M. Night Shyamalan's "Old" easily won a slower weekend at the North American box office, while the G.I. Joe movie "Snake Eyes" lived up to its name.
Although both are new offerings from major studios, moviegoers turned out in modest numbers on a weekend where there was the notable distraction of the Olympics as well as rising concerns about covid's delta variant.
Universal on Sunday said that "Old" grossed an estimated $16.5 million. Paramount's "Snake Eyes" origin story brought in an estimated $13.4 million in ticket sales.
While not wildly far apart in grosses, "Snake Eyes," starring Henry Golding as the warrior-in-training, cost significantly more with a reported $88 million price tag, excluding advertising.
Meanwhile "Old," starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Vicky Krieps as the heads of a family whose tropical vacation turns into a horror when they begin to age rapidly, was independently financed for about $18 million. Including international grosses, "Old," which is based on the graphic novel "Sandcastle," grossed $23 million worldwide in its first weekend.
"It's an extraordinary debut," said Jim Orr, Universal's head of distribution. "M. Night Shyamalan is an amazing filmmaker and one of the best in the industry."
Orr said he also expects "Old" will continue to play well in the coming weeks.
Neither audiences nor critics reviewed the two new films especially well. "Old" has a 52% on Rotten Tomatoes and got a C+ CinemaScore, while "Snake Eyes" is currently at 42% on Rotten Tomatoes with a B- CinemaScore, which historically does not bode well for long-term potential. Both films premiered exclusively in theaters.
Disney/Marvel's "Black Widow" crept ahead to third place with $11.6 million, bringing its global total to $314.9 million, while last week's No. 1 film, "Space Jam: A New Legacy," grossed $9.6 million, down 69% from its first weekend. Both are available to watch at home too: "Space Jam" is streaming on HBO Max, while Disney+ subscribers can rent "Black Widow" for $30.
"This is part of the natural ebb and flow of the box office as we are still on the road to recovery," said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore. "You're going to have bigger weekends, and you're going to have smaller weekends. It's still an unusual marketplace."
The entire North American box office weekend generated around $68 million in revenue, according to Comscore. It's a far cry from a month ago when "Black Widow" alone made $80 million.
But, Dergarabedian said, it's also worth noting where the box office was a year ago when drive-ins were the only option and the weekend grosses totaled just $746,000.
"How much the industry has recovered over the course of one year is nothing short of astounding," Dergarabedian said. "We're in a really good spot and [today], when 'Jungle Cruise' opens, should be a solid weekend as well."
The performances show the industry is struggling to maintain momentum and recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier in July, it appeared that a slate of potential blockbusters might spark a triumphant return. But the recovery has slowed, with many moviegoers taking advantage of online viewing opportunities for new features and watching at home in large numbers.
"Studios are still testing the waters with smaller releases, shorter windows and hybrid strategies," Geetha Ranganathan, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst, said.
It's easy to see why theaters are complaining. Domestic box-office sales for the summer -- always the busy season for moviegoing -- were down 77% from 2019 levels to around $978 million, according to Box Office Mojo, an industry tracker.
Theaters are on a long journey to recovery from the last 18 months. Part of that time they were closed entirely, and all new releases were delayed. They've slowly reopened, but with difficulties. Fears about the virus and mask mandates, as well as regularly changing rules, have made it tough to fill auditoriums.
Overall, domestic box-office receipts for the top 10 pictures last weekend declined about 27%, to $66 million from almost $90 million the weekend before.