‘The Forever Purge’ Box Office Opening Attendance Was the Lowest of the Franchise

At least its studio, Universal Pictures, still has the top 3 movies in theaters with 'F9' and 'The Boss Baby: Family Business' ticket sales in first and second place for the Fourth of July weekend.
The Forever Purge box office

Welcome to our weekly box office report, which we do a little differently. Rather than focusing on the money, FSR senior editor Christopher Campbell is more interested in the estimated attendance — or number of tickets sold. Because the value of money changes over the years, but the value of actual moviegoers remains the same. This week, we look at the opening box office attendance numbers for The Forever Purge, The Boss Baby: Family Business, and Zola.

If there’s one thing that’s been evident since moviegoing picked up again this year, it’s that studio releases without immediate alternate streaming options are typically faring the best at the box office. That’s not the least bit surprising. The two biggest hits of the year — F9 and A Quiet Place Part II — are obviously going to draw in more of an audience with their exclusive showings on the big screen. But that doesn’t explain why The Forever Purge opened with such low attendance compared to The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, a horror sequel that was available on HBO Max the same day it released in cinemas and nearly doubled the ticket sales of the new Purge installment, which is only in theaters.

The Forever Purge came third place on the box office chart over the Fourth of July weekend, grossing just $12.5 million, which amounts to a three-day total (plus Thursday night) attendance of roughly 1.4 million. The latest Conjuring installment drew in 2.6 million people in its debut. The Forever Purge also, sadly, was less popular at the multiplexes over the weekend than fellow Universal Pictures release The Boss Baby: Family Business, which grossed $16 million for a crowd of about 1.8 million people — likely more if you consider children’s tickets cost less and so need more seats filled to reach higher box office in terms of dollar amounts — and which did release simultaneously on Peacock. That’s a big difference from the first Boss Baby movie, which sold about 5.6 million tickets during its opening weekend back in 2017.

Both of these brand new sequels were still behind yet another Universal franchise installment: F9, which even with the highest ticket sales of the weekend had dropped in attendance significantly from its opening. All of these properties have plenty of other options for fans to watch if they’re still avoiding attending screenings in public during the pandemic. There are four other Purge movies, the first two of which are streaming on Peacock and the latter two of which are available on FXNow. There’s also a Purge TV show, two seasons of which can be found on Peacock and Hulu. That series aired since the release of the last Purge movie, already over-saturating the market with material for viewers interested in this arguably one-note brand.

The Boss Baby has only had one other feature film, currently available on FXNow, but the animated franchise has put out four seasons of the series The Boss Baby: Back in Business as well as an interactive short film, The Boss Baby: Get That Baby!, all on Netflix. If you’re a parent not looking to spend a ton of money at the movies right now, that’s plenty with which to distract the kids, most of whom don’t know much better these days when it comes to their favorite IPs. Meanwhile, the Fast & Furious franchise, which has nine other movies available on various platforms, also spawned an animated series on Netflix. But that’s more for younger viewers, and anyway, there’s nothing like seeing a new Fast & Furious stunt spectacular on the big screen.

Opening Weekend Ticket Sales for the Purge Franchise:
1. The Purge (2013): 4.2 million
2. The Purge: Anarchy (2014): 3.65 million
3. The Purge: Election Year (2016) 3.64 million
4. The First Purge (2018): 1.9 million
5. The Forever Purge (2021): 1.4 million

There wasn’t much of a buzz factor in play for why the latest Purge installment would disappoint so much at the box office compared to the rest of the franchise, however. Reviews for The Forever Purge (46% on Rotten Tomatoes, 54 on Metacritic) have been on par with the brand (including the TV series), which always leans negative, with the original film still having the worst reception of the bunch. And the new Purge movie’s Cinemascore grade (B-), determined by first-night ticket buyers, is about average for the franchise, which hit its lowest at the start and has dropped with the two most recent sequels after peaking with the third installment. It’s actually amazing that these movies continued to bring audiences back at all (clearly they’ve dwindling the entire time, though) given that initial response.

Cinemascore Grades for the Purge franchise:
The Purge: Election Year: B+
The Purge: Anarchy: B
The First Purge, The Forever Purge: B-
The Purge: C

The Forever Purge did exceed expectations compared to Box Office Pro’s forecast last week, which translated to just over one million tickets. So did The Boss Baby: Family Business, which dropped in critical favor from the first movie (both were relatively panned in equal measure across both review aggregators) but which improved in Cinemascore grade, from an A- to an A. That might go to show that there were at least just people wanting to go to the movies over the weekend for anything, especially given the lack of a major tentpole such as Top Gun: Maverick, Paramount’s big Tom Cruise sequel that once held the spot, or The Tomorrow War, which was also made by Paramount but which wound up dumped onto Amazon Prime this past weekend.

In other new release box office, the highly acclaimed and much-hyped Janicza Bravo film Zola, which A24 put out on more than fourteen hundred screens, underperformed in contrast against Box Office Pro’s prediction with only about 134,000 tickets sold. That’s just barely more than the continual disappointment of In the Heights, which dropped to as many screens yet still ranked almost as high for the weekend. And the musical is still also on HBO Max through this Saturday, July 10th. Zola, an adaptation of a Twitter thread, had a similar per-screen average to Questlove’s incredible Sundance-winning documentary Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), which drew about 71,000 people while also now streaming on Hulu.

Here are this week’s top twelve movie releases by estimated ticket sales [with totals in brackets]:

1. F9: The Fast Saga – 2.5 million [12.7 million]
2. The Boss Baby: Family Business – 1.8 million [1.8 million] 
3. The Forever Purge – 1.4 million [1.4 million]
4. A Quiet Place Part II – 0.4 million [15.4 million]
5. The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard – 0.33 million [3.4 million]
6. Cruella – 0.27 million [8.3 million]
7. Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway – 0.25 million [3.7 million]
8. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It – 0.14 million [6.8 million]
9. Zola – 0.134 million [0.2 million]
10. In the Heights – 0.129 million [2.9 million]
11. Summer of Soul – 0.07 million [0.1 million]
12. Spirit Untamed – 0.04 million [1.7 million]

*Initially box office grosses are estimated and then are later updated for actual figures. All box office gross figures are sourced from Box Office Mojo, The Numbers, and Box Office Pro unless otherwise stated.

Christopher Campbell: Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.