‘Jumanji’ Surprise: How The Rock’s Hit Did the Opposite of What Most Blockbusters Do

As “Star Wars” begins to fade out of the box office conversation, the focus now shifts to “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” which has performed beyond many analysts expectations and is now reaching revenue levels equal to that of some superhero films.

After five weekends in theaters, the numbers for the sequel to Robin Williams’ 1995 adventure film sit at $316.5 million domestic and $767 million worldwide, good for seventh and eleventh respectively among all 2017 releases. It has passed the $304 million domestic total made by the 2012 James Bond film “Skyfall” and became Sony’s highest grossing domestic release outside the “Spider-Man” series, and has also passed the $313 million made by “Thor: Ragnarok.”

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“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” was expected to be the big moneymaker of the holiday season, but “Jumanji” has been the surprise, pushing Sony’s 2017 domestic revenue above $1 billion, the first time the studio has reached that level since 2014. Over the past few years, Sony has been in need of more major franchise draws outside the “Spider-Man” series, and while “Welcome to the Jungle” ends on a seemingly final note that puts an end to the franchise’s deadly game once and for all, don’t be surprised if the studio tries to bring Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan in some way to turn “Jumanji” into a series.

But what has allowed “Jumanji” to show such legs? Paul Dergarabedian of comScore points to a trend that tends to pop up around this time of year and which has been taken advantage of by several holiday releases like “Night at the Museum” and “National Treasure: Book of Secrets”: the mid-December release slot.

“If you look historically, some of the longest running films at the box office have been mid-December releases that are able to get lots of mileage thanks to strong reviews that bring in a good opening weekend crowd, who in turn build good word-of-mouth that lasts for several weeks.”

“This is especially good for family films like ‘Jumanji,’ because families are always going to come out to theaters from Christmas to Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, and ‘Jumanji’ filled that demand by providing another offering for the school break other than ‘Star Wars,'”

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Had “Jumanji” been released in summer, it would have been one option at theaters among many for families with older kids. But instead of competing against the likes of “Wonder Woman” and other seasonal blockbusters, Sony set the release date the Wednesday before Christmas, just five days after “The Last Jedi” hit theaters. Against the most anticipated release of the year, “Jumanji” got off to a slow start, as the typical lull that comes on Christmas Eve also hampered ticket sales. By the end of Sunday, the film had only made $52.7 million, with $36.1 million coming over the weekend.

But on Christmas Day, the rave word of mouth from early moviegoers made “Jumanji” a popular “Star Wars” alternative for families, leading to a $19.1 million single-day haul for the holiday. From there, the film’s popularity snowballed, leading to a four-day New Year’s weekend in which “Jumanji” took in $66.2 million. Since then, its weekend performance has remained on the same level as that of its Xmas start, with $37 million in its third weekend and $35 million on MLK weekend.

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The result? “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” has now shown more legs at the box office than any of the top 15 highest grossing releases in 2017. The $52 million made from its opening Wednesday through its first weekend only accounts for 16 percent of the film’s total domestic revenue, lowest in the top 15. Even when Christmas Day totals are factored in, that percentage only increases to 22 percent, and will likely settle around 20 percent by the end of the film’s run. By comparison, openings for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “Beauty and the Beast” account for around 35 percent of their respective totals, and even “Wonder Woman,” which made box office headlines for its impressive endurance through the summer, has a opening/total percentage of 25 percent.

With the release slate slowing down over the next couple of weeks, “Jumanji” should still bring in solid numbers in the late stages of its run, which should be some help for theaters that will likely see fewer moviegoers over the next month until “Black Panther” brings them back on Feb. 16. But even more than Sony and exhibitors, the biggest winner of “Jumanji” is Dwayne Johnson, who is back to being one of Hollywood’s biggest draws after his last film, “Baywatch,” fell flat on Memorial Day Weekend.

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