theaters. Cue a $445,000 Friday for a likely $1.15 million Fri-Sun/$1.5 million Fri-Mon and $2.3 million Wed-Mon debut. That’s fine considering the under-$5 million budget and the expectation that the Taylour Paige/Riley Keough caper (which is quite a bit of fun, natch) will do well on PVOD thanks to folks who might have seen it in theaters in non-pandemic circumstances.

Searchlight’s buzzy and acclaimed Summer of Soul: Or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised had a one-week exclusive theatrical run at the El Capitan last week, and it expanded into 752 theaters alongside its concurrent launch on Hulu this weekend. The (joyful and insightful) concert documentary, about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival that took place in comparative anonymity (especially in the history books after the fact) alongside the Woodstock festival, earned $230,000 on Friday for a likely $680,000 Fri-Sun/$910,000 Fri-Mon “debut.” If you can see this in theaters, I’d suggest doing so. I made the Sophie’s Choice to watch it on Hulu (preceded by appropriate amounts of self-flagellating) so I had time to watch it and Steven Soderbergh’s terrific HBO Max original No Sudden Move. At least I wore headphones and turned the volume way up.

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