The Suicide Squad, the R-rated comic book adaptation directed by James Gunn, saw an underwhelming debut at the box office, earning merely $26.5 million from 4,002 North American theatres.

Although the sales were enough to lead the superhero-action movie to lead domestic box office charts, it fell short of expectations heading into the weekend. The Delta variant contributed to the low number of audiences across the US. Furthermore, Warner Bros. released the movie in a hybrid model; releasing it in cinemas as well as HBO Max (HBO’s streaming service) without added charges to subscribers, leading to low cinema attendance. 

An opening weekend below $30 million isn’t surprising, given the ongoing pandemic, but it’s disappointing because The Suicide Squad cost $185 million to produce and many millions more to promote globally. At the international box office, The Suicide Squad added another $35 million from 70 overseas territories, bringing its global tally to $72.2 million.

The Suicide Squad serves as a do-over, of sorts, to the 2016 Warner Bros. movie about a group of expendable super-villains on a deadly mission. It brings back Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Joel Kinnaman as Col. Rick Flag and Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, but original stars Will Smith and Jared Leto didn’t return for the fresh spin on the DC Comics adaptation. Though Robbie and Davis are A-listers, “The Suicide Squad” likely suffered from lack of star power. Despite the vastly different reception (the article-less Suicide Squad, directed by David Ayer, has a 26% on Rotten Tomatoes), the latest take won’t come close to reaching the ticket sales of the original, which kicked off with $133 million and ended its run with $746 million globally. Of course, that film didn’t open during a deadly pandemic and wasn’t offered simultaneously on HBO Max.

“Currently, this is an unforgiving market,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “Under normal conditions, a strong marketing campaign can overcome a few drawbacks and generate a good weekend. Under current conditions, that isn’t happening.”

In a distant second place on box office charts, Disney’s Jungle Cruise dipped 55% in its second weekend with ticket sales totalling $15.7 million from 4,310 venues. The family-friendly film, starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, has grossed $65 million in North America and $121 million globally. Disney reported last weekend that Jungle Cruise made $30 million on Disney Plus, but the studio did not provide an update beyond its initial outing.

Universal’s psychological thriller Old landed in third place with $4.1 million from 3,138 locations. After three weeks on the big screen, the M. Night Shyamalan movie has pocketed $38.5 million. The PG-13 film has amassed another $26 million at the international box office, propelling its global tally to $65 million. That’s not a bad result since Old cost $18 million to produce. Unlike many summer releases, such as The Suicide Squad and Jungle Cruise, the latest mind-bender from Shyamalan is only available to watch in theaters.

At the No. 4 spot, Disney and Marvel’s Black Widow pulled in $4 million from 3,100 theatres. The superhero tentpole, starring Scarlett Johansson as the eponymous Avenger, has earned $174 million at the domestic box office and $359 million worldwide. It made at least an additional $60 million on Disney Plus, where it premiered on the same day as its theatrical debut, but, like Jungle Cruise, the studio didn’t report digital purchases after its opening weekend.

With this weekend’s total, Black Widow has surpassed Universal’s Fast and Furious sequel F9 to become the highest-grossing movie of the year in North America. Still, it ranks as one of the lowest-earning titles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For that reason, Black Widow has been in the centre of a bitter, public dispute after Johansson sued Disney, alleging the film’s day-and-date release on Disney Plus was a breach of contract and cost her tens of millions in backend deals. Disney has claimed the actor received a healthy sum tied to its launch on the company’s streaming service and asserted her lawsuit showed “callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Rounding out the top five, Matt Damon’s drama Stillwater posted $2.86 million from 2,611 theatres. The well-reviewed Focus Features film, about a man who travels to France to clear his daughter’s name, has crossed the $10 million thresholds, which is a nice accomplishment for an indie film amid the pandemic.


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