At the time of writing, James Gunn’s newest DC superhero film, The Suicide Squad, the sequel to the 2016 film of nearly the same name, maintains a 91% Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with a respectable 84% audience score. One would assume, with ratings like that, this movie would be absolutely killing it at the weekend box office. In a normal, pre-COVID world, perhaps it would, but in the one we currently inhabit, not so much.
The Suicide Squad brought in approximately $26.5 million at the North American box office this past weekend, earning $72.2 million worldwide. While this is by no means a commercial failure for the film, it does fall short of the industry’s expectations of a $30 million domestic box office. What caused this stumbling at the finish line? Well, there’s three potential causes (though the real reason is likely a combination).
The first cause is, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic. The movie has released while cases of the disease are surging thanks to the rise of the delta variant. Hospitals are filling up again as more people are getting sick, which has made many once again reluctant about spending an hour and a half in a stuffy movie theater.
The Suicide Squad won the domestic box office this weekend with an underwhelming $26.5 million, which may have been the result of the film’s day-and-date release on HBO Max and the rising concern of COVID-19’s Delta variant. https://t.co/iCnyVpJBAv pic.twitter.com/u21XTifdaF
— IGN (@IGN) August 8, 2021
The second cause is the film’s predecessor. The original Suicide Squad from 2016, despite its financial success, was a very poorly received film overall. Also, while The Suicide Squad is technically a sequel to Suicide Squad, the stories have little to do with one another, which has caused some confusion and reluctance amongst the viewing populace.
The final cause is the film’s release method. In addition to its theater release, The Suicide Squad was also released for streaming on HBO Max at no additional cost. As has repeatedly been the case with summer blockbusters this year, the streaming release cannibalized potential box office sales. It is worth pointing out, though, that other films that have been simultaneously released in theaters and on HBO Max, such as Godzilla VS. Kong and Space Jam: A New Legacy, did alright for themselves in the box office.