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Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt's Jungle Cruise docks with US$34m in US theatres

The show also picked up US$30m on Disney Plus Premier Access globally.

Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt's Jungle Cruise docks with US$34m in US theatres

FILE PHOTO: Cast members Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt attend the premiere for the film "Jungle Cruise" at Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, U.S., July 24, 2021. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Jungle Cruise completed its first voyage with US$34.2 million in theatrical ticket sales and another US$30 million on Disney Plus, leading the competition in North America.

The Disney film, starring Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson, debuted slightly ahead of expectations despite concerns the Delta variant would keep family crowds at home. For a movie that cost US$200 million to produce, as Jungle Cruise did, its US$34 million domestic box office opening weekend would traditionally be a major disappointment. But the pandemic has upended the movie theatre business, scrambling the rubric for success as the industry mounts a recovery. 

Today, that haul seems almost respectable, though it doesn't mean Jungle Cruise will be profitable, at least not in its theatrical iteration. A film with that price tag would traditionally have to generate at least US$500 million globally to break even.

However, Disney is hedging its bets and opening the film simultaneously on Disney Plus, the studio's subscription streaming service, where it will be made available to subscribers for US$30 (S$38.98 in Singapore). 

The studio deployed the same strategy for COVID-19 era releases like Cruella and Black Widow. Disney reported on Sunday (Aug 1) that Jungle Cruise earned US$30 million globally on Disney Plus Premier Access, which is half of what Black Widow made in surcharge revenue.

At the international box office, Jungle Cruise brought in a lackluster US$27.6 million from 47 overseas territories, buoying its worldwide box office haul to US$61.8 million.

Jaume Collet-Serra directed the family friendly movie, which is based on the Disney theme park ride and co-stars Jesse Plemons, Edgar Ramirez, Jack Whitehall and Paul Giamatti. Set in the early 20th century around the first world war, Jungle Cruise follows a morally dubious riverboat captain (Johnson) who takes an intrepid British scientist (Blunt) and her brother (Whitehall) on a mission to find the Tree of Life, which is believed to possess healing powers.

Box office analysts say audiences have been more skittish about going to the movies because of the resurgence of COVID cases across the country. However, some experts suggest the worsening public health situation isn't the sole reason that Jungle Cruise didn't dazzle in its debut in theatres and at home. It's a genre that, outside of exceptions like Jurassic World and Jumanji sequels, has mostly fallen out of favour with cinemagoers. Jungle Cruise received mixed reviews from critics and secured an "A-" CinemaScore.

"The primary reason for the lukewarm launch is not COVID or the option to stream the movie; the weakness is the film itself," says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. "Jungle Cruise is a classic Hollywood action adventure, and today, that genre has lost its edge."

Elsewhere on box office charts, Universal's Old and A24's The Green Knight are locked in a close battle for second place. It's too narrow to call, though industry insiders believe Old will pull ahead once final numbers are tallied on Monday.

Directed by M Night Shyamalan, the mind-bending thriller about a beach that makes you old fell 60 per cent from its initial weekend of release, pulling in US$6.76 million from 3,379 venues. Old debuted last weekend to a leading US$16.5 million, pushing North American ticket sales to US$30 million. Internationally, the film added US$7.5 million from 44 markets, bringing its global tally to US$48 million.

The medieval fantasy adventure The Green Knight, starring Dev Patel, arrived above expectations with US$6.78 million from 2,790 North American theatres. From the studio behind Zola, Lady Bird and Moonlight and other beloved indies, The Green Knight tells the story of King Arthur's headstrong nephew, who embarks on a quest to confront the eponymous Knight – a gigantic tree-like creature.

Also new to US theatres this weekend, Focus Features' well-reviewed drama Stillwater, took the No 5 spot with US$5.12 million from 2,531 locations. Directed by Spotlight filmmaker Tom McCarthy, Stillwater stars Matt Damon as a father who travels to France to aid his daughter who was imprisoned for allegedly murdering her girlfriend while studying abroad. It's inspired by the story of Amanda Knox, an American who spent four years in an Italian prison before being exonerated. Knox has criticised the movie, claiming the filmmakers and stars of Stillwater are profiting off her name and glamorising the struggle of her wrongful murder conviction. Knox had no involvement in the film.

"By fictionalising away my innocence, my total lack of involvement, by erasing the role of the authorities in my wrongful conviction, McCarthy reinforces an image of me as a guilty and untrustworthy person," Knox wrote on Twitter. "And with Matt Damon's star power, both are sure to profit handsomely off of this fictionalisation of 'the Amanda Knox saga.'"

Stillwater ranked below Black Widow, which is currently in its fourth weekend in theatres. The Marvel superhero adventure, headlined by Scarlett Johansson's avenging Natasha Romanoff, brought in US$6.1 million. After about one month on the big screen, Black Widow has generated US$166 million. That's a decent haul for COVID times, but it's by far the worst result for recent installments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

Johansson made headlines this week for suing Disney, alleging the studio's decision to premiere the film on Disney Plus on the same day as its theatrical debut was a breach of contract and cost her tens of millions. 


READ: Scarlett Johansson sues Disney over Black Widow streaming release


Disney fired back, claiming Johansson benefitted from its hybrid release on Disney Plus and saying her claim showed "callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic". Since rival studios have similarly put movies online sooner than usual to boost streaming service subscribers, the outcome of Johansson's public legal dispute could mark a watershed moment for the way actors are compensated for their work.

(Source: Reuters)

Source: Reuters/sr