Shawn Levy’s Free Guy is one of the pandemic’s most notable success stories, earning close to $340 million at the box office despite being a completely original title that wasn’t rooted in a recognizable brand, property or IP, never mind the fact it was also one of the few movies that didn’t have the cushion of a day-and-date streaming release.
All things considered, the video game-inspired action comedy has been a massive hit for Disney, so much so that star and producer Ryan Reynolds confirmed the studio had nudged him in the direction of a sequel just days after Free Guy hit theaters. That’s a little ironic when you consider how openly the script mocked an over-reliance on the familiar at the expense of originality, but it hasn’t been lost on the director.
During a recent interview with Insider, Levy admitted that Free Guy could be one of the last of a dying breed; a broad, big budget blockbuster that doesn’t come with built-in audience awareness or name recognition.
“It is so gratifying to all of us to have proof that it can still work. It’s not only thrilling personally but I think it’s good for our business to remind the holders of the purse strings that sometimes you have to bet on the new. Because when you win on those kind of bets it’s deeply satisfying. That’s the other thing that’s deeply gratifying: having a hit movie in theaters in the world. It is different than a stat about how many hundreds of millions watched your streaming title for a minimum of three minutes.
I’m going through a mental Rolodex of the studios, Sony, Warners, Paramount, Disney, Lionsgate, the truth is those studios are predominantly if not exclusively betting the big money on franchise titles. Someone referred to Free Guy as the last chopper out of Saigon, and I do think about that. I hope that’s not the case.”
Free Guy isn’t even the highest-grossing original Hollywood film released since the beginning of 2020, with that honor belonging to Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. That being said, there’s plenty of merit to his concerns when you consider that the last non-IP American-backed productions to earn more money than the aforementioned pair were Sam Mendes’ 1917 and Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, two of 2019’s awards season heavy hitters.