Disney’s ‘Jungle Cruise’ Leads Up Weekend for the Box Office
(Bloomberg) -- Walt Disney Co.’s “Jungle Cruise” led the box office over the weekend, beating estimates, but a modest turnout showed how difficult it will be for the movie industry to reach pre-Covid revenue levels once again.
The movie took in $35 million across 4,310 North American theaters, Comscore Inc. said Monday. That was far better than any other film playing in cinemas, and more than the $30 million analysts expected. But it was still weak for a project that cost $200 million to make. “Black Panther,” which had a similar budget, earned more than $200 million in its first three days in U.S. and Canadian theaters in 2018.
Disney said the movie also brought in $30 million on Disney+. “Jungle Cruise” arrived simultaneously in theaters and on the streaming service last week, employing the same release strategy that has led to disputes over how to pay actors in the digital age, including a lawsuit last week by one of the world’s biggest stars.
“While the results are encouraging, given that the movie was also available on Disney+, where it generated $30 million, there’s no doubt that the industry faces multiple unknowns, including rising delta-variant cases, simultaneous streaming and the threat from piracy,” said Geetha Ranganathan, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “It also highlights uncertainty about a film’s profitability.”
She estimated the movie would need to generate $600 million in sales to turn a profit, given that studios split ticket revenue with theaters.
“Jungle Cruise” features Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt in a film based in part on the entertainment company’s popular theme-park ride. Blunt starred earlier this year in “A Quiet Place Part II,” which was also at the center of a release dilemma. Its premiere was moved multiple times, and the picture finally debuted in May -- with a short, exclusive theatrical run before appearing online.
Blunt raised concerns then with its studio, Paramount Pictures, about plans to debut “Quiet Place Part II” so soon online. With some of her compensation tied to box-office results, the decision had the potential to draw fans away from cinemas and cut her payday. The film went on to collect $291 million in ticket sales worldwide, a success for the pandemic era.
Scarlett Johansson, star of Marvel’s “Black Widow,” took the issue public on July 29, with a lawsuit claiming Disney broke its promise to release her movie in theaters exclusively. Disney countered that it paid Johansson $20 million and that the suit is without merit.
‘Not the Last’
“This will surely not be the last case where Hollywood talent stands up to Disney and makes it clear that, whatever the company may pretend, it has a legal obligation to honor its contracts,” Johansson’s lawyer John Berlinksi said in a statement after filing her suit.
The dispute heated up even further a day later, with Johansson’s representatives at Creative Artists Agency accusing Disney of trying to “weaponize her success as an artist and businesswoman.”
“This suit was filed as a result of Disney’s decision to knowingly violate Scarlett’s contract,” CAA Co-Chairman Bryan Lourd said in a statement. “They have very deliberately moved the revenue stream and profits to the Disney+ side of the company, leaving artistic and financial partners out of their new equation. That’s it, pure and simple.”
Disney didn’t comment on its compensation arrangements for “Jungle Cruise.” Representatives for Blunt and Johnson didn’t respond to requests for comment.
“Jungle Cruise” had the fourth-largest opening of any movie in the pandemic, behind “Black Widow,” Universal Pictures’ “F9” and “A Quiet Place Part II.” Reviews of the movie were mostly favorable, with 62% of critics recommending “Jungle Cruise,” according to Rotten Tomatoes. BoxofficePro estimated the film could take in up to $135 million in domestic ticket sales during its full theatrical run.
The top 10 films overall made about $75 million Comscore said. While that was up 12% from the previous weekend, it’s a fraction of what a single film made in a weekend of July 2019, when Disney’s “The Lion King” generated $192 million in ticket sales.
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