‘Free Guy’ Scores, ‘Respect’ Makes Decent Debut at Box Office

Free Guy and Respect opened this weekend at the box office. (Credit: Disney/MGM)

Free Guy ran away with an estimated $28.4 million at the weekend box office for a strong first place finish, despite competition from two other high-profile newcomers and rising concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

The sci-fi action comedy from Disney and 20th Century Studios debuted in 4,165 locations across the U.S. and Canada for a solid per theater average of $6,819, according to box office tracking company Comscore. A total of 86 percent of theaters are currently open.

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The film stars Ryan Reynolds as a bank teller who discovers he is actually a background player in a video game and decides to become the hero of his own story by rewriting it himself.

Taika Waititi, Jodie Comer, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Joe Keery, Milton “Lil Rel” Howery, Aaron W. Reed, Camille Kostek also star in the comedy directed by Shawn Levy.

Unlike other recent Disney releases, Free Guy is available exclusively in theaters and did not debut simultaneously on the Disney+ streaming service.

Free Guy has everything going for it — a popular, charismatic, and very socially engaged Ryan Reynolds, great audience buzz, solid reviews and most importantly a ‘theatrical first’ strategy,” Comscore Sr. Media Analyst Paul Dergarabedian told Urban Hollywood 411. “The fact that a sequel has already been announced indicates that the performance of the film in movie theaters was enough for Disney to recognize the value of this original piece of IP and its ongoing potential in the movie marketplace.”

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Elsewhere, Sony’s horror sequel Don’t Breathe 2 opened in second place with $10.6 million. The film is set after the initial deadly home invasion, where Norman Nordstrom (Stephen Lang) lives a quiet life until his past sins catch up to him. This latest installment in the franchise co-stars Brendan Sexton III, Madelyn Grace, Adam Young, Bobby Schofield and is directed by Rodo Sayagues.

Disney’s Jungle Cruise continued to sail along for a third place finish with $9 million. That brought its three-week domestic total to $82.1 million.

Aretha Franklin biopic Respect debuted in fourth place to the tune of $8.8 million. The music drama from MGM and United Artists Releasing stars Jennifer Hudson, and follows Franklin’s career from a child singing in her father’s church to international superstardom.

Rounding out the main cast are Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Tate Donovan, Mary J. Blige, Skye Dakota Turner, Audra McDonald, Marc Maron, Tituss Burgess, Saycon Sengbloh, Hailey Kilgore, Heather Headley.

The biopic from first-time director Liesel Tommy played in 3,207 locations for a decent but not great per theater average of $2,746.

Respect is only available in theaters, and some fans may have been nervous about sitting inside a cinema for 2 1/2 hours. The film’s target audience is African Americans and older women, who are less likely to venture into theaters with the Delta variant spreading.

“Most women aren’t playing around with this pandemic. A huge reason why is because a lot of women are parents. And they’re like, ‘we don’t trust this. We’re not going out.’ So movies that appeal to women … are super struggling at the box office,” Shawn Edwards, a film critic for Fox 4 News in Kansas City, Missouri, said via Zoom.

Edwards added that he did not recommend his friends go see the film in theaters.

“I can’t ask my Black and Brown brothers and sisters to risk it all to go watch a story about Aretha Franklin,” he said. “I love Jennifer Hudson. I love Aretha Franklin even more. It’s a solid movie, but it’s not worth dying over.”

Respect received so-so reviews from critics, which may have also kept some fans away. The movie has an 63 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes, although fans ranked it much higher on the site, giving it a 94 percent rating.

Rounding out the top five at the box office was last week’s leader, The Suicide Squad, which fell sharply with $7.7 million this weekend. The film is also streaming on HBO Max and has a two week total to $42.8 million.

Check out the box office chart below from Comscore.

Box Office Chart for Week of August 15, 2021. (Credit: Comscore)

One thought on “‘Free Guy’ Scores, ‘Respect’ Makes Decent Debut at Box Office

  1. It’s a shame the pandemic has kept some people away from the Aretha Franklin movie

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