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‘Free Guy’ Takes No. 1 at Box Office as ‘The Suicide Squad’ Plummets

Ryan Reynolds comedy heads for an estimated $26 million opening

20th Century Studios’ “Free Guy” is performing above box office expectations thanks to a mix of strong word of mouth and, quite possibly, its theaters-only release. The Ryan Reynolds comedy earned $10.5 million from 4,165 locations on Friday and is now estimated for a $26 million opening weekend.

In fact, all three of this weekend’s new releases, including Sony/Screen Gems/Stage 6’s “Don’t Breathe 2” and MGM/UA’s “Respect,” are now estimated to open above the second weekend total of Warner Bros.’ “The Suicide Squad,” which only grossed an estimated $2.2 million on its second Friday — an 81% drop from opening day — and is now estimated to drop 73% from its $26.2 million opening weekend for a $7.2 million second frame that will put it at No. 5 on the charts.

Such numbers, if they hold through the weekend, would not be proof that the theatrical market has recovered enough to support films with blockbuster budgets as it did before the pandemic. “Free Guy” is a film with an estimated $100 million production spend that was produced by 20th Century Fox prior to the Disney merger. But it is a boost to theater owners that have stressed the importance of theatrical exclusivity to a film’s financial potential.

Earlier this week, AMC Theatres announced it has joined Cineworld in reaching a 45-day theatrical window deal with Warner Bros. starting next year, and Disney CEO Bob Chapek said in an earnings call that his studio is committing to releasing “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” next month with that same window.

Between “Free Guy” and “The Suicide Squad” in the top 5, “Don’t Breathe 2” is in second with $4.3 million grossed on Friday from 3,005 locations and an estimated $10.3 million opening. While that is far below the $26.4 million opening of the first “Don’t Breathe in August 2016, such a result would be on the upper end of tracker projections for this COVID-diminished box office.

Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” is in a narrow race with “Respect” for third on the charts, continuing to show better legs than expected as it is estimated to earn $9 million in its third weekend to push its domestic total to $88 million. The Dwayne Johnson/Emily Blunt adventure film has now passed the $85 million domestic run of “Cruella” and is on pace to become the fourth post-shutdown film to gross over $100 million domestically.

“Respect” is also currently estimated for a $9 million opening, meeting projections for a film that aims for older audiences at a time when COVID-19 has severely curtailed turnout from moviegoers over 50.