Sunken ‘Jungle Cruise’ Sales Reflect Hollywood’s Delta Variant Troubles


LOS ANGELES — As Disney’s pun-filled “Jungle Cruise” demonstrated over the weekend, moviegoing remains disrupted, with the Delta variant, immediate streaming availability and squishy reviews combining to depress ticket sales.

Any other takeaway would be de-Nile.

“Jungle Cruise,” a period comedic adventure that cost at least $200 million to make and another $100 million to market, collected about $34 million at 4,310 theaters in the United States and Canada, including Thursday-night previews, according to Comscore, which compiles box office data. The PG-13 “Jungle Cruise,” starring Emily Blunt as a British version of Indiana Jones and Dwayne Johnson as a wisecracking river boat skipper, took in an additional $28 million.

“The market is vulnerable right now,” David A. Gross, who runs Franchise Entertainment Research, said in an email. “There’s Covid, there’s simultaneous streaming, there’s piracy, there’s the nature of the movies themselves — different factors for each film. Simultaneous streaming does appear to reduce a movie’s income in total across all windows.”

Over the weekend, “Jungle Cruise” also arrived on the Disney+ streaming service, where subscribers (more than 100 million worldwide) could watch the film (and have permanent access to it) for a $30 surcharge. Disney said “Jungle Cruise” generated about $30 million from global Disney+ Premium Access sales. To compare, “Black Widow,” the recent Marvel spectacle, collected roughly $60 million over its first three days of availability on Disney+ Premium Access.

Scarlett Johansson, who has played the superassassin Black Widow in eight films, sued Disney on Thursday, contending that making “Black Widow” on Disney+ at the same time it opened in theaters “dramatically” lowered box office revenue, which cost her tens of millions of dollars in compensation. Her lawsuit drew a blistering “no merit whatsoever” response from Disney.

“Jungle Cruise” had all the makings of a box-office smash. Mr. Johnson is perhaps the world’s most bankable movie star, someone who can fill seats with his mere presence on a theater marquee. Ms. Blunt is no slouch in that department, either; her most recent film, “A Quiet Place Part II” (Paramount), was a big hit in May, collecting about $48 million over its first three days in North American theaters and ultimately taking in about $300 million worldwide.

In addition, “Jungle Cruise” was based on a classic Disney theme park ride, giving it built-in audience awareness, and it had Disney’s unrivaled marketing machine revved up around it. Disney justified spending a king’s ransom on the film in the hope it could become the next “Pirates of the Caribbean,” a five-film franchise (also based on a Disneyland ride) that collected $4.5 billion at the box office and created a merchandising bonanza.

Going into the summer, Hollywood, citing the rollout of vaccines and pent-up demand, had high hopes for a box office surge. Instead, a couple movies have succeeded — notably ones like “A Quiet Place Part II” and “F9” that arrived in June and exclusively in theaters — and a parade of others have disappointed, including “Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins,” “In the Heights,” “Old” and “Black Widow.”

In particular, Mr. Gross faulted the “Jungle Cruise” concept. Action adventures as a genre have struggled over the last decade, he noted, although the “Jumanji” (Sony) and “Jurassic World” (Universal) series have been exceptions. Overall, “Jungle Cruise” received lukewarm reviews, with some critics finding the film’s computer-generated effects cartoony and not believable.

Audiences seemed to disagree, giving “Jungle Cruise” and A-minus grade in CinemaScore exit polls.

In a statement on Sunday, Disney said, “We remain focused on offering consumer choice during these unprecedented times, and it is clear that fans and families value the ability to make decisions on how they prefer to enjoy Disney’s best-in-class storytelling.”

Because of the continuing coronavirus threat around the world, Disney noted, “markets are open to varying degrees and not all exhibitors are currently open. Capacity restrictions are also in place in most markets.” About 85 percent of the theaters in North America are open, according to Comscore.


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