Tom and Jerry film opens to strong $13.7 mln, giving pandemic-hit industry hope

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Warner Bros. animated family film Tom and Jerry debuted to $13.7 million at the domestic box office, one of the biggest opening weekend hauls of the coronavirus era and a signal that moviegoing may be on the mend.

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Second to Wonder Woman 1984, which launched last December with $16.7 million, Tom and Jerry had the strongest three-day total since movie theaters reopened last year. Nothing else that has been released in the past 10 months has been able to crack the $10 million-mark; The Croods: A New Age ($9.7 million) and Tenet ($9.35 million) were the only others to come close to that benchmark.

Notably, Tom and Jerry also premiered on the HBO Max streaming service, where it will be available to subscribers for 31 days. Beginning with the Wonder Woman sequel, Warner Bros. has set 18 movies to bow simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max due to the pandemic.

Overseas, the cartooned adventure has made $25 million for a global tally of $38.8 million. Given current conditions, it's considered a strong start for the $79 million-budgeted Tom and Jerry.

Box office analysts appear to be encouraged by the numbers. “With half of theaters still closed, the pandemic still a threat, and ‘Tom & Jerry’ available at home, this is a very good opening,” said David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “[It's] a positive sign for the business and for theatrical's pull over home entertainment.”

Of the films that have been released during the pandemic (a fraction of the amount that would typically grace the big screen in normal times), those geared toward family audiences have reaped the biggest rewards. Warner Bros. said ticket sales for Tom and Jerry were fueled by private theater rentals.

In other encouraging box office news, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave permission for cinemas in the five boroughs to reopen at limited capacity starting on March 5. It's been nearly a year since New York City movie theaters have been able to welcome patrons, which is partially why studios have opted to delay nearly all of their biggest movies. Theaters in the area will have to operate at 25 percent capacity, making it difficult to reach profitability, but film exhibitors believe it's a positive step in repairing the battered movie industry.

Elsewhere, The Croods: A New Age, playing in 1912 venues, slid to second place and collected $1.2 million. The animated sequel has become an unlikely coronavirus-era hit, generating $52 million to date.

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