Four new films with major stars from Hugh Jackman to Michael Keaton opened in North American movie theaters this past weekend and only the one with animated puppies fared well. But it wasn’t enough to beat out Ryan Reynolds’ action-comedy “Free Guy,” which topped the charts for the second weekend running.
“PAW Patrol: The Movie,” a Paramount release targeted at very young kids that’s also streaming on Paramount+, earned $13 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates Sunday. It was by far the best of the new openers, which included three adult-skewing films that failed to find significant audiences: The action pic “The Protégé,” with Keaton and Maggie Q, the sci-fi thriller “Reminiscence,” which is also streaming on HBO Max, and the well-reviewed Rebecca Hall horror “The Night House.”
First place went to “Free Guy,” a 20th Century and Disney release that’s playing exclusively in theaters. It dropped a miniscule 34% and added $18.8 million over the weekend, bringing its global total to $112 million. The studio attributed the strong hold to good word-of-mouth.
“’Free Guy’ is a movie that harkens back to the days when strong word-of-mouth and a really engaged star, Ryan Reynolds, combine to make for a great theatrical-first release,” said Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “It shows that a theatrical-first release even in today’s unusual marketplace can have legs. It feels very 2019, not pandemic-era.”
The relative success of “PAW Patrol” came as a bit of a surprise, even to those involved. Although the movie is based on an immensely popular Nickelodeon series, its target audience of under-6-year-olds is a wild card. Delta variant concerns and its availability to stream at home made it even more of a moving target.
Chris Aronson, the president of domestic distribution for Paramount Pictures, said the weekend was a “very nice, very pleasant surprise.”