Vaccinations are being administered, mask mandates are lifting around the country, and movie theaters are reopening, but for the Saw franchise, it doesn’t seem like much has changed at the box office. The series started off strong back in 2004 but had diminishing returns with its annual releases until 2010 before the franchise went into hibernation. In 2017, it returned with a reboot of sorts, Jigsaw, but even with the time away, Lionsgate could squeeze very little water from that rock, as it debuted with $16 million on its way to a $38 million domestic run, or half of what the Saw franchise could earn during its heyday.
With Spiral: From The Book of Saw, Lionsgate brought back Darren Lynn Bousman — the director of Saw II-IV — and brought in some actual star power in the form of Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson, which is fairly unusual for a series whose biggest marquee names in 17 years have basically been Cary Elwes and Donnie Wahlberg. After being delayed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Spiral seemed poised to do well this weekend. The box office hasn’t had a major wide release since Mortal Kombat, and horror films typically appeal to a younger demographic, who are more inclined to return to theaters.
Alas, however, it was not to be, as Spiral crapped out with a lackluster $9 million debut, which was below even the modest expectations that Lionsgate had for the film ($10 to $15 million). Even with Rock and Jackson, however, the budget was relatively small ($20 million), so it’s likely to at least break even, although the mixed-to-poor reviews for the film didn’t exactly help matters, either (39 percent on Rotten Tomatoes). Lionsgate may want to put this franchise back under mothballs for another decade. Personally, I’m bummed, because I’ve always been fond of the series, although it’s gotten less fun over the years.
Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead also opened this weekend, but it didn’t make much of a splash in theaters, either. Not that it was expected to. It will be out on Netflix next week (where it will probably do gangbusters), and at the moment, Netflix only has an arrangement for theatrical release in Cinemark theaters, which account for only around 600 screens. It earned around $750,000 over the three-day weekend.
Likewise, Angelina Jolie’s Those Who Wish Me Dead didn’t make a lot of waves. That said, the Taylor Sheridan film was also released on HBO Max, and unlike Godzilla vs. Kong and Mortal Kombat, it was expected to do better on the streaming service than in theaters. Mediocre reviews (63 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) didn’t help its prospects. Still, the $2.5 million gross was good for third place, behind last week’s number one film, Jason Statham’s Wrath of Man, which fell to number two with $3.7 million. If there’s one good sign at this weekend’s box office, however, it is that Spiral opened slightly better than the $8.2 million of Wrath of Man last weekend.
Demon Slayer took the fourth spot with $1.7 million, as it worked its way up to an impressive $42 million, which is huge for an anime film in or out of a pandemic. Raya and the Last Dragon, which has been a mainstay in the five spot, racked up another $1.59 million for an 11-week total of $46 million.
Alas, that’s all the excitement we expect to see in theaters for another two weeks when Memorial Day (and the official lifting of mask mandates) will give us a better idea of how the box office will perform post-pandemic with Emma Stone’s Cruella, which will be released simultaneously on Disney+ for a $30 surcharge, and A Quiet Place 2, the biggest wide opener that’s not also being released simultaneously anywhere else since Tenet.