Weekend Box Office: ‘The Suicide Squad’ Couldn’t Defeat the Threat of the Delta Variant

Weekend Box Office: ‘The Suicide Squad’ Couldn’t Defeat the Threat of the Delta Variant

We’re still in the midst of a raging pandemic, as evidenced by the rise of Delta variant cases. That might seem like stating the obvious at this point, but it remains a crucial bit of context worth emphasizing at a time when too many box office prognosticators seem intent on downplaying or ignoring reality altogether. That’s not to provide cover for any studio releases that fall short of even pandemic-adjusted expectations, as The Suicide Squad undeniably did this past weekend, but it’s an inextricable part of the story here nonetheless.

With that caveat out of the way, let’s dig into the numbers from this past weekend.

The Suicide Squad “Disappoints”

James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad topped out at $26.5 million domestic this weekend, coming in well below projections that conservatively put the latest comic book superhero/supervillain/antihero flick between $30 and $40 million. But in a reflection of the current pandemic-affected state of moviegoing, this was still more than enough to land The Suicide Squad at number 1 in the domestic box office charts. Internationally, the film brought in an additional $35 million to boost the combined total to $72.2 million.

Hopes were initially high for The Suicide Squad, particularly coming off its critically reviled (yet immensely successful) predecessor, 2016’s Suicide Squad that released on the exact same weekend 5 years ago. Led by Margot Robbie’s fan-favorite Harley Quinn and joined by the ever-popular Idris Elba, the Gunn sequel earned rave reviews and seemed set to follow up the pleasantly surprising initial showing for Marvel’s Black Widow a few weeks prior.

Unfortunately, The Suicide Squad had to contend withthe combination of an audience-suppressing R rating, a release on streaming service HBO Max at the same time as its theatrical release, a hefty $185 million budget (at minimum and not even counting marketing costs, mind you), and the ongoing audience hesitancy to head out to theaters because of the increasing spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19. All those box office villains joined forces to sink The Suicide Squad worse than Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller ever could.

There are certainly more in-depth hairs to split for those looking for a more thorough explanation for this relative underperformance, but perhaps the biggest reason is also the most obvious: the coronavirus is still wreaking havoc in spite of our well-intentioned collective desire to return to normalcy.

The Rest of the Box Office

After performing relatively well the previous week, Disney’s Jungle Cruise settled for a second place finish after dropping 55% in its second weekend of release. As Disney only seems inclined to provide Disney+ Premiere Access rental numbers for opening weekend publicity, we only have the film’s $15.7 million in additional ticket sales this weekend to take into account. To date, Jungle Cruise has pulled in $65 million domestic and $121 million globally.

M. Night Shyamalan’s horror/thriller Old took in another $4.1 million for a third place finish and a three week domestic total of $38.5 million. After accumulating $26 million internationally, its worldwide numbers now come out to $65 million. In a stark difference from mega-budgeted blockbusters that are causing studios to bleed money in an attempt to recoup as much cost as possible, Old’s reasonable $18 million price tag already sets it up to be a modest box office success.

That leaves Black Widow and Stillwater to round out the top 5, with A24’s The Green Knight in sixth place with another $2.5 million for a two week total of $12 million. In another Covid-era achievement, Black Widow has officially passed F9 to become the highest grossing North American picture. The other side of the coin, of course, is that Black Widow comes with the pandemic asterisk of ranking among the lowest-grossing MCU movies thus far.

Come back next week to see what happens when Free Guy enters the box office arena.

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