"Tom & Jerry" "Tom & Jerry"

Back in December, exhibitors lamented the news that Warner Bros.’s entire 2021 slate would get simultaneous theatrical and streaming releases. In one of those bizarre twists in which Covid specializes, one of those films is now being held up as a harbinger of theaters’ recovery.

Tom & Jerry launched this weekend to $13.7 million from 2,475 theaters domestically, notching up the second-biggest opening in the pandemic (behind Warner Bros.’s Wonder Woman 1984). And this despite the fact that only 42% of North American cinemas are open (according to Comscore), and that the film is currently available to watch — at no extra charge — on HBO Max. Viewership figures for the streamer have not been released.

Warner Bros. trumpeted the news as a sign of theaters’ resilience. “This is evidence that people are willing to go back to the movies when there is something they want to see,” the studio’s domestic distribution president Jeff Goldstein told Deadline. Another way to read the film’s relative success is that the day-and-date model works for studios, and could become more prevalent.

Worldwide, Tom & Jerry bowed to $38.8M, according to Warner Bros.’s estimates. In China, where it became the first new U.S. studio title to come out this year, the film grossed RMB 79.8M ($12.3M) on 15,960 screens. That was enough to place it fifth, behind four local holdovers from the Lunar New Year holiday.

The Chinese box office has well and truly recovered, with February the highest-grossing month in Chinese history at $1.89B. The Lunar New Year is typically the biggest movie-going period in the country.

Directed by Tim Story, Tom & Jerry is the first theatrical outing since 1992 for the cat-and-mouse duo, who were created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. The hybrid film combines live action with animation (courtesy of Framestore).

Meanwhile, Pixar’s Soul and Dreamworks’ The Croods: A New Age continue to burn slowly but brightly across the world. This weekend, Soul added $1.9M globally for a $111.7M international cume (it is only playing theatrically in territories that don’t have Disney+). A New Age came second domestically this weekend — its 14th — with $1.2M; it has now grossed $156.1M globally.

Next weekend sees the release of Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon in theaters and on Disney+. Home viewers will have to pay a premium of $30 — in contrast to Tom & Jerry, which HBO Max subscribers can view at no extra cost. Meanwhile, theaters in New York City are set to reopen at 25% capacity, with L.A. venues expected to follow later in the month. The test of theaters’ resilience is only just beginning.

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