Since launching in 2004, the Saw franchise has never stayed away for a long time. Sure, 2010's entry in the series is subtitled The Final Chapter (after being dubbed Saw 3D theatrically), but Lionsgate orchestrated a 10th anniversary re-release of the original in 2014; produced and distributed another sequel in 2017 with Michael and Peter Spierig's Jigsaw; and have now put out Darren Lynn Bousman's Spiral: From The Book Of Saw. And while the box office numbers put up by the films definitely aren't what they used to be, the latest title has been able to top the domestic charts in its opening weekend.
The market for theatrically released films is obviously still repressed, as cinemas around the country continue to operate at limited capacity, and with that in mind Spiral did good/ok in its first three days playing on the big screen. It shouldn't surprise anybody that the sequel/reboot put up the lowest numbers in the history of the Saw franchise, but it was still able to handedly beat out all of the competition. According to Box Office Mojo, the movie has made $8.7 million thus far, which was more than enough to beat out the $3.7 million made by Guy Ritchie's Wrath Of Man, which was last weekend's number one movie.
Like many movies that we'll be continuing to talk about for many months to come, Spiral: From The Book Of Saw was originally intended to be a 2020 release, and it was going to maintain the tradition of Saw sequels coming out in time for the Halloween at the end of October. The COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench into that idea, but evidently movie-goers were excited for the opportunity to have an early summer scare. It didn't quite hit the eight-figure projections that we heard about last week, but the secret weapon of these films has always been their ability to keep costs low. And while the feature is reportedly the most expensive in the franchise, with a $20 million reported budget, that means the movie is well on its way to making a profit.
What is inarguably the biggest surprise/disappointment of the weekend is the performance by Taylor Sheridan's Those Who Wish Me Dead – which is a Warner Bros. release made available simultaneously on the big screen and on HBO Max this past Friday. Despite it playing in more locations around the country than any other title currently out, the thriller only managed to make $2.8 million and only take third place. Surely the studio expected much bigger things for the movie, given that it stars Angelina Jolie and comes from the creator of the hit series Yellowstone, but it proved to put up little competition for the franchise horror film.
So what happened with Those Who Wish Me Dead? For starters, it didn't hit terribly high on the buzz meter, as it barely clings to "Fresh" status on Rotten Tomatoes with its 63 percent consensus rating, and exit polling by CinemaScore resulted in a "B". But what's not super clear at this point is if the movie had little big screen appeal, or simply little appeal in general – and that's not something we'll know until more information is provided about HBO Max statistics. It's possible that the new film was actually a huge hit among subscribers to the streaming service, and possibly didn't feel that it warranted the full big screen experience. If that's the case, it would be an interesting case to examine in the on-going battle between theatrical and digital distribution. In the last few months Warner Bros. has done quite well playing in that arena, with hits like Adam Wingard's Godzilla vs. Kong and Simon McQuoid's Mortal Kombat, but their latest release seems to be a horse of a different color.
Next week we will find out what kind of legs Spiral: From The Book Of Saw has, as while Those Who Wish Me Dead may not have proven to be a difficult match-up, it will be facing off against Shawn Levy's Free Guy starting on Friday. Will the seemingly eternal violent rampage of Jigsaw be able to conquer the irrepressible charisma of Ryan Reynolds as a non-player character in a violent video game who becomes sentient? We'll find out, and I'll be back next Sunday to report on the box office results. And to get a look ahead at everything that is set to come out between now and the end of the year, both streaming and theatrical, be sure to check out our 2021 Release Calendar.