It is safe to say that audiences are not putting the controller down anytime soon with the Jumanji franchise and the video game aesthetic it has embraced. Two years ago, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle surprised when it turned out to be the sleeper hit of the holiday season—grossing more than $400 million in the U.S. and having longer legs in the #1 spot than Star Wars: The Last Jedi. While it is too early to know if Jumanji: The Next Level will be able to duplicate that festive run, it is off to a tremendous start as it nearly doubles Welcome to the Jungle’s opening.
Early estimates by Sony Pictures places Jumanji: The Next Level’s box office debut at $60.1 million, which builds almost $24 million on top of Welcome to the Jungle’s $36.2 million from the pre-Christmas weekend of 2017. Further it sets a record for Sony Pictures by becoming the highest opening the studio has ever had in December, as well as the highest opening a comedy has enjoyed in December, period. This is fairly impressive when holiday comedies are a staple of the end of the year.
While CinemaScore has yet to release its report about how audiences received The Next Level, word of mouth appears to be strong with the sequel grossing an extra 19.6 percent on Saturday on top of its 19.55 million opening day tally from Friday, Dec. 13. Marketed very much as the same lovable characters and jokes again—but slightly different—Jumanji: The Next Level excelled again with the winning buddy formula of Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, as well as the now popular energy Jack Black and Karen Gillan added to the franchise’s quartet. Once again all four play video game avatars possessed by teenagers with its game-within-a-movie conceit, however all of them at different points in the movie are inhabited by different characters. In other words, you still get to see Dwayne Johnson do a dead-on impression of a nerdy teenage boy, but he also gets to do his version of a grumpy Danny DeVito as well.
It’s an amusing setup that received mostly positive, if not enthusiastic, notices from critics (including our own), earning the movie a 66 percent positive score on Rotten Tomatoes, and it has obviously endeared itself to audiences, making Jumanji: The Next Level the first movie to dethrone Frozen II as the domestic box office champ after four weekends.
With that said, it will be interesting to see how Jumanji: The Next Level holds up over the following weekends and if it can duplicate Welcome to the Jungle’s historic run. Obviously next weekend will see the highly anticipated Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker take over as the reigning box office earner for the weekend before Christmas, and more than likely through the holiday too. But in 2017, Star Wars: The Last Jedi immediately eclipsed Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, as the Disney Star Wars film opened the weekend before Jumanji to a dazzling $220 million. It then grossed $71.6 million in its second weekend, about double Welcome to the Jungle’s $36.2 million holiday weekend debut in the same timeframe.
Yet Welcome to the Jungle had more popularity with American families in terms of rewatchability, enjoying smaller drop-offs in attendance week-to-week than The Last Jedi. In fact, by the weekend of Jan. 5, Welcome to the Jungle’s third weekend, it was earning more than it did during its opening, grossing $37.2 million and stealing the top spot from Star Wars. It went on to keep the #1 crown for five of the first six weekends of 2018 while The Last Jedi never held it once in the New Year. The result was Welcome to the Jungle drastically overperforming and grossing nearly $1 billion worldwide. It still finished well below The Last Jedi’s 1.33 billion, but it was possibly more profitable given how much less money Sony spent on producing and marketing the Johnson and Hart family film.
Now The Next Level is squaring off with another Star Wars movie, and it just enjoyed a weekend bigger than any known by Welcome to the Jungle. While The Rise of Skywalker will undoubtedly open much higher than $60 million, it’ll be curious to see if The Next Level can again steal some thunder in the long haul.