The second title in Walt Disney’s contentious “in theaters and available via Disney+ Premier Access” plan, Jungle Cruise, debuted in theaters yesterday night with $2.7 million in Thursday previews.
The over/under $200 million action comedy “Jungle Cruise” starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt would ordinarily be Disney’s greatest bet at launching a new live-action franchise (outside of the MCU) since National Treasure in 2004 and Pirates of the Caribbean in 2003. The Covid factors, on the other hand, haven’t made things simple, and Space Jam: A New Legacy’s $31 million premiere may end up being a pipe dream.
For comparison, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales grossed $5.5 million in Thursday previews before grossing $62 million during Memorial Day weekend (Fri-Sun/$77 million Fri-Mon). Maleficent: Mistress of Evil grossed $2.8 million in previews on Thursday, putting it on track for a $37 million opening weekend.
Rampage made $2.4 million on Thursday, putting it on track for a modest $11.5 million Friday before rising for a $36 million Friday-Sunday launch thanks to kid matinees. Cruella made $1.4 million on Thursday, putting her on track for a Memorial Day weekend debut of $21.5 million for Fri-Sun/$26.5 million for Fri-Mon.
With a strong brand (Disney live-action adventure), a well-known IP (the Jungle Cruise), star power (Johnson and Blunt), and the promise of big-budget escapism, the film has a lot going for it. In a normal summer, this would have been one of the most popular films. It may just break $40 million if it outperforms Rampage and Cruella in terms of Thursday-to-Weekend legs.
While anticipation is low, and controversies surrounding Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit against Disney over Black Widow’s concurrent Disney+ release will undoubtedly influence coverage, Jungle Cruise has received mixed to good reviews (63 percent fresh and 6/10 on Rotten Tomatoes). The picture benefits from a strong brand (Disney live-action adventure), a well-known IP (the Jungle Cruise), star power (Johnson and Blunt), and the promise of big-budget escapism. This would have been one of the season’s biggest flicks in a regular summer.
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