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F9, Black Widow, Space Jam 2 lead the box office update for late July

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting fed up with writing about all the depressing doom and gloom going on in the world. I am depressed about writing about residential school unmarked graves. I am sick of writing about forest fires.
cairns on cinema_1

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting fed up with writing about all the depressing doom and gloom going on in the world.

I am depressed about writing about residential school unmarked graves. I am sick of writing about forest fires. I am really, really tired of writing about COVID-19, and believe me, I was really happy when the province stopped doing their weekly COVID-19 news conferences. I was sick of those most of all.

So, today I am going to write about movies. About time! 

There is a lot of good box office news to report this summer, for the first time in several months. It seems like we are seeing new “post-pandemic” box office records set on a regular basis. Keep in mind I use the words “post-pandemic” loosely as the Delta variant is out there wreaking havoc. But the box office is starting to, dare I say it, return to normal at the cinemas in North America.

Let’s look back at some of the highlights of this summer movie season at the box office so far:

A Quiet Place, Part II (Paramount): The first major hit of the summer months was the horror-thriller A Quiet Place, Part II, the sequel to the 2018 hit. This movie quickly set the record as the biggest hit of 2021, debuting during the May 28 Memorial Day long weekend in the United States. It grossed an opening domestic weekend of $57 million and has made $285 million worldwide, so far. Also opening in theatres was Cruella, starring Emma Stone, and it earned a respectable $26.5 million during the four-day domestic long weekend.

One thing a lot of observers noticed early on was that the biggest box office was reserved for scary movies and movies with dark subject matter. Cruella de Vil isn’t exactly Snow White or Cinderella, eh?

The trend continued the following weekend with The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It topping the box office at $24 million. It was obvious to me that a lot of people still had fear and dark thoughts on the brain after more than a year of COVID-19. You would think escapism would have been a big thing, but that wouldn’t happen quite yet.

F9: The Fast Saga (Universal): Vin Diesel and the wildly successful Fast and Furious franchise returned the weekend of June 25-27, and this movie quickly set the new post-pandemic weekend opening record of $70 million for Universal. This really did feel more like the blockbuster summer openings that we were used to seeing. It finished first again at $29 million the following week. Its worldwide haul so far is $593 million.

Black Widow (Disney): The latest to take down the box office title was Scarlett Johansson. The long-delayed Black Widow from Disney finally was released July 9 and hauled in $80 million domestic, toppling F9’s recently set post-lockdown record.

But the movie’s performance was not without controversy. Many theatre owners were upset the movie was released the same day on the streaming service Disney Plus. They contend the move cost theatres money, and, in fact, the box office for Black Widow declined rather substantially the following weekend.

Space Jam: A New Legacy (Warner Bros.): This is the sequel to the 1996 Space Jam movie starring the Looney Tunes and Michael Jordan. This time, Bugs Bunny and the gang team up with LeBron James on the intergalactic basketball court.

Whether this sequel is any good, I leave up to you to decide — the reviews haven’t been the greatest. What has been good is the box office. Space Jam 2 delivered $31 million for Warner Bros. on the July 16-18 weekend — upsetting Black Widow. The release coincided with the NBA Finals which, for once, LeBron James was not a part of.

You know what this means? There is sure to be a sequel. “Space Jam 3,” this time starring Giannis Antetokounmpo, the so-called “Greek Freak”, meeting his match against a bunch of cartoon freaks from outer space. He should fit in nicely with the Tasmanian Devil, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig. It could also mark the debut of the next sure fire-hit Looney Tunes character: “Milwaukee Buck”‑ a deer version of Wile E. Coyote.

Think of the possibilities! Surely, sequel number 3 is where this is going after this weekend’s showing – not to mention this week’s Milwaukee Bucks NBA championship.

A few more big releases are due out in August – The Suicide Squad on Aug. 6 stands out. But so far, this is where we sit in terms of this summer’s hits to this point.

As for the domestic North American box office numbers for the year, it looks like this as of July 22: F9: The Fast Saga $156,918,730; A Quiet Place Part II $155,312,796; Black Widow $138,027,361; Godzilla vs. Kong $99,244,744; Cruella $83,866,685.

There is still opportunity out there for the late-fall November and December releases to top these numbers and win the box office for the year. We just need the Delta variant to take a hike. Stay tuned for a further update at the end of the summer when we wrap up the numbers and take our best guess at how the fall will play out.