LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - The Tune Squad ruled over the court and box office charts last weekend.
In an unexpected win, Space Jam: A New Legacy, which sees basketball star LeBron James team up with the animated Looney Tunes crew, dunked on the competition with US$31.6 million (S$42.9 million) in ticket sales.
The Warner Bros sequel to Space Jam (1996) surpassed forecasts, which projected the film would bring in US$20 million in its first three days of release.
Critics rebuffed Space Jam: A New Legacy (it holds a bleak 31 per cent average on Rotten Tomatoes), but audiences appeared to embrace the movie, awarding it an "A-"CinemaScore.
Space Jam 2 played in 3,965 cinemas in North America, while being available on HBO Max at no extra charge to subscribers.
"The marketing on this movie really looked fun, and it helped alert audiences everywhere," said Mr Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros president of domestic distribution.
The better-than-expected start for Space Jam 2 pushed the previous weekend's champion, Disney and Marvel's Black Widow, to second place on box office charts.
The superhero adventure, starring Scarlett Johansson, brought in US$26.3 million in its second weekend, representing a huge 67 per cent decline. So far, Black Widow has generated US$131 million in North America and US$264 million globally.
Despite concerns over the Delta variant and its hybrid release on HBO Max, Space Jam: A New Legacy landed the largest debut for a family film during Covid-19.
Earlier in the pandemic, movies geared toward younger audiences - such as The Croods: A New Age and Tom & Jerry - had been the biggest moneymakers. But summer offerings like The Boss Baby: Family Business, Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway and Spirit Untamed had each fallen flat with family crowds.
Space Jam 2, which arrived 25 years after the original, is the first film in some time to bring moviegoers with children back to theatres. Males accounted for 53 per cent of sales, while 52 per cent of ticket buyers were under the age of 25.
"This weekend is a positive indication that the family audience is alive, well and, according to Space Jam 2's enthusiastic audience scores, still thrilled by the big screen," says Mr David Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research.
Sony's Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions opened in third place with US$8.4 million from 2,815 locations.
Though on par with industry expectations, its three-day debut marks a steep decline from its predecessor, Escape Room (2019), which debuted to US$18 million and ended its box office run with US$57 million. The sequel cost US$15 million to produce, an increase from the first film's US$9 million price tag.
At No. 4, Universal's Fast And Furious sequel F9 pulled in US$7.6 million in its fourth weekend of release, bringing its overall domestic tally to US$154 million.
Another Universal title, The Boss Baby: Family Business, rounded out the top five, generating US$4.7 million over the weekend. In total, the animated sequel to Boss Baby (2017) has made US$44 million in theatres while playing simultaneously on the nascent streaming service Peacock.