Free Guy Overtakes The Suicide Squad To Win Its Opening Weekend Box Office
When a movie that’s supposed to open big at the box office underperforms, it’s not always the end of the story. It’s not going to be a huge hit, but at the very least it can break even or make a little money. The next benchmark to watch for then isn’t so much the next weekend, which will almost always drop, but rather where the movie sits ten days out. At the time of this writing, it’s been that long since The Suicide Squad debuted, and things aren’t looking great. That said, it was still a big weekend for the COVID-changed box office, as Free Guy had an impressive $51 million opening weekend. This breaks down to $28.4 million domestic and $22.5 million internationally (without China).
The Suicide Squad, on the other hand, is still struggling at the box office, especially given some folks’ reticence to venture to the movie theater with the resurgence of the novel coronavirus. It currently sits at a $118 million worldwide box office gross, or about $60 million less than its budget before marketing costs. While audience numbers were expected to fall off, in its second weekend it dropped by more than 70 percent. The only hope for this movie is that it has a big Monday, or it will almost certainly lose money unless it posts a record comeback after this 10-day window.
Of course, The Suicide Squad’s box office is only half of the story. It’s place on HBO Max is a (likely) $275 million (with marketing costs) of a much more expensive puzzle aimed at winning subscriptions. We’ll find out how well it worked in October during AT&T’s next quarterly earnings call.
Why the Free Guy Opening Weekend Box Office Is an Underdog Success Story
Image via 20th Century Studios
Ryan Reynolds is both a US and Canadian national treasure, sure. Yet, his bankability at the box office is inconsistent. He’s been part of bonafide hits like Deadpool and The Hitman’s Bodyguard. But some of his films underperform, like the more-expensive The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, which is poised to lose money. Free Guy, while a unique concept, is an expensive film. It’s a franchise film but a wholly original one, not based on a book or comic or other intellectual property. Expectations were low for the opening weekend box office, $15 million domestic, but Free Guy surprised everyone and outperformed. The difference, it seems, is that unlike Black Widow (the highest grossing film of 2021 so far) and The Suicide Squad, there is nowhere else to see Free Guy but theaters.
So, with an estimated budget of $100-$125 million, it’s possible that Free Guy at least breaks even for 20th Century Studios at the end of its 45-day run. Then, it’s headed over to Warner Bros.’ HBO Max as part of a deal in place from before the Fox/Disney merger. This could be a title that Disney could export to other services like Amazon Prime Video or Peacock or other streaming services in the business of hosting other companies’ big-name films.
The sequel to Free Guy was announced before the opening weekend box office was even tallied. The suits were on board with this franchise no matter what it seems. It performed well in post-lockdown world, only adding to its value. Disney clearly wants more franchises, and it also behooves them to keep Ryan Reynolds happy. Because hit or flop, he remains a beloved cultural figure and the Mouse does well to keep him close.
When Will Things Return to Where They Were Two Years Ago?
Image via Marvel Studios
In 2009, the total box office soared past $10 billion or the first time in history. Over the next decade, through 2019, it never dipped below that number. (Also, fun fact, in 1979, the total box office surpassed $1 billion for the first time fueled by the release of Richard Donner’s Superman.) Even if the pandemic didn’t continue to affect all corners of the world, it will probably take some time for the box office to recover. Yet, stunningly, the pandemic coincided with what was a seismic shift in how entertainment companies want to take our money. The movie theater business involves partnerships and deals with distributors, associations, and all sorts of folks. Vertically integrated streaming does not.
Black Widow is still the box office winner for the year, and the only competition against her comes from Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. (It also has a shot, too, because it is a theaters-only exclusive.) Yet, on top of the $367 million the film has made (without China), it also made tens of millions of dollars for Disney via their Premier Access release. Scarlett Johansson is counting it, so we should, too.
One of the main things people who criticize comic book movies point to is that these big-name blockbusters push Serious Cinema™ out of theaters. If the box office is slower to recover than expected, they might get their wish. Streaming services may become the go-to place for these big releases, because the profit from them goes straight to the parent company. A film that makes $500 million on a streaming service equates to likely more profit than one that grosses $1 billion at the box office.
What do you think? Does the Free Guy opening weekend box office suggest things are reverting to normal? Or is the way we watch movies going to change in a big way? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Featured Image via 20th Century Studios
All box office figures and data via Box Office Mojo
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.