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‘Jungle Cruise’ Embarked on a Rocky Ride at the Box Office

Disney’s latest theme park ride adaptation drew decent-size crowds to start, at least — much better than fellow newcomers ‘The Green Knight’ and ‘Stillwater.’
Jungle Cruise box office
By  · Published on August 2nd, 2021

Welcome to our weekly box office report, which we do a little differently. Rather than focusing on the money, FSR senior editor Christopher Campbell is more interested in the estimated attendance — or number of tickets sold. Because the value of money changes over the years, but the value of actual moviegoers remains the same. This week, we look at the opening box office attendance numbers for Jungle Cruise, The Green Knight, and Stillwater.

Disney is in hot water at the moment with its distribution decisions. But the Scarlett Johansson lawsuit hasn’t kept them from touting their latest opening weekend success. The studio announced that “the forgettably harmlessJungle Cruise, which was released in theaters and on VOD last Friday, grossed $35 million domestically in its first few days (updated with actual amount*). They also claimed a $90 million global debut. That’s between worldwide ticket sales and “consumer spending” on their Premier Access streaming option.

The North America gross translates to about 3.8 million tickets sold**. Unlike Black Widow, this movie has no other franchise installments for comparison. Do we look at movies based on Disney theme park attractions? The last Pirates of the Caribbean sequel debuted with 7 million tickets sold. The original did about 7.7 million. The 2003 adaptation of The Haunted Mansion opened to a crowd of 4 million. Tomorrowland to a crowd of about 3.9 million. The Country Bears to fewer than one million.

Opening Weekend Box Office Attendance for Movies Based on Disney Attractions

Rank Movie TitleOpening Weekend AttendanceTotal Domestic Attendance
1.Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)20.7 million64.6 million
2.Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007)16.7 million45 million
3.Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)11.4 million30.4 million
4.Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)7.7 million50.6 million
5.Dinosaur (2000)7.2 million25.6 million
6.Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)7 million19.2 million
7.Mission to Mars (2000)4.2 million11.3 million
8.The Haunted Mansion (2003)4 million12.6 million
9.Tomorrowland (2015)3.9 million11.1 million
10.Jungle Cruise (2021)3.8 million3.8 million
11.The Country Bears (2002)0.9 million2.9 million

Jungle Cruise is normal sailing for Dwayne Johnson

Maybe a better comparison is to other Dwayne Johnson fantasy adventure movies? His last release, Jumanji: The Next Level, sold 6.5 million tickets in its opening weekend. The prior (and more similar to Jungle Cruise) Jumanji movie, Welcome to the Jungle, did 4 million tickets. Rampage drew a crowd of about 3.9 million people. Johnson’s take on Hercules drew about 3.6 million people. And Journey 2: The Mysterious Island drew about 3.4 million people. So Jungle Cruise isn’t too far off from his normal.

As for Emily Blunt, this is also somewhere in the mid-range for her. She also stars in one of this year’s biggest openers, A Quiet Place Part II, which had the benefit of not having a home video option during its debut. But her last Disney tentpole, Mary Poppins Returns, only sold 2.6 million tickets in its opening a few years back. And before that, she was in the fantasy adventure sequel The Huntsman: Winter’s War, which only sold about 2.2 million. Even Edge of Tomorrow only drew 3.5 million people in its debut.

Jungle Cruise box office vs. Disney+ Premier Access

With Disney still not breaking down their Premier Access by territory, it’s impossible to tell how many subscribers in North America leased Jungle Cruise at home. The studio only shared that the movie made another $30 million globally from its Disney+ add-on. We can say that’s about one million households, based on the Premier Access cost, but who knows how many total individuals watched via that streaming choice, which allows for multiple viewings?

Jungle Cruise also reportedly grossed another $27.6 million overseas, from forty-seven markets, on top of whatever those areas did in Premier Access sales. As is argued about Black Widow, however, the theatrical share is likely to decrease substantially in subsequent weeks. This could be due to the streaming option curbing repeat ticket sales, and it could also be due to the digital version leading to rampant piracy of Jungle Cruise around the world.

Jungle Cruise box office vs. expectations

Depending on how you look at it, Jungle Cruise exceeded box office expectations by a small margin. Last week, Box Office Pro predicted the movie would gross somewhere between $25 million and $35 million, with a specific forecast of $30 million, which would equate to 3.3 million tickets sold. A few weeks ago, the range was wider, with a spread equivalent to anywhere between 2.2 million and 4.4 million moviegoers. The actual is still on the higher end of that.

Considering the reviews were so-so for the movie (64% score on Rotten Tomatoes, 49 score on Metacritic), Jungle Cruise did fine. The thing is, though, that its high Cinemascore grade (A-) and Rotten Tomatoes audience score (93%) would normally translate to long legs at the box office. In the current situation, however, that still translates to word of mouth but likely results more in further Premier Access success than ticket sales numbers.

Cinemascore grades for movies based on Disney theme park attractions:

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Dinosaur — A
Jungle Cruise, POTC: Dead Man’s Chest, POTC: At World’s End, POTC: Dead Men Tell No Tales, The Country Bears  — A-
POTC: On Stranger Tides — B+
Tomorrowland, The Haunted Mansion — B
Mission to Mars — C-

The Green Knight doesn’t slay in theaters

The Green Knight Dev Patel

In second third place for the weekend box office and much, much lower in attendance, The Green Knight did not meet expectations. David Lowery’s artsy Arthurian adventure grossed only $6.7 million (updated*), which equates to roughly 736,000 tickets sold. Most of Lowery’s movies do not open in wide release so the only comparison is his Pete’s Dragon remake, and that did a bit better due to brand recognition. But The Green Knight still made less than Box office Pro’s forecast, which would have equated to at least one million people.

The fact that The Green Knight earned a C+ grade from audiences polled by Cinemascore on Friday night is unfortunate for its long-term success. So is the discrepancy between its Audience Score and its Critics Score on Rotten Tomatoes (53% vs. 89%) and on Metacritic. Clearly, a lot of moviegoers were expecting something different. Maybe more action-driven or family-friendly (Lowery’s Disney movie earned an A grade). It’s not a terrible grade. It has some fans. But it’s not going to be generating a ton of positive buzz for the continued box office for The Green Knight. Not unless one particular talked-about scene has people curious.

Stillwater is relatively quiet

The other major release this week was the Matt Damon vehicle Stillwater. The Tom McCarthy-helmed movie opened in fifth place, behind holdovers Old and Black Widow, with a gross of $5.2 million (updated*). That’s a bit more than half a million tickets, landing on the high end of Box Office Pro’s range. The expectation was for an equivalent of around four hundred thousand people. The R-rated movie is more for adults, which doesn’t bring a large crowd these days.

With fairly positive reviews (75% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, a 60 score on Metacritic) and equivalent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, crowds could be consistently ongoing for Stillwater. However, its B- grade on Cinemascore isn’t too promising. Its success has likely been tempered by Amanda Knox’s disapproval of the drama. She says it was clearly inspired by her story without her permission. And now Matt Damon has added to the problems with some cringe-worthy interview comments.

The backside of the box office

The acclaimed Sundance 2020 fantasy film Nine Days opened on just a handful of screens this past weekend, and it managed to do very well in those few locations. The supernatural drama, which stars Black Panther‘s Winston Duke and Joker‘s Zazie Beetz, had the second-best per-screen attendance, at about 430 (Jungle Cruise had the best with about 890). Another newcomer, the documentary Enemies of the State, was less successful on thirteen screens, garnering one of the worst averages of the weekend — about 35.

In other box office news, Snake Eyes and the Mark Wahlberg drama Joe Bell both fell more than seventy percent from their debuts last week, which is worse than even most pandemic-era titles lately.  Moviegoing certainly decreased significantly this past weekend due to new threats over COVID and its Delta variant. But we can also expect Paramount’s G.I. Joe movie franchise hopes are completely gone. And speculation is half the battle in this industry.

Box Office Chart for July 30 – August 1, 2021

RankMovie TitleWeekend AttendancePer-Screen AttendanceTotal AttendanceStudio
1Jungle Cruise3.8 million8873.8 millionWalt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
2Old0.75 million2223.4 millionUniversal Pictures
3The Green Knight0.74 million2640.7 millionA24
4Black Widow0.71 million21018.2 millionWalt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
5Stillwater0.6 million2240.6 millionFocus Features
6Space Jam: A New Legacy0.5 million1356.6 millionWarner Bros.
7Snake Eyes0.4 million1252.4 millionParamount Pictures
8F9: The Fast Saga0.3 million102418.4 millionUniversal Pictures
9Escape Room: Tournament of Champions0.2 million1172.2 millionSony Pictures Entertainment (SPE)
10The Forever Purge0.1 million354.7 millionUniversal Pictures

*Initially box office grosses are estimated and then are later updated for actual figures.

** Ticket sales and attendance figures are determined with each year’s average ticket prices. Currently, for 2021, that average is $9.16.

All box office gross figures are sourced from Box Office Mojo, The Numbers, and Box Office Pro unless otherwise stated.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.