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.

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous 29 days ago
I'm the unpopular Star wars guy I guess since I still think revenge of the sith is the only great Star wars movie out there. The original trilogy has its moments, but except for Luke and Darth Vader noone else is the least bit interesting, and Han has got to be one of the most annoying characters ever. Sith on the other hand has an intriguing storyline, some of the coolest special effects ever, and a carthatic ending to Anakin's reign and ultimate beginning of Vader. It keeps me thoroughly engaged throughout which is something I just can't say about the first three movies.
Anonymous 28 days ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

You’re actually not alone in your Revenge of the Sith opinion. I know a lot of people who say Revenge of the Sith is their favorite SW film.

But how exactly is Han annoying? Sure, he’s a bit of a jerk, but I think that’s how he was supposed to come off as.
Anonymous 30 days ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

Unpopular opinion:
I prefer A New Hope over Empire.
The Kenosha Kid 30 days ago
That's a perfectly legit preference -- the first one is a near-perfect movie. The second part of a trilogy is inherently darker, more complicated, and less immediately entertaining than the first -- plus there's no matching that thrill of freshness and originality. But folks who prefer dark, complicated movies will probably tend to prefer Empire for those very reasons. 
Anonymous 28 days ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

Oh I do love my share dark complicated movies; The Dark Knight is in my top 2 favorite films of all time. But I prefer A New Hope for how well it stands on its own vs Empire’s open (and rather cliffhanger) ending.

Both are still the best Star Wars films though imo.
Chuck Anziulewicz 3 months ago
"Empire Strikes Back," arguably the best of ALL the Star Wars movies, is playing at a couple of local theaters, and I'm very tempted to spend a few bucks on it. In 2019 I was going to see 1-2 movies per month; watching a powerful film on the big screen with an appreciative audience is a wonderful communal experience for me. After things shut down in March, I found myself really missing that.
Sparklemuffin 3 months ago
I feel the same way! I can't explain it, I just really love going to the movies. And Empire is unquestionably the best Star Wars movie.
The Kenosha Kid 3 months ago
Agree, it's the best Star Wars movie. But I'd be reluctant to go to a theater right now. I'm seeing it at a drive-in, which gives me a big screen AND social distancing. Check to see if there's one in your area.