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Tough-guy flicks help anemic box office numbers

Greg W. Locke

Whatzup Features Writer

Published May 12, 2021

With the movie theater industry doing everything it can to get things up and running again before summer hits, I figured it was time to see what a column covering the box office and new releases would look like in 2021.

This week we start with Guy Ritchie’s new action-thriller Wrath of Man, starring the King of Cockney, Jason Statham. Also along for the ride are Holt McCallany, Jeffrey Donovan, John Hartnett, Laz Alonso, Eddie Marsan, and Scott Eastwood. This one is a bit of a reunion film, as Ritchie and Statham, who more or less kicked off their careers together, are working together again for the first time since 2005’s ho-hum Revolver.

Reviews for this one so far are mixed, but I get the impression this is a fun one. Statham and Ritchie together, if you like tough-guy content, is always pretty watchable. Over its first week at the theater Wrath took the No. 1 spot at the box office with $8 million in sales. So no, friends, the movie theaters are not back in business yet. Eight million in sales for a widely released No. 1 film is not something to get excited about.

Also at the Box

Taking the No. 2 spot at last weekend’s box office was Demon Slayer: Mugen Train with just over $3 million in sales. This one is notable. Already the highest-grossing film of all time in Japan, the highest-grossing anime film of all time, and the highest-grossing R-rated animated film of all time. If there weren’t a pandemic happening, Demon Slayer being released in the U.S. would be a massive deal. But, instead, we get a No. 2 opening with just $3 million in sales. Once again, the movies aren’t back.

Taking the No. 3 spot at last weekend’s domestic box office with a whopping $2.3 million in sales was video game action flick Mortal Kombat, which has now sold just under $38 million in the U.S. since opening three weeks ago. Add in foreign market sales and the movie has made just $72 million. Oof. There’s a chance a movie like this will ultimately become profitable once all is said and done with streaming profits, but maybe not?

Godzilla vs. King Kong, the movie that was supposed to bring the theaters back to life when it was released six weeks ago, took the No. 4 spot at last weekend’s box office. With another $1.9 million in sales, it brings the monster flick’s so-far domestic sales total up to just under $93 million. Add in foreign ticket sales and Godzilla vs. King Kong has now made a solid $422 million. Imagine what this one would have made during a period of normalcy. Well over $1 billion, I would wager.

Finally, at the No. 5 spot, we have the animated children’s flick Raya and the Last Dragon, which has now sold $44 million in the U.S. and $106 million worldwide during its 10-week run. Atta girl, slow and steady.

Also of Note

Typically after the Oscars air, the theaters rerelease several of the films and they make a decent amount of money. Sometimes they make a lot of money. Sometimes they even make more than they did when they were initially released.

Not this year.

Sure, the theaters put many of the movies back up on the screen, but people did not go to them. In fact, none of the big Oscar films cracked the Top 15 at last weekend’s incredibly weak box office.

What does this mean for the movie industry? Has prestige television replaced prestige film? Are movies now mostly for kids’ films and action heroes? Did Covid kill cinema? A whole lot of pundits seem to think that’s the case.

New This Week

Despite terrible box office receipts, this week will see a number of promising new films released in both wide and limited capacities.

First up among the wide releases is Finding You, a cheesy, cute love story for fans of Nicholas Sparks. Staring Katherine McNamara, Jedidiah Goodacre, Vanessa Redgrave, and Tom Everett Scott, it’s definitely one you can wait for and watch at home.

Next up is low budget thriller Profile, which is about an undercover British journalist who gets sucked into her investigation by her recruiter. Word is this one is extremely watchable, if not especially cinematic.

Then we have the Saw spin-off Spiral, starring Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson, Max Minghella, and Morgan David Jones. I love the poster for the film and, after revisiting Rock’s incredible performance in 1991’s New Jack City, I’m excited that he’s digging into tougher material these days. I get the feeling this one will sell some tickets. Don’t be surprised if Spiral is the No. 1 movie next week.

Finally, we have the main event: Those Who Wish Me Dead, written by Taylor Sheridan (Sicario, Hell or High Water, Wind River, Without Remorse, and Yellowstone), who also directs.

Those Who Wish Me Dead was shot by Ben Richardson (Beasts of the Southern Wild, Drinking Buddies, Digging for Fire) and stars Angelina Jolie as our heroine, a smoke jumper who helps a young boy escape two assassins played by Nicholas Hoult and Aidan Gillen.

It sure sounds like a Taylor Sheridan film. Count me in on this one!

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