‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ boxes out ‘Black Widow’ at box office as theater owners gloat

Box office prognosticators expecting Marvel’s “Black Widow” to reign supreme among ticket buyers during its second weekend might need a small toon up when it comes to their prediction skills. The Warner Bros. family film “Space Jam: A New Legacy” outpaced its expectations with a $31.65 million debut, giving the Lebron James Looney Tunes sequel the best opening for a family film during the coronavirus pandemic and the top Warner Bros. premiere since the global health crisis began last year. 

“It’s the family movie of the summer, and it’s exciting to see audiences come back in big numbers,” Warner Bros. domestic theatrical distribution chief Jeff Goldstein told Deadline. “Space Jam 2,” which swapped in James for another NBA legend, Michael Jordan, and put Warner Bros. intellectual property in center court, is also available on HBO Max for subscribers.

In its second weekend, “Black Widow” was pegged to hold onto its top position at the box office. But the Marvel film — which is also available to at-home viewers, albeit through Disney Plus for an added cost — dipped 67 percent, the largest second-weekend drop for a Marvel Cinematic Universe release. (Previously, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” held the auspicious mark with a 62 percent drop in 2018.) All told, “Black Widow” grossed $26.25 million to push its domestic total to $132 million. Unlike last weekend, when Disney touted $60 million in additional at-home revenue, the studio did not release its Disney Plus numbers.

The rough accounting for “Black Widow” had one group chirping loudly: theater owners. In a blistering statement released Sunday, the National Association of Theatre Owners slammed Disney for its release strategy.

“Despite assertions that this pandemic-era improvised release strategy was a success for Disney and the simultaneous release model, it demonstrates that an exclusive theatrical release means more revenue for all stakeholders in every cycle of the movie’s life,” the NATO statement read, before nitpicking Disney earnings on its Premier Access titles which cost $29.99 for Disney Plus subscribers. 

“Early analysis pointed at the $60 million in Premiere Access revenue and compared it to the domestic theatrical of $80 million and declared it a success, especially because Disney keeps every dollar of home release. It does not. Approximately 15% of revenue goes to the various platforms through which consumers access Disney Plus,” NATO said. “It ignores that Premiere Access revenue is not new-found money, but was pulled forward from a more traditional PVOD window, which is no longer an option.”

NATO cited the theatrical exclusives of “F9” and “A Quiet Place Part II” as counterpoints to “Black Widow” and its dual release. Both films have performed well at the box office, but “F9” similarly dropped 67 percent in its second weekend — although a caveat there is that its second Sunday fell on July 4. “A Quiet Place Part II” has grossed $155 million in North American theaters since its May debut and is currently streaming on Paramount Plus.

“The most important answer is that simultaneous release is a pandemic-era artifact that should be left to history with the pandemic itself,” NATO claimed. The group did not mention that “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” the No. 1 movie in America, is streaming on HBO Max right now. 

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