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'Judas' debut second to 'Croods'

by KELLY GILBLOM BLOOMBERG (WPNS) | February 19, 2021 at 1:48 a.m.

"Judas and the Black Messiah," a tale about FBI attempts to infiltrate the Black Panthers that is shaping up as an awards-season favorite, took the No. 2 spot in its opening weekend as viewers instead flocked to an older, animated film.

The Warner Bros. film, starring Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield, generated $2 million in domestic ticket sales from Friday to Sunday, according to industry researcher Comscore Inc. That's below BoxOffice Pro's estimate of $2.4 million sales, which was already a paltry sum by pre-pandemic standards. Universal's "The Croods: A New Age," which came out Nov. 25, led the box office with sales of $2.04 million.

"Judas" also premiered Friday on HBO Max, the streaming service owned by Warner Bros. parent company AT&T Inc., in an effort to maximize the number of people who have access to the film.

The premiere of "Judas" is indicative of how the looming movie-awards season has been disrupted by the pandemic this year. Normally, films expected to outperform at the Golden Globes and Oscars in January or February make splashy theatrical premieres in December. This year, both shows have been pushed back at least a month because of the coronavirus. Further, about 60% of U.S. theaters remain closed, according to data from Comscore, leaving studios more reliant on the web.

Today, another Oscar favorite, Walt Disney Co.'s "Nomadland," will debut on Hulu, as well as in cinemas. The film, starring Frances McDormand, is based on a nonfiction book about adults struggling to make it in the United States after the 2008 financial crisis. A third awards contender, "Promising Young Woman" from Comcast Corp.'s Universal Pictures, was only in theaters for three weeks before it was offered online.

So far, streaming premieres haven't seemingly cut too much into physical ticket sales, although it's hard to say in the middle of a pandemic. Two weeks ago, when Warner Bros.' "The Little Things" premiered in cinemas and on HBO Max, that film generated almost twice the volume of cinema ticket sales analysts had predicted. Comscore reported the movie earned $2 million last weekend -- the same as "Judas and the Black Messiah."

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