‘Space Jam’ Beats ‘Black Widow’ to Lead Weekend Box Office

"Space Jam: A New Legacy." (Source: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)

‘Space Jam’ Beats ‘Black Widow’ to Lead Weekend Box Office

“Space Jam: A New Legacy” narrowly topped returning champ “Black Widow” in theater-ticket sales in a modest opening weekend for the animated basketball film.

The Warner Bros. picture starring Los Angeles Lakers great LeBron James collected $31.1 million in North American sales, according to researcher Comscore Inc., higher than the industry expectation of $26.4 million.

‘Space Jam’ Beats ‘Black Widow’ to Lead Weekend Box Office

“Black Widow,” the latest superhero film from Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel franchise, saw ticket sales slide 68% to $25.8 million. The large second-week drop suggests that some movie fans are still reluctant to head back to theaters.

Studios and cinema owners were hoping “Black Widow” would jump-start a resurgence in moviegoing, with film-starved fans pouring back into theaters after a year and a half away. The film generated $80 million in domestic ticket sales in its debut last weekend, the best performance yet for a new movie during the pandemic.

But both “Black Widow” and “Space Jam” are also available online, which cuts into box-office revenue. Disney said it sold $60 million worth of streaming access to the film last weekend, the first time it has disclosed such a number. “Black Widow” has taken in $264 million in theaters globally to date.

“Ultimately, I think the industry is still in the middle of a protracted recovery process that we’ve warned could take many months and extend past the summer,” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice Pro.

Both movies, despite standing above their box-office competitors, have fallen short of some expectations. “Black Widow” was forecast to generate more than $90 million in its domestic debut. “Space Jam” -- a new installment of the 1996 Michael Jordan movie, which became a pop-culture mainstay -- also didn’t outperform its predecessor. Twenty-five years ago, the first “Space Jam” film generated $27.5 million in its opening weekend, about double that of the new film when adjusted for inflation.

Theaters are struggling to cope with an unpredictable pandemic, which has gone through periods of easing before roaring back. They’re also facing an uphill battle against customers seeking more convenience -- including being able to see popular new titles in their living rooms right away.

Trailing 2020

While about 82% of movie theaters in North America are now open, year-to-date box-office receipts are still an estimated 24% weaker than in 2020, according to data from Comscore. The weekend’s top 10 grossing films in theaters generated about 24% less than they did last weekend.

When it comes to home viewing, “Space Jam” is free for customers of AT&T Inc.’s HBO Max streaming platform. “Black Widow” has been available on the Disney+ service for an additional $30 fee. Disney didn’t publish streaming revenue figures this weekend.

“That’s a big question -- maybe just as important as the second weekend hold in theaters,” Robbins said.

Sony Pictures’ “Escape Room: Tournament of Champions,” meanwhile, took the No. 3 spot this weekend. The film, a $15 million horror flick based on the popular in-person experience, generated an estimated $8.8 million worth of North American ticket sales in its first weekend.

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