Angelina Jolie’s survival action thriller “Those Who Wish Me Dead” didn’t do much to revive the North American box office. The Warner Bros. film, which debuted simultaneously on the streaming service HBO Max, took in a paltry $2.8 million in its opening weekend.
The movie’s hybrid release on HBO Max likely isn’t the reason “Those Who Wish Me Dead” sold hardly any tickets; “Godzilla vs. Kong” and “Mortal Kombat” were both recent Warner Bros. films that were able to generate decent box office revenues despite being offered concurrently on a streaming service.
As movie theaters attempt to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, family films and CGI spectacles have been popular options to see on the big screen. Gritty dramas geared toward adult audiences haven’t been performing as well, and mediocre reviews for “Those Who Wish Me Dead” didn’t help drum up interest.
The film played in 3,188 cinemas, a sizable footprint considering only 65% of U.S. movie theaters are currently open, according to Comscore. Yet Shawn Robbins, the chief analyst at Box Office Pro, ascribes that “Those Who Wish Me Dead” had several factors working against it.
“The film was barely promoted even by pandemic standards and effectively went under the radar as both as a theatrical and streaming release,” he says. “We’ve seen a number of genre thrillers aimed at audiences of a certain age open during the past year, so there could also be an element of saturation in play.”
At the international box office, “Those Who Wish Me Dead” generated a dismal $2.8 million from 33 countries overseas, taking its worldwide tally to $7.1 million. Warner Bros. did not provide data for how many people who watched “Those Who Wish me Dead” on HBO Max.
Taylor Sheridan directed “Those Who Wish Me Dead,” based on the novel by Michael Koryta. The story centers on a teenager who witnesses the murder of his father and goes on the run with a smokejumper (Jolie) to escape two gunmen trying to silence him. Variety’s chief film critic Peter Debruge was a fan of the film, writing in his review: “The idea may be outrageous, but Sheridan’s commitment makes the whole thing work.” Moviegoers gave the film a “B” CinemaScore.
“Those Who Wish Me Dead,” which finished the weekend in third place, wasn’t the only new movie to open. “Spiral,” a creepy addition to the terrifying “Saw” franchise, brought in $8.7 million from 2,811 venues between Friday and Sunday. That’s a mediocre start given its $20 million production budget, but it’s enough to easily nab the No. 1 spot on box office charts in the coronavirus era.
Overseas, “Spiral” amassed an additional $3.3 million from 16 international countries. Globally, the movie has earned $12 million so far.
Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst with Comscore, says the debut of “Spiral” is “solid” given the slow-to-recover domestic box office. “We are still operating in a very limited marketplace,” says Dergarabedian. He’s optimistic that things will pick up with releases of Paramount’s “A Quiet Place Part II” and Disney’s “Cruella” over Memorial Day weekend.
“Saw” veteran Darren Lynn Bousman directed “Spiral,” which stars Chris Rock, Max Minghella and Samuel L. Jackson and follows police efforts to stop a Jigsaw copycat killer. It got mixed reviews, with Variety’s Owen Gleiberman saying for better or worse, the latest entry stays true to its graphic, stomach-churning roots. “No,” Gleiberman wrote, “the ‘Saw’ series hasn’t really changed. So depending on whether you’re a fan or not, eat up…or throw up.”
Fans of dismemberment movies ate well this weekend. Zack Snyder’s zombie movie “Army of the Dead” also arrived on the big screen, one week before it becomes available on Netflix. Since the streaming service has a contentious relationship with cinema owners, the film only played in 430 locations, far fewer than its fellow new releases. Netflix, unlike traditional movie studios, doesn’t reveal box office data. However, rivals estimate that “Army of the Dead” generated $800,000 over the weekend, enough to crack the top 10.
“Army of the Dead” came in slightly ahead of “Profile,” a thriller from Focus Features that follows an undercover British journalist in her quest to expose a terrorist recruiter through social media. Despite playing in 2,033 North American theaters, the movie didn’t make much of a dent and brought in just $670,000.
Elsewhere at the domestic box office, a series of holdovers rounded out charts. “Wrath of Man,” a heist thriller starring Jason Statham, slid to No. 2 in its second weekend of release, adding $3.7 million from 3,007 theaters. The MGM film has made $14.6 million in North America to date.
Internationally, where Miramax is distributing the movie, “Wrath of Man” has grossed $41.4 million in total. It opened in Chinese theaters on Monday and made $7.1 million in its first three days of release, as well as another $8.7 million over the weekend, bringing its tally in China to $18.5 million.
Ranking slightly below “Those Who Wish Me Dead,” the anime film “Demon Slayer: Mugen Train” and Disney’s “Raya and the Last Dragon” landed in fourth and fifth place, respectively.
“Demon Slayer” has become an unexpected hit in the U.S. In its fourth weekend in theaters, the film collected $1.78 million for a domestic haul of $41.9 million. Meanwhile, “Raya and the Last Dragon,” which is currently available on Disney Plus for a premium $30 rental fee, pulled in $1.71 million in its 11th weekend of release. That brings its cumulative total to $46 million.
In sixth place, “Godzilla vs. Kong” took in $1.4 million from 2,484 theaters. After seven weeks, the monster mashup has collected $95 million. If it keeps chugging along on the big screen, it could become the first COVID-era release to cross $100 million at the domestic box office. That wouldn’t be much of an accomplishment in pre-pandemic times, but it carries outsized significance in the currently impaired film distribution landscape.
“It’s possible we’re at an inflection point,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “People are starting to get out of the house.”