Disney has a major hit on its hands and it is not Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, or Frozen. Free Guy, the newest release from Disney’s 20th Century Studios, tops the weekend’s box office for the second week in row, bringing in an impressive $18.8 million following a better-than-expected $28.3 million debut last week.
The Ryan Reynolds adventure-comedy is benefiting from positive reviews (82% on Rotten Tomatoes) and strong word of mouth, indicated by a solid ‘A’ rating from Cinema Score. The film was Disney’s first theatrical only release since the pandemic began in early 2020. Due to previously negotiated distribution deals, Disney could not release the film with the same day and date strategy they used for Jungle Cruise, Black Widow, and Cruella.
Free Guy’s second weekend drop was only -34%, a strong indicator that the film has some legs. A number of Disney’s other 2021 releases have benefited from a long and successful run following their opening weekend. Jungle Cruise is still holding strong after it’s July 30th release date, coming in at number 3 behind Free Guy and this week’s new arrival, Paw Patrol.
Disney’s best post-opening weekend story is their animated hit Raya and the Last Dragon. The film was released in theaters and Disney+ (with premier access) back on March 5th, 2020. It opened with a less-than-stellar $8.5 million. The opening weekend numbers were forgiven because of the hesitancy from audiences to visit theaters and Disney’s same day and date release strategy. But, something happened with Raya and it slowly racked up solid box office numbers in the following months (yes, months, not weeks). The film has a worldwide box office total of $122.6 million, showing that a well-liked film can draw solid box office numbers, as long as it has time to do so.
Free Guy has been the biggest box office success of the summer, with anticipated final box office totals being pushed up with this weekend’s news. A big question for the final total will be how the film performs in China next weekend. This international market has the potential to draw worldwide totals through the roof, but it has also been harder for Disney to crack recently. We will have a better idea if this film will settle around $100 million or if it can push to $150 million (or more). Aside from the solid reviews, audience score, and box office receipts, Disney has to be very pleased that they have a possible new franchise to play with. While they pushed hard for Jungle Cruise to emerge as the new Pirates of the Caribbean (it didn’t), it appears Free Guy might be the true heir to the Pirate thrown.
It will be interesting to see how international audiences will respond to the film and just how long it can reign supreme in the domestic box office. There is not any real competition until Disney’s Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings drops on September 3rd. All eyes will be on Free Guy until then.