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'Space Jam' beats 'Black Widow' to lead weekend US box office

'Space Jam: A New Legacy' narrowly topped 'Black Widow' in theatre ticket sales in a modest opening weekend for the animated basketball film

LeBron James in 'Space Jam: A New Legacy'
LeBron James in 'Space Jam: A New Legacy'

Space Jam: A New Legacy narrowly topped returning champ Black Widow in theater-ticket sales in a modest opening weekend for the animated basketball film.

The Warner Bros. picture starring Los Angeles Lakers great LeBron James made an estimated $31.7 million in sales in weekend opening, higher than the industry expectation of $26.4 million, according to researcher Comscore Inc. On Saturday, James tweeted “Hi Haters” as he shared the box office result.

Also read: 'F9' to propel US box office to biggest weekend since pandemic hit

Black Widow, the latest superhero film from Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel franchise, saw ticket sales sliding about 67% to $26.3 million. The large second-week drop suggests that some movie fans are still reluctant to head back to theaters.

Studios and cinema owners were hoping Black Widow would jump-start a resurgence in moviegoing, with film-starved fans pouring back into theaters after a year and a half away. The film generated $80 million in domestic ticket sales in its debut last weekend, the best performance yet for a new movie during the pandemic.

But both Black Widow and Space Jam are also available online, which cuts into box-office revenue. Disney said it sold $60 million worth of streaming access to the film last weekend, the first time it has disclosed such a number. Black Widow has taken in $264 million in theaters globally to date.

“Ultimately, I think the industry is still in the middle of a protracted recovery process that we’ve warned could take many months and extend past the summer,” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice Pro.

Both movies, despite standing above their box-office competitors, have fallen short of some expectations. Black Widow was forecast to generate more than $90 million in its domestic debut. Space Jam—a new installment of the 1996 Michael Jordan movie, which became a pop-culture mainstay—also didn’t outperform its predecessor. Twenty-five years ago, the first Space Jam film generated $27.5 million in its opening weekend, about double that of the new film when adjusted for inflation.

Theaters are struggling to cope with an unpredictable pandemic, which has gone through periods of easing before roaring back. They’re also facing an uphill battle against customers seeking more convenience—including being able to see popular new titles in their living rooms right away.

While about 82% of movie theaters in North America are now open, year-to-date box-office receipts are still 30% weaker than in 2020, according to data from Comscore Inc. The weekend’s top 10 grossing films in theaters are set to generate about 28% less than they did last weekend.

Also read: Universal takes top three spots at the US box office

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