Directed by Malcolm D. Lee, Space Jam: A New Legacy once again puts the biggest star in the NBA on the court with the cast of the Looney Tunes as they face off against supercharged animated baddies that have taken on the powers of other NBA players. Last time around Michael Jordan headlined, and in the sequel we have LeBron James leading the team of toons that includes Bugs, Daffy, Lola, Tweety, Sylvester, the Tasmanian Devil, Granny, and more. Don Cheadle plays the evil AI organizing the events, and his basketball playing “Goon Squad” is inspired by and voiced by NBA stars Klay Thompson, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Diana Taurasi, and Nneka Ogwumike.
Space Jam 2, which is a standalone film rather than a direct sequel, sees LeBron James playing himself in his first starring role, following up his supporting role in Trainwreck, where he also plays himself. The sequel, which opens on 3,950 screens, comes nearly 25 years after the original Space Jam, which was pioneering in its special effects and was the first time the Looney Tunes got a theatrical feature film. Space Jam, which boasted a hit soundtrack, opened to $27.5 million in 1996 and went on to gross $90.4 million domestically and $230.4 million worldwide.
Considering its $150 million budget, Space Jam 2 normally would have been a disappointment if it didn’t outperform the original, but with the box office still recovering, a general underperformance of family films this summer, and a same day HBO Max release, even matching the first film does not seem likely. Internationally the film has a chance to pull in bigger numbers than the original, especially if it plays well in China where the NBA is extremely popular, but the film has yet to get a release date in China. The critical response has not been great, with only a 38% Tomatometer, but it is not that far below the first film’s 44%.
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is the other new sequel this weekend. Escape Room opened to $18.2 million in January 2019 and went on to gross $57 million in the U.S. and $155.7 million worldwide. For a $9 million budgeted film, that’s a big win, and it’s no surprise a sequel was fast tracked (it was originally slated for April 2020). Though the sequel is unlikely to see such numbers, the $15 million budgeted film doesn’t have huge hurdles to cross to break even. Escape Room 2 brings back the main cast and director of the original, and it is at 52% on RottenTomatoes, right in line with the first film. A film about people trying to escape from locked rooms may not be what many have in mind after being trapped at home for a year, but audiences who have dependably turned up for the summer’s many horror offerings probably won’t mind.
The newcomers will have a tough time matching up to Black Widow, though. The latest MCU blockbuster should take the top spot in its second weekend after crossing $100 million in under a week. Marvel movies tend to drop around 50-60% in their second weekends, though there are some signs that Black Widow may have a greater drop than usual for the series. For starters, its opening weekend was unusually frontloaded, with a 41% drop on Saturday and a weekend total that was just double its Friday gross. The weekend multiplier is the lowest for the series, and it is also lower than F9, the only comparable film this summer, which had a weekend multiplier of 2.4. Perhaps this can be attributed to Black Widow’s Disney+ availability (Disney revealed that the film earned $60 million globally on the platform), and that might impact the second weekend hold as well. Still, even if Black Widow has a 70% drop, it would still make $24 million and probably come out ahead of Space Jam 2.
In limited release, Focus is putting out the documentary Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain. It is directed by Morgan Neville, whose 2018 film Won’t You Be My Neighbor? grossed $22.8 million, making it a bonafide blockbuster in documentary terms. Roadrunner, about the late chef who became an icon with his travel shows, is at 95% on RottenTomatoes.
Also opening in limited is Out of Death from Vertical, an actioner starring Bruce Willis and Jaime King, Mama Weed from Music Box, a French drama starring Isabelle Huppert, and Pig from Neon, the Nicolas Cage starrer where he searches for his stolen truffle pig (currently at 98% on RottenTomatoes).