"Free Guy," an action comedy starring Ryan Reynolds as a background character in a videogame, opened better than expected over the weekend, collecting an estimated $28.4 million in ticket sales despite a marketplace challenged by COVID-19.
After a few weeks of declining audiences and underwhelming debuts amid the delta variant surge, "Free Guy" succeeded with an old-school formula: an original, star-fronted movie with good word-of-mouth playing only in theaters. The movie directed by Shawn Levy was made by the Walt Disney Co.-owned 20th Century Fox, with a theatrical release contractually stipulated for the roughly $100 million production.
Playing in 4,165 North American theaters, "Free Guy" was expected to debut around $20 million. Its surprisingly strong opening gave further proof to what some analysts have been saying throughout the year — hybrid releases that send new movies immediately onto streaming platforms can significantly harm ticket sales. The last two No. 1 movies — Warner Bros.' "The Suicide Squad" and Disney's "Jungle Cruise" — were launched simultaneously in theaters and homes.
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