Dwayne Johnson is Frank Wolff in Disney’s 'Jungle Cruise' (Photo by Frank Masi. © 2021 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

With Sydney’s cinemas still shuttered, a snap lockdown in effect in South East Queensland, Victorian and South Australian theatres just reopening, and the Olympics competing for eyeballs, it wasn’t going to be smooth sailing for Disney’s Jungle Cruise.

Based on the theme park ride and starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, the adventure film opened to $1.6 million from 372 screens; a decent average of $4,215.

Audiences in lockdown may have opted to watch the title via Disney+ Premier Access for $34.99. Like with Black Widow, the Mouse House has released Jungle Cruise‘s global earnings via the digital platform, coming it at more than $US30 million. That makes up around a third of total revenue, with the worldwide theatrical result at $US61.8 million.

Majestic Cinemas CEO Kieren Dell tells IF Jungle Cruise didn’t perform badly at his circuit, but slightly below expectation.

“It has a pulse at least! Everything else was pretty soft,” he says.

For SA’s Wallis Cinemas, Jungle Cruise had a gradual start after reopening, but programming manager David Simpson counters “even still it performed slightly better than expected given our restrictions.”

Jungle Cruise was also by far the number one title for Village Cinemas, but national programming manager Geoff Chard notes it wasn’t too far ahead of Black Widow; which only screened for eight days in Victoria prior to lockdown.

“Trading was relatively soft over the weekend, significantly below what we were expecting given the quality line-up of films. I think there were a few reasons for this; uncertainty from the general public regarding COVID restrictions, some hesitation given there are still active cases in Victoria, as well as people prioritising get-togethers in cafes and restaurants given that home visits are not allowed,” he tells IF.

“With The Suicide Squad opening this weekend (to rave reviews), we’re hopeful that business will increase substantially from here.”

The weekend’s other new releases included Rialto’s heist comedy The Misfits, starring Pierce Brosnan, which tallied $46,872 from 101 screens, and Kismet’s Shiva Baby, which posted $23,487 from just 21 screens, moving to $50,400 with previews.

The top 20 titles totalled $4.5 million according to Numero, up 54 per cent on last weekend, which was the quietest since 2020. Cinemas reopening in SA and VIC saw boosts for many titles.

Looking ahead, Dell is also hopeful about this week’s The Suicide Squad, despite the MA15+ rating. However, he is frustrated by date changes, particularly Disney moving Free Guy to September in NSW only, which he says is “a real disappointment to those of us open in regional NSW”. He argues the calendar is quite soft until early September.

Simpson is slightly more positive, stating: “Confident with the upcoming release calendar that those weekly alarm bells from the title shifts are getting softer and the wider box office will blossom again come spring.”

In Victoria, Cinema Nova ranked in the top 10 per cent of all sites nationally, despite CEO Kristian Connelly arguing trade was average; he says the result “indicates audience indifference in the face of few attractive new releases”.

“Melbourne’s current restrictions prioritise citizens heading to restaurants and bars; two of the few options to legally socialise with friends and family while visitors to the home are not allowed. As audiences gradually catch-up with people outside the family unit, moviegoing will become more attractive – made all the more so by the gradual arrival of attractive features such as Annette, Stillwater, The Night House and, in the multiplexes, The Suicide Squad.”

Among the titles to earn a boost was Warner Bros’ Space Jam: A New Legacy, which was up 11 per cent in its third frame with earnings of $880,325, moving the Looney Tunes sequel to $10.8 million.

Disney’s Black Widow also climbed 8 per cent with $780,345 in its fourth, advancing to $12.5 million. Last week, the Marvel film’s star, Scarlett Johansson, launched a suit against Disney for the film’s simultaneous release via Disney+ Premier Access, alleging that dual release strategy would reduce the amount of remuneration she is to receive and was a breach of contract.

Old, Universal’s M Night Shyamalan thriller about a beach that causes people to age rapidly, was up 13 per cent in its second orbit, grossing $500,599 to see it crack $1 million.

Despite an extra 45 screens, Paramount’s Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins still fell 35 per cent in its second frame with a result of $200,158, taking its cume to $594,444.

Now seven weeks in, Universal’s F9 also fell 22 per cent with $120,621, meaning it is still just shy of $21 million.

WB’s musical In The Heights posted an almost identical figure to last weekend with $49,550, moving to $3.8 million after six weeks.

The biggest increase of the weekend was Sony’s Sundance sci-fo drama Nine Days, up 98 per with $46,976 from just 30 screens. Now three weeks in, it has grossed $171,274. Cinema Nova was the number one site for the film nationally, an impressive result considering it screened for only one day prior to Melbourne’s two week snap lockdown.

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