The movie is projected to take home around $15 million to $18 million after it opens Friday in 4,165 North American theaters for its opening weekend, with some projections showing ticket sales could reach $20 million. However, as cases of the COVID-19 delta variant increase around the country, audiences have become more reluctant to head into theaters for the latest large-scale releases.
Since the Disney and 20th Century Studio film cost more than $100 million to produce, a weekend debut below $20 million would be considered disappointing for this exclusively theatrical release, though the measurements of box office success are once again shifting during the COVID-19 spike.
The release of “Free Guy” will be important to watch because it’s the first Disney movie to have a traditional, theatrical-only release in roughly a year. It will run only in theaters for 45 days, half of the previously normal 90-day window of exclusivity that theaters enjoyed before the COVID-19 pandemic. Since “Free Guy” was acquired by Disney from 20th Century Fox, which had a longstanding movie output deal with HBO, it will not make its way onto Disney Plus for subscribers to watch at home. Previous Disney releases, like “Black Widow,” “Jungle Cruise,” “Cruella” and “Raya and the Last Dragon,” have released simultaneously in theaters and on Disney Plus Premier Access for a $30 fee.
“Free Guy” stars Reynolds as Guy, a non-playable video game character in a popular, open-world game called “Free City.” He becomes self-aware, realizes he’s in a fictional game and decides to go from a lowly bank teller to the hero of the city with the help of the game’s programmers, played by Jodie Comer and Joe Keery. The cast also includes Lil Rel Howery, Taika Waititi and Utkarsh Ambudkar.
Also in Thursday previews, the horror thriller “Don’t Breathe 2” took in $965,000 from 2,575 locations. The R-rated sequel, from Stage 6 Films and Screen Gems, is projected to earn $8 million to $10 million in its opening weekend.