‘Free Guy’ Holds Top Spot With $18.8 Million In Sophomore Weekend, ‘PAW Patrol’ Nips At Its Heels In Second Place
Despite a handful of splashy, star-studded new releases, Ryan Reynolds’ two-week-old action comedy, Free Guy, held the top spot over the weekend. The irreverent crowd-pleaser from 20th Century Studios and Disney pulled in $18.8 million in its sophomore frame, making it one of the summer’s most encouraging sleeper hits. Nipping at the heels of Reynolds & Co. with a $13 million second-place opening was Paramount’s PAW Patrol: The Movie —an adaptation of Nickelodeon’s kid-friendly animated TV show about a group of rescue pups whose bark at the box office turned out to be just as mighty as its bite. The rest of the frame’s newcomers, however, wound up arriving D.O.A.

Just one week after its stronger-than-predicted $28.4 million debut, Free Guy saw a surprisingly small drop-off from the previous session, dipping just -33.8% (it marked the best second-weekend hold of the summer so far). Part of the reason for its continued grip on audiences is the fact that the film, unlike every other widely-released Disney title this year, was not released simultaneously on the studio’s streaming service, Disney Plus (it will only pop up on the platform after unspooling in theaters for 45 days). In other words, if you wanted to see the film, you could only see it in a theater.

While the latest wave of COVID cases from the Delta variant have certainly hobbled the theatrical business and kept many potential ticket buyers away, Free Guy seems to be one of the rare summer titles that is bucking that trend. Its strong reviews from critics and straight ‘A’ CinemaScore grade certainly haven’t hurt either. The PG-13-rated film, which costars Killing Eve’s Jodie Comer and tells the story of a background character in a videogame racing to save his virtual universe before its real-world developers shut it down, earned a $4,511 per-screen average in 4,165 theaters, bringing its two-week domestic box-office total to $58.8 million. So far, the film has added another $53.1 million from overseas, bringing its current worldwide cume to $111.9 million.

In the runner-up spot was Paramount’s tyke-targeted ‘toon, PAW Patrol: The Movie. The G-rated spin-off of the hit Nickelodeon kids’ show about a posse of pups who come to the aid of the accident-prone residents of Adventure City, pulled in a Doberman-sized $13 million haul in its opening frame. That’s a lot of kibble and it well exceeded pre-weekend estimates. While kids’ movies have fared well at the box office throughout pandemic, PAW Patrol’s numbers are especially solid considering that the title was also available via the Paramount+ streaming service. With its A- CinemaScore, Paw Patrol managed a $4,082 per-screen average at 3,184 locations and has tacked on an additional $21.5 million overseas, bringing it worldwide take to $34.5 million.

Repeating in third place was Disney’s Jungle Cruise, which added $6.2 million in its fourth weekend. The PG-13-rated white-water adventure starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt dropped off -31.7% from the previous weekend, earning a $1,742 per-screen average at 3,575 locations. Those fourth-week numbers now bring the movie’s domestic box-office total to $92.5 million, while its $81.2 million in international receipts gooses its worldwide tally to $173.7 million. Unlike Free Guy, Jungle Cruise is currently available to Disney Plus subscribers for a $30 surcharge.

In fourth was Screen Gems’ horror sequel, Don’t Breathe 2. The R-rated follow-up to the highly profitable 2016 invasion thriller (which then, as now, stars Stephen Lang) pulled in slightly more than $5 million in its second weekend, falling a steep -52.5% from the previous weekend. The fright-flick earned a $1,680 per-screen average in 3,005 theaters and its two-week domestic tally now sits at just under $19.7 million, which is more impressive than it seems in light of the movie’s bargain $15 million budget. Overseas, Don’t Breathe 2 has added $7.5 million in receipts, bringing its global box-office cume to roughly $27.2 million.

Rounding out the top five was MGM’s Aretha Franklin biopic, Respect. In its second weekend, the PG-13-rated portrait of the Queen of Soul starring Jennifer Hudson took in $3.8 million, which translated to a -56.7% drop off in business from the prior weekend. The music-fueled film played in 3,207 theaters, which equaled a $1,188 per-screen average. Respect’s shaky numbers have to be a disappointment for MGM considering the film’s $55 million budget. But its ‘A’ grade from CinemaScore means that its older target demo may catch up with it eventually, especially if it can hold on until COVID numbers begin to flatten out. After two weeks, Respect has raked in $15.1 million domestically and a negligible $569,000 from abroad, putting its worldwide gross at $15.7 million.

Speaking of disappointments, three other newcomers all with Hollywood stars, albeit of varying degrees of wattage, entered the charts well below the top five: In seventh place with $2.9 million was Lionsgate’s adult action-thriller The Protege , starring Michael Keaton, Maggie Q, and Samuel L. Jackson; in eighth place with $2.86 million was Searchlight’s ghost story The Night House, starring Rebecca Hall; and in ninth place—and the biggest bust by far—was Warner Bros. sci-fi thriller Reminiscence, starring Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson. While Reminiscence probably did lose some of its audience to its day-and-date release on HBO Max, its $2 million debut has to sting no matter how you try to rationalize it.