As mentioned on Friday, today’s news column is going to be abridged and briefer than usual, so we’ll just share a few of the bigger stories and save everything else for Wednesday.
It was a big weekend for Walt Disney Pictures, as its “experiment” to release Ryan Reynolds‘ action-comedy, Free Guy — developed and produced through 20th Century Studios — only into movie theaters, fared well enough that the actor took to socials to proclaim that Disney already wants a sequel for one of the summer’s rare original movies.
— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) August 14, 2021
On top of that, Emma Stone has signed on to return for the title role in a Cruella sequel, which may surprise some that felt the actor might be as upset as the litigious Scarlett Johansson about Disney putting her movie day-and-date as Disney+ PVOD. Apparently, that’s not the case, as Ms. Stone seems ready to continue the story of the famed villain from the 101 Dalmations book and movies. Cruella made $220 million globally despite the PVOD release, and though it was rumored Stone might not be happy with that release decision, she went ahead and signed on the dotted line for a second movie.
Others weren’t as happy with Disney, particularly Simu Liu, the star of Marvel Studios‘ upcoming, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, who reacted to Disney CEO Bob Chapek recently saying in an investor call that they were going to release Shang-Chi only in theaters with no Disney+ PVOD, “as an interesting experiment.” Sure, this might not make Marvel fans or consumers happy, who may rather stay at home and watch the upcoming movie in their home theaters with the entire family, but Liu was REALLY not happy about Chapek’s words, saying on Instagram:
“We are not an “interesting experiment”. We are the underdog; the underestimated. We are the ceiling-breakers. We are the celebration of culture and joy that will persevere after an embattled year. We are the surprise. I’m fired the f**k up to make history on September 3rd; JOIN US.”
Black Widow – Makes $80 million opening weekend; high profile A-list star sues, since she didn’t make as much money due to PVOD release; probably will never get a sequel (at least not with said star).
Free Guy – Opens to $28 million, not great, but its high-profile A-list star (who happened to be married to star above), gushes over Disney’s theatrical release and decision to make a sequel. Everybody’s happy.
Cruella – Opens to $26.5 million over Memorial Day; A-list star doesn’t complain, doesn’t sue, but quickly signs on to do a sequel. Everybody’s happy.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – The movie hasn’t opened yet, barely-known star complains because… it’s not getting a PVOD day-and-date release and Disney CEO calls that an “experiment?” (When, in fact, that has always been and should be the norm.)
But we’re living in strange times. People are heated and tempers flare… but if you ask me, this is all above-the-line nonsense, so what else is new?
There were a few early renewals announced over the weekend as the Television Critics Association held its annual TCA panels where FX announced it was renewing its spin-off anthology series, American Horror Stories, for a second season, as well as renewing Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi‘s What We Do in the Shadows for a fourth season even before the third season premiers on Sept. 2. (A new teaser trailer for Season 3 was released, which you can watch below.) On the other hand, Noah (Fargo) Hawley‘s plans to adapt Kurt Vonnegut‘s Cat’s Cradle into a series, which he’s been developing since 2015, is not moving forward at FX. It was also announced that Donald Glover‘s Atlanta Season 3 will debut in the first half of 2022 on FX.
The other series news comes from Netflix, where its planned Florida Man series has added more cast, as well as announcing four directors for the eight-episode series. The series from TV writer-producer Donald Todd, producing with Jason Bateman and Michael Costigan‘s Aggregate Films, stars Edgar Ramírez, and it has added Anthony LaPaglia, Abbey Lee (Old), Otmara Marrero, Lex Scott Davis, and Emory Cohen (The OA) as regulars with Clark Gregg (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) as a recurring character. Miguel Arteta (The Good Girl, Yes Day) will direct the pilot and second episode, as well as exec. produce. Julian Farino (Entourage) directs episodes 3 and 4, Haifaa Al Mansour (Wadjda) directs 5 and 6, and Kevin Bray (The Game) will direct the final two episodes. The one-hour series follows Ramírez’s struggling ex-cop, who is forced to return to his home state of Florida to find a Philly mobster’s runaway girlfriend, what should be a quick gig becomes a spiraling journey into buried family secrets and an increasingly futile attempt to do the right thing in a place where so much is wrong. The series is described as a wild odyssey into a sunny place for shady people in the spirit of Body Heat and Elmore Leonard’s Out of Sight.
Other casting news from Deadline includes Minnie Driver joining the cast of Searchlight Pictures‘ Chevalier, which currently consists of Kelvin Harrison Jr., Samara Weaving, and Lucy Boynton. Directed by Stephen Williams (Watchmen) from a script by Stefani Robinson (Atlanta), the period film based on the true story about Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, comes from Element Pictures, who were behind the Oscar-nominated The Favourite. The illegitimate son of an African slave and a French plantation owner, St. Georges rose to improbable heights in 18th century French society as a world-famous fencer and celebrated violinist-composer, only to face an abrupt downfall after an ill-fated love affair and a falling out with Marie Antoinette and her court. Driver will play La Guimard, a dancer for the queen who takes exception to Chevalier’s rise through the court.
The box office saw three new wide releases into over 3,000 theaters, all movies that weren’t available anywhere but in nationwide movie theaters — no streaming, no VOD, nada, just theaters.
As mentioned above, Reynolds’ Free Guy did better than some expected, all things considered, such as the surge in the Delta Covid variant across the country. Disney opened the 20th Century production into 4,165 theaters, where the video game action-game co-starring Jodie Comer from Killing Eve was able to gross an estimated $28.4 million or $6,819 per venue. It kicked off its run with $2.2 million in Thursday previews that added into its $10.5 million Friday. Maybe the movie would have done better in pre-pandemic times, but since it won’t be available outside of theaters for 45 days, it should continue to fare well based on word-of-mouth, going by its “A” CinemaScore, which has been somewhat rare this year.
Sony Pictures released its horror sequel, Don’t Breathe 2, starring Stephen Lang, into over 3,000 theaters where it took in an estimated $10.6 million. That’s not great, considering the original movie’s $26 million in August 2016, but it fared better than some expected, as well as better than Sony’s other recent horror sequel, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions.
Disney’s Jungle Cruise took third place with $9 million, a respectable 43% drop in its third weekend with a three-week gross of $82.1 million
Last but not least as far as the new movies, Jennifer Hudson starred in the Aretha Franklin biopic, Respect, which MGM Pictures opened in around 3,200 theaters, and that managed to bring in $8.8 million to take fourth place. Respect also received an “A” CinemaScore, so expect it to continue to bring in business over the rest of the month.
Week 2 of James Gunn‘s The Suicide Squad didn’t seem to be able to recover from its weak opening of $26.2, as it dropped a horrifying 70% in its second weekend, all the way down to #5 with $7.8 million and $42.1 million grossed so far. This wouldn’t be so bad if not for M. Night Shyamalan‘s thriller Old, which took sixth place with $2.4 million (down just 42%), and that has grossed $43 million domestically. Sure, the latter has been in theater for four weeks vs. The Suicide Squad‘s two, but it also cost $18 million vs. the budget of Gunn’s movie, which is ten times that amount.
That’s all for now. Back on Wednesday for the weekly “Hump Day News Recap.”