For context, more than a quarter-century ago (26 years to be exact), Michael Jordan’s original Space Jam opened to $27.5 million in 1996 in only 2,650 theaters.
In 1996, Jordan’s Space Jam went on to a $90.4 million domestic gross. Next week, LeBron’s sequel will probably die a hard death and have troubling creeping to a $60 or $70 million gross.
How big of a disaster is that? Well, before promotion costs, this sucker cost $150 million to produce.
You can’t blame the coronavirus, not when Black Widow opened to $80 million last week. If Black Widow can open to $80 million, so can Space Jam – and it didn’t.
What’s more, the overall box office was down -22 percent over last weekend. So people stayed home, not because of the virus, because of the product.
The reasons for Space Jam’s weak box office when compared to its predecessor are obvious. Michael Jordan is a much more appealing personality than LeBron James, and in 1996, Jordan was a mythical basketball talent. LeBron is a great player, but he’s no Jordan. He’s also a divisive, pompous jerk.
Space Jam: A New Legacy also sent out a pretty clear signal it was anti-fun when it announced capitulation to the #MeToo Nazis with the blacklisting of the Pepe Le Pew character.
Speaking of pew, Marvel’s Black Widow took an almost 70 percent dive in its second weekend. After a disappointing $80 million opening, in this, its second weekend, it grossed just $26 million. As a result, over two weekends, Black Widow sits at a measly $131 million and is almost certainly not going to clear $200 million domestic.
Worldwide, Black Widow is dying with just $233 million.
On its fourth weekend, the stinkaroo F9 brought in just $6.7 million, bringing its domestic total to around $160 million. This is another disappointment that won’t clear $200 million. Worldwide, F9 sits at $553 million, which is not all that hot. In the heart of the pandemic, Christopher Nolan’s Tenet cleared $364 million worldwide. Pretty much everything is open now, and people are not going to see F9.
Anyone who blames all this underperformance on the China Flu has to explain A Quiet Place Part II. The original Quiet Place cleared $188 million domestic and $350 million worldwide. So far, the sequel has cleared a perfectly respectable (for a sequel) $152 million domestic and $228 million worldwide.
In other words, A Quiet Place’s domestic audience turned out. The audience for the Fast and Furious, Marvel, and Space Jam franchises did not.
Is the virus having some impact? Sure. But there is something more going on here, and it’s about the appeal of the product, not the virus.