Warner Brothers’ “Tom and Jerry” is a 2021 children’s movie about the infamous cat and mouse rivalry popularized by its animated shorts in the 1940’s and 1950’s. It currently holds a 25% on Rotten Tomatoes and garnished a single star from Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com. Yet, despite the forgettability of the film itself, “Tom and Jerry’s” box office debut could make it one of the most impactful films of the year.
The film had a fantastic opening weekend, grossing 13.7 million domestically and second only to “Wonder Woman” in highest grossing opening weekends for a film released during the pandemic. It did $38.8 million globally and, according to Warner, prompted 10K private screenings of the film in theaters across the country. It’s surprising to say the least.
But the success of “Tom and Jerry” could be an indicator of a country anxious to return to theaters. Obviously the numbers are nowhere near pre-pandemic margins, but with New York City and Los Angeles beginning to reopen theaters, “Tom and Jerry” could become the first pandemic film to eclipse the $50 million mark in the coming weeks. This is noteworthy, especially considering that the film is also available to stream on HBO Max, giving the impression that people choose the theater experience over the living room couch.
But we shouldn’t count our chickens before they hatch. Streaming services statistically still reign supreme in terms of where people watch movies. But “Tom and Jerry” could be condensing the disparity and serving as a premonition for things to come. Keep in mind, “Tom and Jerry” is in no sense a blockbuster. A typical box office behemoth like “Godzilla vs. Kong” could do record-setting numbers does when it’s released in March.
The plot of “Tom and Jerry” may be generic and unmemorable. However, its showing at the box office may be remembered in film textbooks as the movie that brought back audiences to the theater (Sorry “Tenet“). And with the continuous roll-out of the vaccine and the growing restlessness of movie-goers, March releases could easily exceed “Tom and Jerry” in profit margins. It’s an optimistic outlook, but one desperately needed by a film community nervous that movie theaters were becoming a relic of the past.