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The R-rated slasher film, written by Jordan Peele and directed by “Captain Marvel 2” filmmaker Nia DaCosta, surpassed industry expectations despite fears the delta variant would keep people from going to the movies. Though multiplexes have struggled to sustain momentum as COVID-19 cases continue to surge, Hollywood has witnessed that new films available only in theaters (such as “Candyman” and last weekend’s champ “Free Guy”) have steadier ticket sales compared to tentpoles being offered simultaneously on streaming services (like “The Suicide Squad” and Hugh Jackman’s “Reminiscence”).
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“Candyman” cost $25 million to produce — MGM financed and produced the film, while Universal handled marketing and distribution — and appears on track to become one of the rare pandemic-era releases to become profitable during its theatrical run. The sequel to the 1992 film, this version starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, has been well received by critics and moviegoers, with an 85% on Rotten Tomatoes and “B” CinemaScore.
“The theater is where this genre is best experienced because it becomes exactly that — an experience,” says Jim Orr, Universal’s president of domestic distribution. “We’re headed to a nice run because next weekend is a three-day holiday and we had really enthusiastic audience scores.”
Overseas, “Candyman” had a slower start, opening in 51 international markets and pocketing $5.23 million for a global tally of $27.6 million.
In recent weeks, new releases like “Candyman,” the Ryan Reynolds-led “Free Guy,” and Paramount’s animated adventure “PAW Patrol” sold more movie tickets than expected, yet the overall box office is pacing roughly 50% behind the same period in 2019. Cinema operators are eager to show Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” which opens next weekend and marks the first theatrical-only MCU release in more than two years.
“Vaccinations are picking up, but not fast enough to make a difference yet,” says David A. Gross, who runs consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “For now, it’s impressive that moviegoing is holding up as well as it is.”
In second place on domestic box office charts, Disney and 20th Century’s “Free Guy” declined a mere 27% in its third weekend in theaters and added $13.6 million from 3,940 venues. The sci-fi comedy adventure, which previously held the No. 1 spot for two weekends in a row, has generated $79 million to date. “Free Guy” has grossed $179 million globally, which is a relatively strong result (by pandemic standards) for a movie that isn’t based on a pre-existing property.
In a distant third, the G-rated “PAW Patrol” dipped 50% from its opening weekend and brought in $6.6 million from 3,189 locations. So far, the movie, based on the popular kids TV show, has amassed $24 million in the U.S. and Canada.
Disney’s family adventure “Jungle Cruise” ended the weekend in the No. 4 spot, bringing in $5 million from 3,370 locations. After five weeks on the big screen, “Jungle Cruise” has tallied $100.1 million in the U.S. and Canada and $187 million globally while being offered simultaneously on Disney Plus.
Sony’s horror sequel “Don’t Breathe 2” rounded out the top five with $2.8 million from 2,703 cinemas. In total, the film has made $24.5 million at the domestic box office.
Elsewhere at the box office, Halsey’s visual album “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power” launched exclusively on Imax screens and brought in $735,000 from 100 venues. Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre had the best turnout, with $24,000 in ticket sales in three days.