“The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard,” a sequel to the 2017 action comedy “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” is gunning for the top spot on U.S. box office charts.
That shouldn’t be a difficult feat, considering the Lionsgate film is this weekend’s only new nationwide release. “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard,” starring Salma Hayek, Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, is opening in 3,000 North American theaters on Wednesday and is projected to make $15 million through Sunday.
As one of the few exclusively theatrical releases, the film will be another interesting test case as the movie business recovers from the pandemic. “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is the first comedy to be released on the big screen since the onset of COVID-19. The genre has increasingly fallen out of favor with moviegoers as superhero adventures and suspenseful thrillers rise in popularity.
The follow-up film cost $70 million to produce. The poorly received “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” debuted to $21 million in U.S. ticket sales, a modest result for pre-pandemic times, and ended its theatrical run with $75 million at the domestic box office and $176 million worldwide. That haul was enough to turn a profit and convince studio executives that the world needed another goofy go-around with the unlikely tag team of a deadly assassin and a CIA agent.
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For the new installment, director Patrick Hughes added some apostrophes and reunited Reynolds (the bodyguard in question) and Jackson (the hitman in the title) as a lethal odd couple that teams up with an international con-woman (the eponymous wife) to take down a madman’s sinister plot to blow up Europe.
Reviews have not been kind. The Washington Post’s critic Michael O’Sullivan called it “one of the drowsiest, dullest summer movies ever,” while Variety’s chief film critic Owen Gleiberman says describing the film as over-the-top would be “an insult to the concept of having a top.” For measure, he adds, “[It] makes the most overly amped and slovenly entry in the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise look like ‘North by Northwest.'”
Elsewhere at the U.S. box office, a handful of movies are opening in limited release. One is Edgar Wright’s music documentary “The Sparks Brothers,” from Focus Features, which examines the influential yet overlooked musicians Ron and Russell Mael. There’s also the Rita Moreno documentary “Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It,” following the remarkable career of a stage and screen legend — who once dated Elvis Presley to make Marlon Brando jealous. Both docs premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews.
Box office watchers will also be examining the performance of holdover titles, namely the Warner Bros. musical “In the Heights” and Sony’s family film “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway.” Both of those movies had softer-than-expected starts, with “In the Heights” (also available on HBO Max) pulling in $11.4 million and “Peter Rabbit 2” collecting $10.1 million. With positive word-of-mouth, industry experts believe the films will decline less than 50% from initial weekend sales. That would put revenues for “In the Heights” and “Peter Rabbit” each slightly above $5 million for the weekend.
“Family films have been a staple of the recovery of theaters as parents and their kids, eager to enjoy the outside the home bargain that is going to the movies, are seeking out appealing and appropriate big screen content,” says Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst with Comscore.
He adds, “Meanwhile, the much-discussed musical ‘In The Heights'” second weekend performance will reflect whatever the marketplace has decided regarding the film’s hybrid release strategy.”
(Update: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the budget for “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” was above $50 million. The budget was $70 million.)