LeBron James was King of the box office this weekend.
Space Jam: A New Legacy, starring the basketball great, beat holdover Black Widow to top the chart with a better-than-expected domestic debut of $31.7 million from 3,956 theaters.
Marvel and Disney’s Black Widow fell to No. 2 in its second outing with $26.3 million. The superhero pic suffered a steep 67 percent decline, one of the biggest drops ever for a Marvel title, and the worst among the Marvel films released by Disney. The decline underscores that the box office recovery is far from over; also, the tentpole is available in the home via Disney+ Premier Access (piracy is another problem).
Heading into the weekend, Warner Bros. expected Space Jam 2 to open in the $20 million range in North America. That would have been a problematic start for a movie that cost a reported $150 million to make. The film instead was buoyed by an A- CinemaScore and an ethnically diverse audience.
Overseas — where numerous markets are still impacted by the pandemic — the film opened to a tepid $23 million from 64 territories for a global start of $54.7 million.
In North America, Space Jam 2 scored the biggest opening for a family title in the pandemic-era despite poor reviews, growing concerns over the Delta variant and new mask mandates in L.A. County that took effect just before midnight on Saturday. (L.A. is the country’s largest moviegoing market.)
Last weekend, Disney revealed that Black Widow generated $60 million from Disney+ (Disney+ customers must pay an additional $30 to watch a Premier title). However, the company on Sunday declined to reveal updated Disney+ numbers for the big-budget tentpole.
In terms of pandemic era event pics, F9 also tumbled 67 percent in its sophomore outing.
Sony’s psychological thriller Escape Room: Champion of Tournaments debuted in third place with an estimated $8.8 million from 2,815 theaters.
The sequel was dismissed by many critics but fared somewhat better with moviegoers, who gave it a B CinemaScore. More than 60 percent of ticket buyers were between ages 18 and 34, not surprising for a genre film. Similar to Space Jam 2, Escape Room 2 likewise played to a diverse audience. The mix was 34 Caucasian, 28 percent Black, 26 percent Latino, 12 percent Asian/Native American/Other.
At the specialty box office, the new documentary Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain scored an impressive $1.9 million in its debut from 927 locations to place No. 8. That’s the top documentary opening of the year, as well as the best for any specialty film (the art house market has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic). Focus Features and CNN Films partnered on the film.