By Rebecca Rubin
Angelina Jolie’s survival action thriller “Those Who Wish Me Dead” didn’t do much to revive the North American box office. The Warner Bros. film, which debuted simultaneously on the streaming service HBO Max, took in a paltry $2.8 million in its opening weekend.
The movie’s hybrid release on HBO Max likely isn’t the reason “Those Who Wish Me Dead” sold hardly any tickets; “Godzilla vs. Kong” and “Mortal Kombat” were both recent Warner Bros. films that were able to generate decent box office revenues despite being released concurrently on a streaming service.
As movie theaters attempt to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, family films and CGI spectacles have been popular options to see on the big screen. Gritty dramas geared toward adult audiences haven’t been performing as well, and mediocre reviews for “Those Who Wish Me Dead” didn’t help drum up interest.
“The film was barely promoted even by pandemic standards and effectively went under the radar as both as a theatrical and streaming release,” says Shawn Robbins, the chief analyst at Box Office Pro. “We’ve seen a number of genre thrillers aimed at audiences of a certain age open during the past year, so there could also be an element of saturation in play.”
The film played in 3,188 cinemas, a sizable footprint considering only 65% of movie theaters are currently open, according to Comscore. Taylor Sheridan directed “Those Who Wish Me Dead,” based on the novel by Michael Koryta. The story centers on a teenager who witnesses the murder of his father and goes on the run with a smokejumper (Jolie) to escape two gunmen trying to silence him. Variety’s chief film critic Peter Debruge was a fan of the film, writing in his review: “The idea may be outrageous, but Sheridan’s commitment makes the whole thing work.” Moviegoers gave the film a “B” CinemaScore.
“Those Who Wish Me Dead,” which finished the weekend in third place, wasn’t the only new movie to open. “Spiral,” a creepy addition to the terrifying “Saw” franchise, brought in $8.7 million between Friday and Sunday. That’s a mediocre start given its $20 million production budget, but it’s enough to easily nab the No. 1 spot on box office charts in the coronavirus era.
Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst with Comscore, says the debut of “Spiral” is “solid” given the slow-to-recover box office. “We are still operating in a very limited marketplace,” says Dergarabedian. He’s optimistic that things will pick up with releases of Paramount’s “A Quiet Place Part II” and Disney’s “Cruella” over Memorial Day weekend.
“Saw” veteran Darren Lynn Bousman directed “Spiral,” which stars Chris Rock, Max Minghella and Samuel L. Jackson and follows police efforts to stop a Jigsaw copycat killer. It got mixed reviews, with Variety’s Owen Gleiberman saying for better or worse, the latest entry stays true to its graphic, stomach-churning roots. “No,” Gleiberman wrote, “the ‘Saw’ series hasn’t really changed. So depending on whether you’re a fan or not, eat up…or throw up.”