Ryan Reynold‘s latest action-comedy, ‘Free Guy‘, raked in an estimated $28.4 million on its opening weekend despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. After a few weeks of declining audiences and underwhelming debuts amid a rise in Delta variant cases, ‘Free Guy’ succeeded with an old-school formula: an original, star-fronted movie with good word-of-mouth playing only in theaters. The movie stars Reynolds as a background character in a video game, and has been directed by Shawn Levy. It was made by the Walt Disney Co.-owned 20th Century Fox for an estimated $100 million.

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With a theatrical release stipulated in its contract, ‘Free Guy’ opened in 4,165 North American theatres. Performance of ‘Free Guy’ on the box ofice has given fodder to the analysts who claim that releasing movies simultaneously in theatres and on streaming platorms hurts ticket sales. The last two movies to top weekend box office collections, Warner Bros.’ ‘The Suicide Squad‘ and Disney’s ‘Jungle Cruise’, were launched in theatres and homes simultaneously.

But however movies are being released right now, box office conditions are far from ideal. The rise in US coronavirus cases over the last month has corresponded with diminished ticket sales at theaters.

Some cities, including New York and San Francisco, are preparing to make vaccine passports required for entering movie theaters.

In the film, Reynolds’ character, Guy, realizes he’s a “non playable character” in a “Grand Theft Auto”-like game. It features co-stars Jodie Comer, Lil Rel Howery and Taika Waititi.

Reviews were good (82% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes), and a male-heavy audience gave ‘Free Guy’ an “A” CinemaScore. (About 60% of moviegoers were male, Disney said.) ‘Free Guy’ also added $22.5 million internationally.

‘Free Guy’ is also the latest in a comeback for gaming-based movies. Disney has already announced a sequel to the film after the enthusiasm showed by the viewers on the opening weekend.

(With AP inputs)