‘Dear Evan Hansen’ Looks Like a Box-Office Flop, but It Might Have Been a Streaming Hit

The weekend box office was at its weakest in months, but that's about to change with "Venom," "Dune," and "No Time To Die" opening soon.
(from left) Evan Hansen (Ben Platt) and Jared Kalwani (Nik Dodani) in Dear Evan Hansen, directed by Stephen Chbosky.
"Dear Evan Hansen"
Erika Doss/Universal

October promises to be the best month for box office since theaters reopened. After this weekend, it can’t come quickly enough. The disappointment of “Dear Evan Hansen,” and the absence of any other new wide releases, contributed to a $39 million weekend, the lowest domestic take in four months and 41 percent of the same weekend in 2019. (For context: That particular weekend was the weakest for September-December.)

With the opening days of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” still included in our four-week rolling average of 2021, it falls to 61 percent compared to 2019. October should be better — or to be more precise, it needs to be considerably better. The lack of prime new films since the latest Marvel release is the main alibi for the overall weakness of September, but that changes next week.

“Shang-Chi” remains #1 in its fourth week, the first title to hold that claim since “Tenet.” It comes as the groundbreaking film passed $196 million as its domestic total, besting Marvel’s “Black Widow” as top domestic release this year.

The Great Protector
“Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings”Marvel Studios

All credit to “Shang-Chi,” which received terrific audience reaction, theatrical exclusivity, and a lack of competition. It looks to end up somewhere around $225 million, a figure that would have made it the #10 film for 2019, behind three other Marvel releases from that year: “Avengers: Endgame” ($858 million), “Captain Marvel” ($427 million), and “Spider-Man: Far from Home” ($391 million).

“Dear Evan Hansen” could have been worse: With an A- Cinemascore that differs from its negative reviews (Metacritic: 39), initial estimates of $6.7 million gave way to a projected $7.5 million. The huge successes of “Mamma Mia!” and “Les Miserables” seem like another time; after “Cats” and “In the Heights,” the rush to transfer Broadway hits to screen looks unlikely to continue.

The Christmas release of “West Side Story” might prove an exception, but as an established classic and Steven Spielberg directing, even its success might not change the equation. Properties like “Dear Evan Hansen” may still have a future, but it’s much more likely as streaming projects similar to Disney+ capturing the stage performance of “Hamilton.”

“Shang-Chi” dropped 39 percent, a decent hold. Four other top 10 holdovers, three of which have home availability, held better. “Free Guy,” which adds Premium VOD Tuesday, dropped only 19 percent. “Jungle Cruise,” which was released day and date on Disney+, fell 17 percent, with “Candyman” down 29 percent and “PAW Patrol” down 35 percent.

Last week’s weak openers had a worse fate. Clint Eastwood’s “Cry Macho” fell 52 percent, “Carshop” (Open Road) 45 percent. “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” landed at #11 and was off by only 5 percent — but it also tripled its theater count. (Per-theater average: $459.) It’s hard to see Disney-owned Searchlight positioning itself as a long-term outlet for 45-day windows with results like that.

The weak grosses allowed the Hindi romance “Love Story” to place #10 with an estimated $600,000 in only 265 theaters. Certain niche films can still attract audiences.

“Dune”Warner Bros.

“Dune” opened in 20 additional international territories, taking in $26 million. That compares to an initial $38 million in 14. Top markets held their drops to under 40 percent, helped again by little competition. That changes this week when both “Venom” and “No Time to Die” open.

Specialized remains a modest performer at best. “I’m Your Man” (Bleecker Street), Germany’s Oscar submission, managed $34,000 in 16 key theaters in top markets, better than some other wider-platform releases. In Manhattan, a reissue of Jean-Luc Godard’s “Breathless” (Rialto) with the late Jean-Paul Belmondo took in $9,000 at the Film Forum, while “El Planeta” (Utopia) from Sundance 2021 was the top film at the IFC Center with $7,181. Netflix opened “The Guilty” with Jake Gyllenhaal a week ahead of its streaming debut at six top New York/Los Angeles theaters; as usual, no grosses revealed.

The Top 10

1. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Disney) Week 4; Last weekend #1

$13,285,000 (-39%) in 3,952 theaters (-118); PTA: $3,362; Cumulative: $196,459,000

2. Dear Evan Hansen (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 39; Est. budget: $28 million

$7,500,000 in 3,364 theaters; PTA: $2,241; Cumulative: $7,500,000

3. Free Guy (Disney) Week 7; Last weekend #2

$4,129,000 (-19%) in 3,175 theaters (-113); PTA: $1,300; Cumulative: $114,139,000

4. Candyman (Universal) Week 5; Last weekend #4; also on Premium VOD

$2,500,000 (-29%) in 2,556 theaters (-264); PTA: $982; Cumulative: $56,800,000

5. Cry Macho (Warner Bros.) Week 2; Last weekend #3; also on HBO Max

$2,115,000 (-52%) in 4,022 theaters (+55); PTA: $526; Cumulative: $8,343,000

6. Jungle Cruise (Disney) Week 9; Last weekend #7; also on Premium VOD

$1,722,000 (-17%) in 2,065 theaters (-200); PTA: $834; Cumulative: $114,891,000

7. Malignant (Warner Bros.) Week 3; Last weekend #5; also on HBO Max

$1,500,000 (-45%) in 2,534 theaters (-967); PTA: $592; Cumulative: $12,264,000

8. Copshop (Open Road) Week 2; Last weekend #6

$1,265,000 (-45%) in 3,005 theaters (no change); PTA: $421; Cumulative: $4,490,000

9. PAW Patrol (Paramount) Week 6; Last weekend #8; also on Paramount Plus

$1,120,000 (-35%) in 1,995 theaters (-274); PTA: $561; Cumulative: $38,761,000

10. Love Story (Sony) NEW

$(est.) 800,000 in 300 theaters; PTA: $2,667; Cumulative: $(est.) 800,000


Additional specialized/limited/independent releases

I’m Your Man (Bleecker Street) – Metacritic: 77; Festivals include: Berlin, Toronto 2021

$34,239 in 16 theaters; PTA: $2,139

El Planeta (Utopia) – Metacritic: 78; Festivals include: Sundance, New Directors/New Films 2021

$7,181 in 1 theater; PTA: $7,181

Breathless (Rialto) (reissue)

$9,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $9,000

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (Searchlight) Week 2

$621,000 in 1,367 (+917) theaters; Cumulative: $1,531,000

Blue Bayou (Focus) Week 2

$639,000 in 487 (+10) theaters; Cumulative: $639,000

The Card Counter (Focus) Week 3

$290,000 in 739 (+155) theaters; Cumulative: $2,400,000

The Alpinist (Roadside Attractions) Week 3

$67,360 in 185 theaters (-60); Cumulative: $705,894


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