Universal Wins Top Three Spots With ‘F9,’ ‘Boss Baby 2’ And ‘Forever Purge’

F9 will speed past the $500 million mark in global grosses on Monday, earning another $24 million (-66%) in its second Fri-Sun domestic frame and $32.7 million over the holiday. It has earned $117 million in ten days (about what Fast & Furious 6 earned in its first four days in 2013) and will have $125.7 million by the end of tomorrow night. The drop isn’t great, but A) both Boss Baby: Family Business and The Forever Purge slightly overperformed Covid-curve expectations and B) the Fast Saga films have never had strong second-weekend holds.

However, it’s not much worse than 62% drops for Fate of the Furious (against even less competition in 2017, including the fourth weekend of The Boss Baby) and Fast & Furious (against just the $32 million launch of the Hanna Montana movie in 2009). Fast & Furious 6 dropped 64% after Memorial Day weekend (against the over/under $28 million debuts of Now You See Me and After Earth in 2013) while Fast Five fell 59% against the $65 million debut of Thor in 2011.

None of this is to argue that a 66% drop (the biggest plunge for a Fast flick) after a $70 million debut (the lowest debut for a straight-up/non-spin-off Fast movie since 2 Fast 2 Furious) is a “good” thing, but it’s pretty much business as expected considering A) we’re still in a pandemic and B) F9 isn’t exactly the best movie of the series. And that both of the other Universal titles performed slightly above par (again, in terms of Covid-era expectations) also factors into this.

Come what may, Universal became the first studio since Sony in February 2005 to win, place and show at the domestic weekend box office. As for F9, it’s still the first Hollywood flick to pass $500 million worldwide since The Rise of Skywalker ($1.073 billion) in late 2019, and it’s past Japan’s Demon Slayer as the biggest non-Chinese flick of 2020 and 2021. The $825 million cume of China’s Hi, Mom is not happening, but ask me next week about the $685 million cume of Detective Chinatown 3.

It looks like F9 will end up with over/under $160 million domestic. If Conjuring 3 ($62.5 million) and A Quiet Place part II ($145 million) can coexist, then I’m guessing so too can F9 and Black Widow. Can it maintain momentum as one of the only biggies in town in July to get past Hobbs & Shaw ($174 million)? Maybe, but Universal always knew it was going to settle for a lower domestic/worldwide gross in exchange for F9 being the proverbial Tenet of summer 2021.  

DreamWorks and Universal’s The Boss Baby: Family Business opened with $17.36 million over the Fri-Sun frame for a likely $23 million Fri-Mon debut. That’s obviously well below the $50 million launch of The Boss Baby in 2017, which was to be expected even in pre-Covid times. Most animated sequels have struggled in recent years, as toons (LEGO Movie, Secret Life of Pets, etc.) that played as four-quadrant biggies have produced sequels that were received as “for kids only” with once-curious adults or older kids saying “No, thank you.”

Boss Baby had the added hook of Alec Baldwin voicing a super-smart baby right as he was playing the (arguably) baby-ish president Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live. Baldwin reprising means little in a Joe Biden administration and perhaps merely serving as an ill-reminder of a still-festering national wound. The Netflix animated serious, Boss Baby: Back in Business, has run for a few seasons to relative acclaim which makes a theatrical continuation less of an event. Oh, and the film is currently available “for free” on Peacock for top-tier subscribers.

Under these circumstances, Universal will merely hope that the $82 million sequel pulls grosses somewhat equal to The Croods: A New Age ($59 million domestic and $171 million worldwide on a $65 million budget) with eventual post-theatrical (after an exclusive theatrical/Peacock window) filling in the blanks. Again, this isn’t a great performance, but nobody was expecting a repeat of the last film’s breakout success. If Universal thought Boss Baby 2 would play like Boss Baby, they wouldn’t have put it on Peacock.

Blumhouse and Platinum Dunes’ The Forever Purge continued the ghoulish joke of these deeply patriotic (as opposed to nationalistic) horror/action movies opening over Independence Day weekend. The $25 million-budgeted film (double the $13 million budget of The First Purge, but the last three flicks each topped $110 million worldwide in pre-Covid conditions) earned $12.75 million over the Fri-Sun frame for a likely $15.9 million Fri-Mon debut. That’s obviously below the $17 million Fri-Sun/$31 million Wed-Sun debut of The First Purge in July of 2018, but, again, that was expected.

This is Blumhouse’s 32nd flick to open above $12 million domestic, and it earned $3.6 million overseas (including $1.3 million in Mexico) for an over/under $20 million global cume by Monday. If The Purge: Election Year turned out to be an unrealistically optimistic fantasy (during which “not-Hillary Clinton” defeated “not-Donald Trump” and ended Purge Night), then The Forever Purge (billed as the series finale, for reasons I will not divulge) plays like a defeatist apology for that optimism. Even by Purge standards, it’s feel-bad entertainment.

Would this film have played closer to the previous Purge movies in North America ($64-$79 million) and worldwide ($89-$137 million) had it opened last July in non-Covid circumstances? Probably, but that’s why horror franchises have been the sacrificial lambs this summer. The First Purge can afford to earn half of The First Purge’s franchise-high $137 million cume and still triple its budget before PVOD and pay-tv revenues. That doesn’t mean that a sixth Purge movie (The Purge 666?) is a certainty, but on a Covid curve this is “fine.”

In other Comcast news, Spirit Untamed earned $343,000 (-68%) in its fifth Fri-Sun frame for a $17 million cume by Monday. Bob Odenkirk’s Nobody earned $211,000 (-65%) following a huge boost last weekend from playing on drive-ins alongside F9, and its cume is now $27.2 million domestic and $54 million worldwide on a $15 million budget. I would not be surprised to see a sequel. Focus’ The Sparks Brothers will earn just $24,000 (-80%) in weekend two on just 130 screens after losing 404 theaters for a $622,000 11-day cume.

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