Usually, the weekend before the release of a Marvel film would be devoid of any box office newcomers. But in this post-COVID Fourth of July weekend, Universal is taking the polar opposite strategy by releasing not one but two films — DreamWorks’ “The Boss Baby: Family Business” and Blumhouse’s “The Forever Purge” — alongside the second weekend of “F9.”
It’s just the latest distribution experiment in a year full of them, and it could lead to some rare sights on this weekend’s charts. Universal notes that if its three current releases take the top three spots on the July 4 charts — and that is very likely considering both new releases are projected for openings of over $10 million — it would become the first studio since 2005 to do a podium sweep of the box office. The last to do so was Sony Pictures with “Hitch,” “Boogeyman,” and “Are We There Yet?” during a light February release period.
Of course, the reason why we haven’t seen a studio do a podium sweep in 16 years is because of basic box office sense, which dictates that films be kept apart on the release slate to avoid splitting audience attention and diminishing their top grossing potential.
But in this rebuilding market, where “F9” accounted for 71% of all domestic grosses this past weekend, Universal is going with the strategy that a horror sequel and a family sequel will serve as alternative programming for sections of the audience not interested in “F9” or “Black Widow.”
“Fourth of July isn’t always guaranteed to be a big box office weekend for new releases because it shifts around on the calendar. I think right now, with people still going outside after a year of quarantine and widely appealing content still repopulating movie screens, we’re probably at least a couple months out from moviegoing interest approaching normal levels on a consistent basis,” Boxoffice analyst Shawn Robbins said.
“But Universal has had some success in the past with releasing ‘Purge’ films as midsummer titles and after the success ‘F9’ had last weekend, I think Universal is counting on younger audiences, which have largely been driving the box office over the past month or so, continuing to show up this weekend,” he continued. “We might see strong turnout on Friday and Saturday even if there is an expected drop on Sunday.”
Adding another wrinkle in this weekend is that the two films will have different release strategies. “The Forever Purge” will be released exclusively in theaters and because of that is projected to open in the No. 2 spot with a mid-teens opening weekend. Universal is projecting a $10 million opening from 3,000 screens.
But “Boss Baby 2” will be taking a hybrid release strategy, releasing both in theaters and at no extra charge on Peacock. Like Disney/Pixar’s “Luca,” this sequel to a $125 million animated film that grossed $527 million worldwide is being repurposed as a title to draw new streaming subscribers. Notably, all of the major cinema chains will screen “Boss Baby 2,” giving it a 3,600-screen wide release despite its hybrid strategy and the much-publicized deals made with Universal guaranteeing at least 17 days of exclusivity for all theatrical releases.
Regardless, Universal seems to be sending the message with their plans this weekend that they are committed to giving theaters new material, which could help stem the tide until more top blockbusters come in the latter half of the year.
“The Forever Purge,” which is being sold as the final installment of the “Purge” series, picks up after the events of “The Purge: Election Year,” in which the New Founding Fathers of America were voted out of office and the Purge was officially abolished. But on a Texas ranch, a Mexican couple trying to escape to America to evade a drug cartel is about to run into a group of Purgers that plan to continue their murderous ways without government approval. Everardo Gout directed the film from a script by “Purge” creator James DeMonaco.
“The Boss Baby: Family Business” picks up 40 years after the first movie and sees estranged brothers Ted and Tim (Alec Baldwin and James Marsden) brought back together by Tim’s infant daughter Tina (Amy Sedaris), who is revealed to be an agent investigating a private school attended by her older sister that is run by a shadowy businessman (Jeff Goldblum). Tom McGrath and Michael McCullors return as director and screenwriter, respectively.