In what is honestly a surprise (to me, at least), Warner Bros.’ Tom & Jerry opened theatrically yesterday with $4 million. That puts the Tim Story-directed/Chloë Grace Moretz-starring comedy on course for a $12.5 million domestic debut while being available on HBO Max. That may not seem like much in a conventional context, but it’ll be the second-biggest opening weekend for any movie opening in North America in a year. Tom & Jerry will notch the second-biggest opening since Pixar’s Onward debuted with a softer-than-hoped $39 million in the first weekend of March.
That Pixar whiff preceded the last “pre-Covid” weekend, during which Bloodshot ($9.2 million), I Still Believe ($9.4 million) and The Hunt ($5.5 million) debut to middling numbers. By March 20, theaters were shut down, blockbusters were being delayed en-masse and anything that was in theaters was making plans to go early on VOD. Since Onward, we’ve had Tenet notching a $9.4 million Fri-Sun debut (over a $20.2 million week-long Labor Day launch) and The Croods: A New Age nabbing a $9.7 million Fri-Sun debut over a $14 million Wed-Sun Thanksgiving weekend.
Its projected $12.5 million opening weekend will be behind only the $16.4 million Christmas weekend launch of Wonder Woman 1984. That film’s theatrical glory proved short-lived, with a horrible (for Christmas) 2.5x multiplier and a $42 million cume. The folks who wanted to see it theatrically showing up over opening weekend. WB is hopeful for a different result as the film earned an A- from CinemaScore and an 81 on PostTrak. Oh, and Tom & Jerry isn’t a $200 million would-be blockbuster that was initially projected to be last year’s biggest domestic grosser.
That the film has been poorly-reviewed (23% and 4.5/10 on Rotten Tomatoes) isn’t helping, but honestly Story’s varied career has been filled by mostly poorly-reviewed movies (Fantastic Four, Think Like a Man, Ride Along, etc.) that none-the-less played to paying consumers. That’s not nothing, especially as he’s a Black man as opposed to a young white guy bursting out of Sundance with an indie darling. If Tom & Jerry spawns a sequel, it’ll be the record-breaking fifth Tim Story-directed movie (alongside his acclaimed breakout Barbershop) to become a “new” theatrical franchise
Truth be told, Tom & Jerry was the sort of movie that, prior to the HBO Max/theaters combo announcement, I had expected to join Scoob and The Witches as an HBO Max release in North America. That’s because family films have struggled in recent years thanks to the deluge of VOD/streaming options combined with comparatively high costs for a trip to the multiplex. Sure, proverbial “event movies” like Frozen II and How to Train Your Dragon 3 still pack them in, but “just a kids flick” is a harder sell.
Tom & Jerry will open in the same ballpark as Yogi Bear ($16 million), Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore ($12.3 million) and Marmaduke ($11.6 million) 11 years ago. This isn’t 2010, back when streaming was in its infancy, smart phones and social media hadn’t reshaped the entertainment world and consumers still went to the movies just to go to the movies. The pre-Covid normal, combined with the Covid-era normal (half of domestic theaters closed, the film being available concurrently on a $15-per-month streaming platform) makes this (along with an over/under $14 million debut in China) look like a triumph.