‘F9’ Scores Post-Pandemic Triumph in Important Step Toward Recovery

First things first. At $70 million for its first weekend, “F9” (Universal) showed a terrific start. Not only is it the best opening for any film in 18 months, it beat “A Quiet Place Part II” (Paramount) by almost 50 percent for the top gross since the pandemic. And John Krasinski’s very impressive performer opened on a holiday weekend.

The total was ahead of the usually conservative projections (we suggested it could reach $75 million, but anything over $65 million would be very positive). Though it did fall short of the previous two main series entries (“Furious 7” opened to $147 million, “The Fate of the Furious” more recently in 2017 over Easter was $99 million), even under normal conditions this might not have been seen as a horrific drop.

This is all part of a bigger picture. But two issues remain. First, is this total part of a steady improvement or is $70 million the new $100 million? Second, even if this established sequel release pulled this off, will all of them?

And that doesn’t include two other critical concerns. Is it possible for original titles to accomplish this, and will the certain decrease in studio releases because of alternative platforms be made up for by the continued appeal of established series?

Those are critical questions. Short term, we can’t assume theaters are at close to their potential. But one distributor (Disney) reports theaters that are open now account for 95 percent of the domestic market. With capacity limits mostly gone, and films like “F9” appealing to groups most active in resuming normal activities, it remains uncertain how much better openings will be.


Regan (Millicent Simmonds) braves the unknown in "A Quiet Place Part II."

“A Quiet Place Part II”

Photo Credit: Jonny Cournoyer

That’s why “Quiet,” #2 this weekend even despite being in week five, is possibly even better news than “F9.” It has grossed 85 percent of what its predecessor grossed through this point, and actually is holding a little better in later weeks than the first film. All these comparisons are inexact, but an 85 percent as good performance is even more impressive than the “F9” opening, as good as it is.

The weekend’s total gross will come in just under $100 million. It will beat the previous post-closing best of $81 million (when “Quiet” opened) for the three days before Memorial Day. Better yet, since the same weekend in 2019 grossed only $152 million, this comes in at 65 percent of that total. We will keep listing these, and with a four-week rolling average (a much better comparison than the vagaries of individual weekends). For the past four, the result has been 49 percent compared to 2019. That number needs to increase at least steadily, and likely dramatically, for a sense of recovery to be legitimate.

“Place” dropped only 32 percent, and that it held so well against a big new opener is an additional positive sign. The two best holds both came from family-related films. “Peter Rabbit” (Sony), which could ultimately turn out to be #3 this weekend when actuals are known, dropped only 20 percent, while “Cruella” (Disney) was down only 23 percent.

“The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” (Lionsgate) at the moment claims the third spot, but with a second weekend drop of 57 percent. Since it opened on a Wednesday, reducing its initial Friday-Sunday take, it actually is even more severe. The series starter dropped 52 percent its second weekend. The sequel now looks likely to amass less than half of the 2018 initial film.

Among other holdovers, “In the Heights” (Warner Bros.) fells less its third weekend (47 percent), but managed only seventh place. It projects to an ultimate domestic gross of $30 million, much below hopes.


“Werewolves Within”

The pace of specialized/independent releases is increasing. A surprise in the Top Ten is IFC’s “Werewolves Within” actually managing to place tenth. That is not counting “Nobody” which played as a second feature at drive-ins to “F9” with the same results attributed to both films. Universal did not include this in their comprehensive weekend media email, to their credit.

“Werewolves” is another edgy IFC genre title, continuing their custom of a limited by nationwide opening. The numbers in 270 theaters came to an average of $826, but the $223,000 plus later revenues add to the till. They also serve as a lead-in for its one-week delayed Video on Demand release.

More limited specialized, with its adult audience, will revive more slowly. This week saw Heidi Ewing’s “I Carry You With Me” open in four New York/Los Angeles theaters, similar to what a typical platform release would do. Its $20,000 gross might not seem strong, but it actually is an improvement over other attempts to resume normalcy. These theaters will be much slower to improve compared to those playing “F9.”

“Le Cercle Rouge” (Rialto), a reissue of Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1970 crime film with Alain Delon, took in $9,000 at New York’s Film Forum. This venue has been open for over a month, and its progress (this is their best gross yet) shows the recovery is possible.

“Summer of Soul” (Searchlight) quietly opened in one theater each in Manhattan (the AMC Magic Johnson in Harlem) and Hollywood (the El Capitan). No grosses were reported in what are described as more like “preview” runs, though they serve as a platform, albeit in not typical theaters for such. Searchlight is expected to go back to normal reporting (which they totally skipped for “Nomadland,” the Best Picture winner with unknown grosses) for its regular release this Friday. This is expected to reach around 650 theaters parallel to its debut on Hulu this Friday.

The Top Ten

1. F9 (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 59; Est. budget: $200 million

$70,000,000 in 4,179 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $16,750; Cumulative: $70,000,000

2. A Quiet Place Part II (Paramount) Week 5; Last weekend #2

$6,200,000 (-32%) in 3,124 theaters (-277); PTA: $1,985; Cumulative: $136,388,000

3. The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (Lionsgate) Week 2; Last weekend #1

$ 4,875,000 (-57%) in 3,361 theaters (+30); PTA: $1,450; Cumulative: $25,873,000

4. Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway (Sony) Week 3; Last weekend #3

$4,850,000 (-20%) in 3,331 theaters (-15); PTA: $1,456; Cumulative: $28,855,000

5. Cruella (Disney) Week 5; Last weekend #5; also available on Premium Video on Demand

$3,725,000 (-23%) in 2,820 theaters (-290); PTA: $1,321; Cumulative: $71,302,000

6. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (Warner Bros.) Week 4; Last weekend #4; also available on HBO Max

$2,920,000 (-42%) in 2,668 theaters (-612); PTA: $1,094; Cumulative: $59,133,000

7. In the Heights (Warner Bros.) Week 3; Last weekend #6; also available on HBO Max

$2,230,000 (-47%) in 2,403 theaters (-1,106); PTA: $928; Cumulative: $24,162,000

8. Spirit Untamed (Universal) Week; Last weekend #7; also available on Premium VOD

$1,030,000 (-34%) in 1,773 theaters (-1,194); PTA: $581; Cumulative: $15,841,000

9. 12 Mighty Orphans (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 3; Last weekend #8

$591,917 (-34%) in 1,020 theaters (-27); PTA: $580; Cumulative: $2,294,000

10. Werewolves Within (IFC) Metacritic: 65 ; Festivals include: Tribeca 2021

$223,000 in 270 theaters; PTA: $826

 

 

Additional specialized/limited/independent releases

I Carry You With Me (Sony Pictures Classics) Metacritic: 73; Festivals include: Sundance, New York 2020

$20,000 in 4 theaters; PTA: $5,000

Le Cercle Rouge (Rialto) NEW (reissue)

$9,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $9,000

The Sparks Brothers (Focus) Week 2; last weekend #11

$110,000 (-60%) in 512 theaters; PTA: $215; Cumulative: $

The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2 (Hidden Empire) Week 3; Last weekend #9

$229,000 (-62%) in 355 theaters (-184); PTA: $645; Cumulative: $2,544,000

Queen Bees (Gravitas Ventures) Week 3; last weekend #12; also available on Premium VOD    600

$163,300 (-39%) in 355 theaters (-245); PTA: $460; Cumulative: $1,303,000

 

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