‘Space Jam’ Shocks ‘Black Widow’ With A Slam-Dunk $31.7 Million
Superheroes aren’t usually caught napping. Nor are box-office prognosticators. But neither party saw this weekend’s surprising slam dunk at the multiplex coming. All early projections had Marvel’s Scarlett Johansson-led tentpole, Black Widow, repeating in the top spot for a second straight weekend. But NBA legend LeBron James and a bunch of double-dribbling Looney Tunes characters spurred Warner Bros.’ family-friendly Space Jam: A New Legacy to a box-office upset thanks to a surprisingly robust $31.7 million domestic bow.

A follow-up to 1996’s live-action/animated hybrid Space Jam (starring Michael Jordan), A New Legacy rocketed past its pre-weekend $20 million forecast to take in just under $31.7 million at the domestic box office. It was the biggest opening for a kids-targeted film since the COVID-19 pandemic began in earnest 16 months ago. Unspooling in 3,965 theaters, the PG-rated movie earned a $7,982 per-screen average in its debut frame. The result was especially impressive considering that A New Legacy was also available free of charge to HBO Max subscribers and also because it fared dismally with critics, who gave the hoops comedy a 31% green splat on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences, however, were in a more forgiving mood, giving it an ‘A-‘ CinemaScore grade. For comparison’s sake, the first Space Jam bowed to $27.5 million in 1996 and went on to gross $90.4 million domestically and $230.4 million at the worldwide box office.

The weekend’s doubletake-inducing finish left Black Widow licking its wounds in the runner-up spot, where the superhero tentpole pulled in a hair less than $26.3 million in its sophomore session. The PG-13-rated Disney/Marvel tentpole suffered a steep -67.3% drop from the previous weekend, when it smashed the pandemic-era domestic box-office record with an $80 million bow. In its second frame, Black Widow scored a $6,140 per-screen average at 4,275 locations. To date, the film has racked up $132 million in North America and has added $100.7 million from overseas markets, bringing its cumulative worldwide gross to $232.7 million.

Black Widow, which cost an estimated $200 million to produce, is also available on Disney Plus for a $30 surcharge, where it did very well in its first weekend. Still, adding insult to injury is the fact that China, traditionally one of Marvel’s most lucrative foreign markets, has still not fixed a firm release date for the film. After that is sorted out, the big question mark for Disney and Marvel is how its next release, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, will fare when it hits theaters on September 3.

In third place was Sony’s chiller-thriller Escape Room: Tournament of Champions. The PG-13-rated sequel to 2019’s Escape Room was originally scheduled to hit theaters back in April 2020. But it quickly became one of the many major-studio films to have its released put on indefinite hold as COVID shuttered theaters in the U.S. and elsewhere. Tournament of Champions, which pits six unlucky people in an escape room, pulled in $8.8 million domestically in its debut weekend, playing in 2,815 theaters for a $3,126 per-screen average. The sequel pulled in an additional $4.5 million in 18 foreign territories, bringing its first-week worldwide cume to $13.3 million. The first Escape Room opened in January 2019 to $18.2 million and went on to rack up $57 million in North America and $155.7 million globally.

In fourth place was the fading heavyweight, F9: The Fast Saga, which earned $7.6 million in its fourth weekend in domestic theaters. The tenth chapter in Universal’s muscle-car cycle, which stars Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez, dropped off -33.4% from the previous frame. The PG-13-rated speed-demon sequel played in 3,368 theaters and scored a $2,262 per-screen average. Its total domestic box office now stands at $154.8 million. Overseas, where the film bowed earlier than it did in the U.S., F9 has piled up $436.4 million, bringing its worldwide gross to $591.3 million.

Rounding out the top five was Universal’s The Boss Baby: Family Business—a follow-up to Uni’s 2017 The Boss Baby kiddie smash, , which again features the voice of Alec Baldwin. The PG-rated sequel earned $4.7 million in its third weekend, slipping 46.8% from the prior session. Boss Baby 2 scored a $1,368 per-screen average in 3,449 theaters, bringing its three-week domestic box-office total to $44.6 million. So far, the family film has added a lackluster $3.7 million from overseas, pushing its global cume to $48.3 million. The film is also playing on NBCUniversal’s streaming platform, Peacock.

Meanwhile, just below the top five were a pair of impressive indie debuts. Focus Features’ Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain—a documentary about the late celebrity chef and travel-show personality Anthony Bourdain, who committed suicide in 2018, opened in eighth place with $1.9 million domestically (the best start for an independent film in 2021). It played in 927 theaters and earned a $2,049 per-screen average despite an online controversy surrounding the film’s questionable manipulation of Bourdain’s voice. And in tenth place was Neon’s character-driven thriller, Pig, starring Nicolas Cage as a bearded truffle forager whose favorite pig goes missing. The rapturously-reviewed film bowed to $945,000 in 552 theaters, which was good enough for a $1,711 per-screen average. Neither indie has opened abroad yet.