After Warner Bros. Pictures' King Richard opened to a disappointing $5.4 million at the domestic box office this past weekend, a recent trend became accentuated.
Trade publications covering weekend box office performance were harsh, with Variety noting that the film "whiffed" in theaters. But individually, on Twitter, entertainment trade journalists came to the sports biopic's defense, noting that it was unfair to drag King Richard's performance because so many viewers must have caught the movie on HBO Max.
It's a phenomenon that's repeated itself several times in 2021, with WarnerMedia notably committing to release its 17-film Warner Bros. theatrical slate simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max.
In this case, however, it appears that King Richard--starring Will Smith as the patriarch who put the youthful Williams sisters Venus and Serena on the path to pro tennis immortality--did indeed underperform.
According to Samba TV, King Richard was watched by 707,000 U.S. households from its debut on Friday, Nov. 19 through Sunday Nov. 21.
That performance falls well below recent HBO Max day-and-date releases, including October's Dune (1.9 million households) and August release Suicide Squad (2.8 million households). Even David Chase's Sopranos prequel, The Many Saints of Newark, which is generally considered to have underperformed with its early-October release, debuted to an audience of 1 million U.S. HBO Max households.
King Richard received an impressive 91% score from Rotten Tomatoes, which aggregates critics' reviews. The "audience score" from Rotten Tomatoes, meanwhile, clocked in at 99%.
Based on U.S. Census figures suggesting that the average U.S. household contains just over 2.5 members, the film's box office performance would probably look a whole lot better if the 1.7 million folks occupying those 707,000 HBO Max households counted by Samba TV drove to the local multiplex to see King Richard instead. Alas, how many of those consumers would actually make that decision is perhaps unknowable on a precise level.
Notably, King Richards' HBO Max audience skewed female (+7%) and Black (54%). The movie played in the San Francisco market, where it over-index most at +73%. ■
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Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!