Can’t Keep a Good Evil Empire Down

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The empire did indeed strike back: The Disney empire, that is.

We’re back again with an encore Movie Monday, but only because the box-office charts are just too interesting to let go without comment.

According to Deadline, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back climbed back to the top of the box-office 40 years after its release. Granted, the $400,000-500,000 the film is expected to earn isn’t quite the $547 million it earned way back in 1980. But as Princess Leia suggested to Han Solo in Star Wars: A New Hope, money isn’t everything.

Indeed, the Mouse House had a pretty decent weekend, all things considered.  It sent two other old flicks (Black Panther and Inside Out) to drive-ins and the rare open movie theater this weekend, even though all three are available on Disney+, too. No matter: Families, eager to get out of the house, set aside their television remotes and trickled out to see them. According to Deadline, those three movies finished in gold, silver and bronze position, respectively.

This, obviously, reflects the uncertain times we’re in—and, perhaps, what sort of entertainment we crave right now. While independent studios have tried to entice audiences into drive-ins and theaters with wave after wave of horror flicks, moviegoers themselves are grabbing their kids and seeing family-friendly fare that might be years, or even decades, old.

When times get tough, Americans have generally pulled their kids closer together and, often, went to movies together. It’s no coincidence, I don’t think, that Hollywood’s Golden Age coincided with the Great Depression and World War II. And even when it’s hard to see movies as we used to, we still tend to turn to them for a little escape.

While Disney may have dominated the weekend according to Deadline and others, Box Office Mojo’s official charts (sans Disney figures) also features a standout: One of those indie horror movies I mentioned just a couple of paragraphs ago. Relic—a grim-but-compelling cinematic rumination on dementia—finished atop the box office with $236,000 this weekend.

 

Of course, those figures—maybe half a million earned by Empire, half that earned by Relic—emphasize one very important fact: Most of us still aren’t actually going to movies.

The streaming services get that. And oddly, offerings by three of them—filled with A-list stars and boasting big budgets—make this weekend feel almost … normal.

The Old Guard, featuring Charlize Theron, is No. 1 on Netflix. How many people watched it? Who knows? Still, it’s pretty obvious that the film met the expectations Netflix and Skydance Media had when they spent $70 million on the thing—and Netflix surely hopes that this R-rated actioner will be the start of an online franchise.

Over on Hulu, Palm Springs was the talk of the town. The R-rated comedy featuring Andy Samberg charmed most critics (it’s sporting a 93% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes; Plugged In was less enamored), and it was one of the buzziest offerings of the weekend.

Apple TV+’s Greyhound offered more family-friendly fare. The PG-13-rated war movie featured Tom Hanks as a World War II-era destroyer captain, trying to protect a convoy of Allied cargo ships across the dangerous Atlantic. Hanks was reportedly heartbroken when the movie’s theatrical screening was scuttled, and some viewers reportedly suffered some audio syncing issues. Still, the $50-million movie did offer a nice alternative for families who could negotiate the movie’s sporadic language issues.

Did you watch any of the new fare on streaming services this week? Or did your family brave a drive-in to take in The Empire Strikes Back? Let us know below what you thought.