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‘The Suicide Squad’ Stumbles Over the Delta Variant, HBO Max, and a Three-Letter Word

What went wrong with DC Comics' don't-call-it-a-sequel? Covid, streaming, and a title choice that was a little too familiar.

THE SUICIDE SQUAD, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, 2021. © Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

“The Suicide Squad”

©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

The Suicide Squad” received unusually good reviews for a comic-book adaptation, plenty of social media attention, and had little to no competition on a prime summer weekend. Even so, it fell short of its conservative $30 million projection to gross $26,550,000 in 4,002 North American theaters.

“Black Widow” made nearly $40 million on its opening day. However, that was a month ago — back when the Delta variant was still introducing itself to North America. Today, as areas of the U.S. see infection and hospitalization rates that rival the worst days of the pandemic, that’s a likely factor in the disinterest of the theatrical audience.

There’s reason to believe the “Squad” audience might disregard rising Covid rates: Younger and more dedicated to the scope and experience of theatrical presentation, they’re less likely to take advantage of HBO Max availability. Beyond that core group, however, are fans who would be grateful for the opportunity to see it at home.

Finally, there is a possible third impediment, this one self-inflicted: the film’s title. Critics and fans praised James Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad.” The same groups largely reviled David Ayer’s 2016 “Suicide Squad.” With nearly identical titles, it might have been wiser to heavily market the difference in the films. However, that would mean tacit acknowledgement that the first film — which opened to $133 million — was a creative misfire.

Suicide Squad

Jared Leto in “Suicide Squad”

Warner Bros.

“The Suicide Squad” has a strong ensemble cast but lacks the big-name actors of the first film, which included Will Smith and Jared Leto. Beyond that, in a summer of nonstop franchise titles and sequels, perhaps the public has had its fill.

The weekend total of $65 million is 49 percent of the same weekend in 2019. With the “Black Widow” weekend dropping out of our four-week rolling comparisons (no single week proves much), the relative performance to 2020 drops to 44 percent, compared to 55 percent last weekend.

From Friday to Saturday, “The Suicide Squad” dropped 32 percent, less than “Black Widow” (40 percent, with a $29.99 surcharge for Disney+ subscribers to watch at home) and more than the theater-exclusive “F9” (25 percent drop). The 2016 “Suicide Squad” fell 41 percent on its second full day.

Disney’s “Jungle Cruise,” also available on Disney+ for $29.99, dropped 55 percent in its second weekend. That’s a range we’d expect even with standard theatrical windows. “Black Widow,” which dropped 68 percent in its second weekend, saw a decent hold in its fifth weekend with a 38 percent drop — the smallest in the top 10. It is now the biggest domestic film of the year at $174 million.

ANNETTE, Marion Cotillard, 2021. © Amazon Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection


Amazon/Courtesy Everett Collection

Amazon blocked grosses and declined comment on screen counts for Leos Carax’s “Annette” (handled by Bleecker Street), which is fresh off its Cannes opener presentation and two weeks ahead of its Prime streaming. Based on spot-check reporting, it appears to be playing in between 150 and 200 theaters across the country. Theater presale seating charts show the strongest performances were those with in-person appearances (the director at two in Manhattan, the writer-composer Sparks members in Los Angeles). The IFC Center should gross around $17,500 for three days, an excellent number at the moment. For The Landmark in Los Angeles, it’s around $12,000.

Reports elsewhere suggest most theaters will see a weekend total below $1,000. A very rough estimate suggests “Annette” made less than $250,000 on its opening weekend and likely a good deal lower.


The Top 10

1. The Suicide Squad (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 74; Est. budget: $185 million; also on HBO Max

$26,550,000 in 4,002 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $6,634; Cumulative: $26,550,000

2. Jungle Cruise (Disney) Week 2; Last weekend: #1; also on PVOD at Disney+

$15,693,000 (-55%) in 4,310 theaters (no change); PTA: $3,641; Cumulative: $65,317,000

3. Old (Universal) Week 3; Last weekend: #2

$4,140,000 (-40%) in 3,138 theaters (-241); PTA: $1,319; Cumulative: $38,523,000

4. Black Widow (Disney) Week 5; Last weekend: #4; also on PVOD at Disney+

$4,007,000 (-38%) in 3,100 theaters (-260); PTA: $1,293; Cumulative: $174,359,000

5. Stillwater (Focus) Week 2; Last weekend: #5

$2,860,000 (-45%) in 2,611 theaters (+80); PTA: $1,097; Cumulative: $10,000,000

6. The Green Knight (A24) Week 2; Last weekend: #3

$2,596,000 (-62%) in 2,798 theaters (+8); PTA: $928; Cumulative: $12,168,000

7. Space Jam: A New Legacy (Warner Bros.) Week 4; Last weekend: #6; also on HBO Max

$2,475,000 (-43%) in 2,869 theaters (-632); PTA: $863; Cumulative: $65,646,000

8. Snake Eyes (Paramount) Week 3; Last weekend: #7

$1,625,000 (-60%) in 2,080 theaters (-1,460); PTA: $781; Cumulative: $26,002,000

9. Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (Sony) Week 4; Last weekend: #9

$1,250,000 (-44%) in 1,303 theaters (-783); PTA: $959; Cumulative: $23,040,000

10. F9 (Universal) Week 7; Last weekend: #8; also on PVOD

$1,230,000 (-54%) in 1,715 theaters (-371); PTA: $717; Cumulative: $171,000,000

Additional specialized/limited/independent releases

John and the Hole (IFC) NEW – Metacritic: 64; Festivals include: Sundance 2021

$16,500 in 42 theaters; PTA: $393

Bring Your Own Brigade (Paramount) NEW – Metacritic: 81; Festivals include: Sundance 2021

$7,000 in 27 theaters; PTA: $259

Naked Singularity (Screen Media) NEW – Metacritic: 37; Festivals include: San Francisco 2021

$3,050 in 1 theater; PTA: $3,050

Nine Days (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 2

$235,772 in 443 theaters (+439); Cumulative: $261,369

Ailey (Neon) – Week 3

$46,625 in 88 theaters (+86); Cumulative: $94,191

Roadrunner (Focus) Week 4; also on PVOD

$175,000 in 268 theaters (-265); Cumulative: $4,976,000

Pig (Neon) – Week 4; also on PVOD

$102,600 in 170 theaters (-166); Cumulative: $2,906,000

Summer of Soul (Searchlight) – Week 6; also on Hulu

$20,000 in 42 theaters (-43); Cumulative: $2,257,000

12 Might Orphans (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 9

$18,717 in 42 theaters (-8); Cumulative: $3,506,000



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