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Dear Evan Hansen Opens Poorly, Free Guy Continues To Hold Like A Champ

Dear Evan Hansen was savaged by many critics, holding a pitiful 33% on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences seem to disagree (at least, the few who saw it), as they gave it a 92%. Due to the mixed to negative coverage of the musical adaptation, nobody was really expecting it to take down Shang-Chi this weekend. As expected, that MCU smash hit maintained first place for the 4th time with $13.3M and a $196.5M total (more on that here). As for Dear Evan Hansen, it fell below its already reduced expectations (most had it pegged for $10-12M). It opened with $7.5M, which is $4M shy of the (also disappointing) opening of In The Heights, which grabbed $11.5M in early June and finished with $29.8M.

At least In The Heights had a built in excuse, due to the the HBO Max simultaneous release Warner Bros saddled that film with. Plus, In The Heights has the dignity of universal acclaim, with both audiences AND critics giving it a 94% on RT.

It gets worse. Dear Evan Hansen barely opened above the catastrophic $6.6M debut of Cats, which was also panned by critics to the tune of 20% on RT, with audiences giving it 56%. Worse yet, Cats was released at the end of December, when legs are much better thanks to the double whammy of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Thanks to those holiday legs, Cats actually finished with 4x it’s opening weekend at $27.2. Frankly, anything close to those kinds of holds seems unlikely for Dear Evan Hansen due to October being jam packed with major releases.

October could very well be the biggest month of the year (and pandemic) so far, thanks to Venom 2, No Time To Die, Halloween Kills, and Dune all open, to name a few. The good news is Dear Evan Hansen only cost $28M to Cats’ $95M budget. Still, a sub $10M opening for a theatrical adaption of a popular, critically acclaimed/Tony Award winning musical is abysmal.

Both Cats and Dear Evan Hansen were released by Universal Pictures. This one stings for them.

In better news, the Ryan Reynolds/Jodie Comer action-comedy Free Guy continues to hold extremely well, only dropping 19% to stay in third place with $4.1M in its SEVENTH weekend. Its total stands at $114.1M, which is already 4x its $28.4M opening weekend! Normally, getting to even 3x your opening is seen as a success, and in the pandemic era even that has been rare.

The film should easily close with $120M+. This run has been a nice surprise for the industry, and marks a rare Reynolds win at the box office (outside of Deadpool, his films miss far more than they hit). Worldwide it has $317.4M, including to a terrific run in China ($94.8M). The film’s quality and original concept (it plays like a more optimistic Truman Show in a video game world) are to thank for its success, as critics gave the film an 80% on RT while verified audiences have it at 94%.

Also holding very well (despite being available to rent on VOD), is Candyman. The horror sequel/reboot cashed another $2.5M in fourth place, which represents only a 29 percent drop. At this point it should cross $60M, and end up just below The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It ($65.6M) to be the second highest grossing R-rated movie of the year so far.

In fifth, Clint Eastwood’s latest film Cry Macho (56% on RT) fell 52.2 percent to $2.1M on its second weekend, holding a $8.3M total so far. This was never going to break out, as it doesn’t have reviews on par with Gran Torino (81% on RT) or The Mule (71%) and it is also handcuffed by a pandemic that is keeping the older crowd away from theaters the most (understandably so). Obviously, the older demographic is Eastwood’s bread and butter at the box office. Odds are good most stayed home and caught it on HBO Max or are waiting for it to hit VOD.

The last movie I want to talk about is Jungle Cruise, which held on strong once again. It dropped merely 17 percent, grossing $1.7M this weekend. This movie originally opened to a decent $35M. While that would have been a disastrous debut in normal times, on a Covid curve with a Disney Plus simultaneous rental release, it was fine. However, after an expectedly steep second weekend decline (54.8 percent for a $15.8M second weekend), it has had wonderful sea legs.

Thanks to rock solid (ha) word of mouth (62% on RT from critics, 92% from verified audiences), the Dwayne Johnson/Emily Blunt starrer currently has $114.9M. Like Free Guy, it should clear $120M and represents another solid win for movies at the box office. Yes, the grosses would have been a little higher with the Disney Plus of it all, but thanks to Disney greenlighting a sequel, I imagine we’ll get to see just how much treasure this new franchise can rake in when it debuts (hopefully in a recovered theatrical market) in a couple years.

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