Did ‘Free Guy’ Get a Box Office Boost From Exclusive Release in Theaters?

Disney’s action comedy with Ryan Reynolds opened to $28.4 million

The latest twist in a box office full of them came this weekend courtesy of 20th Century Studios’ “Free Guy,” the first movie from Disney in over a year released only in theaters.

The film’s lack of availability on streaming, premium or otherwise, almost certainly played a factor in its early success. The question is how much. With a $28.4 million opening, the original comedy starring Ryan Reynolds has edged out the $26.2 million opening by Warner Bros.’ DC Comics hit “The Suicide Squad.”

Like everything else at the box office, beating box office expectations has a variety of factors behind it, including the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on the theatrical market.

Aside from the fact that “The Suicide Squad” was available on streaming at no extra charge, the expectations for each film were significantly different. “Squad” fell short of its projected $30 million debut despite some major advantages: the DC Comics label, returning star Margot Robbie, “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn and following a similarly named film that opened to $133.7 million in 2016 on its way to a domestic total of $325.1 million.

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Jeremy Fuster

Box Office Reporter • jeremy.fuster@thewrap.com • Twitter: @jeremyfuster