Sunday Morning Update: Even if Space Jam: A New Legacy is in homes on HBO Max, Warner Bros. is proving again that by splurging on TV spots, they can open a movie in theaters with solid numbers. In this case, it was the best three-day box office for a family film during the pandemic with $31.65 million, which was also Warner Bros.’s best performance in the “Covid-19” era, slightly surpassing the Easter opening of “Godzilla vs. Kong” ($31.625 million), and a career record opening for director Malcolm D. Lee, which surpassed his “Girls Trip” opening weekend by $31.2 million.

“This is the family movie of the summer, and it’s great to see audiences coming back in large numbers,” said Warner Bros. head of theater distribution Jeff Goldstein, who noted the studio’s big marketing move for the Looney Tunes NBA sequel, which included everything from bus wraps, a loud social media drumbeat from star and producer LeBron James and a Looney Tunes World of Mayhem mobile game that is dedicated to the sequel.

iSpot shows that Warner Bros. spent $15.2M on TV spots for the hybrid animated film Looney Tunes (since April 3, 993.6M showings), more than other studios spent on family movies during Covid-19, such as Sony with “Peter Rabbit 2: The Fugitive” ($8.7M) and Universal with “Boss Baby: Family Business” ($13.4M). Warner’s spending on “Space Jam 2” is also less than the $22.5 million they shelled out for the “In the Heights” TV ad.

The question is whether and when Warner Bros. will be able to cross the $100M mark, given the HBO Max factor (the movie goes free to subscribers for the first 28 days, then the second month is strictly in theaters). In the normal pre-pandemic market, without any dynamic strategies, this would not have been an issue. It took Warner Bros. 12 weekends for “Godzilla vs. Kong” ($31.625 million in 3 days) to break the century mark statewide.

Warners, according to iSpot, bought ads for Space Jam 2 on Nick, ABC, NBC, TNT and Cartoon Network on shows such as SpongeBob SquarePants, NBA basketball, college basketball, America’s Got Talent and The Loud House.

Social media played a huge role for Space Jam 2. RelishMix reports that the sequel’s reach through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram was 601.2 million, “well above family cartoon norms,” thanks to the social power of James (166.2 million) and Zendaya (138 million).

“The four-way tie-up of social network Looney Tunes (19.1M) along with HBO Max (up to 3.3M), Warner Bros. Pictures (56.7M) and the Space Jam movie channels (868K) are contributing to high activity on international material – dropping material on WB YouTube channels in Italy, Spain and Latin channels. In the social platform segment, Instagram is the most prominent, at 38% with 234.1M fans for the cast. Key soundtrack artists were added to SMU and activated through song posts, including John Legend (43.7M) on the red carpet at the premiere, as well as The Jonas Brothers (25.5M) and Joyner Lucas (7.1M),” RelishMix reported.

James wrote extensively about the film, and even Dwayne Johnson made it to his 58.8 million fans on Facebook by talking about his wife Lauren Hashian’s song in the film (James also thanked him for the shout-out).

RelishMix reports on the preliminary hype surrounding “Space Jam 2:” “The talk has been wildly paced, with references to the original, crisp comparisons of LeBron to Michael Jordan, hopes that MJ will make a cameo – and dreams of a Kobe- or Steph Curry-based “Space Jam 3.” With a raucous crowd of hops fans were expectedly skeptical of the remake, but noting that it’s geared toward families and kids – comments on many YouTube videos are off – while many fans can’t wait to post their reactions to the earmarks after they see the movie on a day/date on the big and small screen.”

Yes, yes, as with “Black Widow,” even with this outcome of “Space Jam 2,” money stayed on the table in terms of box office receipts. Scarlett Johansson’s standalone MCU origin film fell -67% this weekend, grossing $26.25 million, the sharpest second weekend drop for a Disney MCU film since -62% for “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” If you’re wondering how Disney+ Premier affects the box office of Marvel movies, here’s more proof. Note that of all the Marvel movies, 2003’s “Hulk,” which Kevin Feige produced for Universal, shows the steepest second weekend drop domestically -70% among comic book movies. “Black Widow” grossed $132 million in 10 days.

Note that you can’t compare “Black Widow”‘s second weekend drop here to F9’s -67% drop, since the latter’s second Sunday fell on July 4, which is always a down day for moviegoers. Monday, July 5 for F9, which was also a recognized holiday in the states, showed a 15% increase over Sunday. The F9 movie was released in the theater window.

Disney did not report the results of “Black Widow” at Disney+ Premier in its second weekend. How’s that for transparency?

Warner Bros. has allayed fears of the city and the show that they are practicing this theatrical screening-HBO Max-day and date strategy only this year because of the pandemic; that next year their 2022 film will continue to be exclusively theatrical. And in the end, it’s this pandemic (and the constant news of Delta options and L.A. re-masking doesn’t help) that continues to give studios like Disney a license to burn the film distribution model to keep warm. They can trumpet how they made money on the film’s opening weekend box office receipts and the PVOD box office premiere of Disney+. But beyond cutting the pie, I hope Disney CEO Bob Chapek and Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution Chairman Kareem Daniel also realize that they’re losing more than just long-term box office and solid ancillary windows on day-after-day releases: Piracy is stealing more money from them faster than they think, as many knowledgeable sources tell me. And this reduction in distribution and window dollars is going to hit all of Disney’s subsequent divisions very hard. Wall Street needs to stop sniffing streaming glue and wake up and realize this recipe for financial disaster.

Fact: “Black Widow” was the most pirated movie last week on Torrent Freak, ahead of “Tomorrowland War” in second place. Many of these pirate sites adorn themselves with images from the film to give the impression that they are legit. Studios go to great lengths when editing their films, encrypting films and watermarking them so they can trace where the pirated copy came from (whether it leaked from the studio or not).

All of these precautions are coming to naught in the current era of movie streaming. One industry analyst source told me that one study they did for one studio showed that these pirate sites were the No. 1 platform for watching movies at home, not Disney+ or any other streaming platform. If Disney implements this Disney+ Premier strategy from day one (and Warner from 2021), they are essentially making pristine free copies available.

By the way, I should correct myself: Disney is not getting 100% of its revenue from Disney+ Premier, as many sources told me after last weekend’s report. They have to split ~15% of the revenue with platform providers like Amazon Firestick, AppleTV+, etc. when they release PVOD.

So last weekend’s $60M global PVOD rollout actually amounted to about $51M in net profit for Disney. While this is better than the 60%/40% distribution terms at the show, Disney is again cutting the ancillary showcase faster and ending up with less money than a regular movie release.

The Millennials at Napster have grown up, Disney, and they are used to getting their merchandise for free. Do you really want to continue down that path with future theatrical films? Less box office and more piracy will result in your brands being undermined in the future. Giving in to the flexible viewing habits of consumers is real financial folly.

Sony reported $8.8 million for the PG-13 rated horror sequel, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions, which was released in net 2,815 theaters. We’re still waiting on Sony’s actual marketing spend to open its films, in this case iSpot noted $4.5M of TV spending that produced 415.5M impressions. The first “Escape Room” movie grossed $18.2M. Let’s hope we see big results from Culver City Studios when they open “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” on September 24 and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” on December 17, which Disney+’s “Wandavision” and possibly “Loki” are rumored to be tied to.

iSpot reports that Sony has bought ads on ESPN, Telemundo, FX and Adult Swim for the Adam Robitel-directed sequel, as well as shows like NBA basketball, SportsCenter, Family Guy, Mom and Martin.

Escape Room 2 had a social media reach of 39.8 million on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, well below the horror film’s awareness, according to RelishMix.

“Conversations were mixed-positive among horror fans who were pondering the plot of ‘Metro,’ many of whom were excited, and ‘puzzle masters’ were dissecting the trailer,” RelishMix says of the low level of prior hype from the pic.

One highlight of the sequel’s marketing move: the studio recreated the subway escape room in Hollywood that was the subject of the movie:

Focus Features’ Morgan Neville documentary “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain” grossed $1.9M at No. 8 at 925 theaters in 189 DMAs, the best opening for a specialty film and the best opening for a documentary this year. The film overtook Roadside Attractions’ debut “The Courier” ($1.885 million) and “Zola” ($1.2 million) and grossed more than three times as much as Questlove’s Summer of Soul in its debut weekend ($650,000). Roadrunner was also the best debut of Oscar winner Neville’s career.

NEON’s Nicholas Cage thriller “Pig” ranked 10th with $945K at 552 locations with an average box office of $1.7K. The top 10 cinemas out of 20, I was told, were art house, which is a promising sign that this sector is on the rise, having survived the pandemic. The top cities were New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Portland.

The top 10 films of the weekend by gross receipts recorded by the studio:

Space Jam: A New Legacy (WB) 3,965 theaters Fri $13.2M/Sat $10.5M/Sun $7.9M/Sun 3-day: $31.65M/Wk 1
Black Widow (Dis) 4,275 theaters (+115)/Fr $8M/Sat $10.3M/Sun $7.2M/3-day $26.25M (-67%)/Total $132M/Week 2
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (Sony) 2,815 cinemas Fri $3.8M/Sat $2.8M/Sun $2.15M/3day $8.8M/Wk 1
F9 (Uni) 3,368 theaters (-281), Fri $2.2M /Sat $3M/Sun $2.4M/3day $7.6M (-33%)/Total: $154.8M/Wk 4
Boss Baby: Family Business (Uni) 3,449 theaters (-239), Fri $1.5M /Sat $1.8M/Sun $1.4M/3day $4.7M (-47%)/total $44.6M/Wk 3
Forever Purge (Uni) 2,735 (-323) cinemas Fri $1.3M/Sat $1.6M/Sun $1.27M/3day $4.16M (-42%)/total $35.9M/Wk 3
A Quiet Place Part II (Par) 1,995 (-364) cinemas Fri $700K/Sat 915K/Sun $685K/3day $2.3M (-27%)/total $$155M/Wk 8
Roadrunner (Foc) 925 cinemas Fri $780K/Sat $650K/Sun $470K/3day $1.9M/Wk 1
Cruella (Dis) 1,175 (-700) cinemas Fri $352K/Sat $466K/Sun $294K/3day $1.1M (-54%)/total $83.4M/Wk 8
Pig (NEON) 552 theaters Fri $377K/Sat $333K/Sun $235K/3-day $945K/Wk 1

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