With “Free Guy” and “Jungle Cruise”, Disney wins both sides of the debate over hybrid film releases

While Ryan Reynolds’ movie was CinemaCon’s toast, Dwayne Johnson’s adventure tale hit $ 100 million despite being released in premium on Disney +

20th Century Studios’ “Free Guy” was CinemaCon’s toast last week, hailed by theater owners as an argument against day-and-date release strategies being tested by Disney, the film’s distributor, which released the comedy from. Ryan Reynolds action exclusively in theaters. But the surprise box office stages of “Jungle Cruise,” one of those films available as a premium Disney + title, show that Disney is winning on both sides of the theatrical exclusivity debate.

Although the numbers were watered down by nature’s still rebuilding the national box office, “Free Guy” starred as a hit from a bygone era: an original comedy that used the power of the stars and strong word of mouth. to last on the graphics. Since its $ 28.3 million nationwide opening, director Shawn Levy’s film has seen a modest 34.8% drop on the second weekend and a mere 26.7% drop on the third weekend, which gives it a running national total of $ 79.3 million so far.

The success of “Free Guy” as the first film released exclusively in theaters by Disney in over a year has been hailed by executives of the National Association of Theater Owners, as well as rival Sony Pictures chairman Tom Rothman, who cited two reasons for his success: “No. 1 is great, and # 2 you can’t watch at home. Come on fucking face! “

Free Guy Ticket Office
Ryan Reynolds in “Free Guy”. (Courtesy 20th Century Studios)

NATO has pushed studios to phase out date-and-date release strategies that have arisen in response to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic-era box office, highlighting the weekend’s sharp drops in films like “Black Widow”. “from Dinsey / Marvel. and Warner Bros. ‘ “The Suicide Squad” as proof that making home movies available, either at a higher cost or at no additional cost, is not financially beneficial to studios or theaters in the long run.

While Universal and Warner Bros. have made deals with theaters signaling a return to a theatrical window model – though shortened from 90 days, which was typical of pre-2020 to over 45 days – Disney has indicated it will still consider using its Disney + Premier Access version model when it considers it advantageous. And while “Free Guy” and possibly “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” will be successful as cinema-exclusive films, “Jungle Cruise” has managed to counter the recent trend of hybrid release films. which fell in sales after the opening weekend.

It certainly didn’t look like it was going to be the case when the Dwayne Johnson / Emily Blunt adventure film opened for $ 35 million last month. Some analysts, including this one, expected “Jungle Cruise” to drop down the charts quickly as its home release option pushes potential moviegoers away. Instead, it became the fifth post-closing film to surpass $ 100 million in North America, reaching the milestone after five weekends in theaters.

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