Given this weekend’s overall box office bust, domestic audiences appear like they may be saving some of the money for the eventual spend in a couple weeks when Toy Story 4 opens. That film’s pre-sales are already expected to boost its opening weekend into the biggest animated opening of all-time. Because it sure did not happen this week.
Just a few weeks ago tracking services had The Secret Life of Pets 2 at $65 million. That was still low for an Illumination summer release, but notably much lower than the first film’s $104.3 million start in July 2016. As with Godzilla: King of the Monsters last week, that initial number proved to be way off: The film opened with just $47 million. That is less than Despicable Me started with nearly a full decade ago ($56.3 million). Call this more a disappointment than any kind of outright disaster for the animation studio. They keep their productions relatively cheap ($80 million in this case.) Critics have been disappointed by six of their 10 features , including this one, which currently stands at 53% on the Tomatometer, with only Despicable Me getting above 80%. By comparison, Pixar has only had a single film receive a Rotten score (Cars 2 with 38%) and had 14 of their 20 films score over 90% on the Tomatometer.
But Illumination’s films still make money. Seven of the studio’s films have made over a half-billion globally at the box office and two of them (Minions, Despicable Me 3) grossed over a billion. Illumination has not had a film gross less than $250 million domestically since 2012’s The Lorax, however.
Only three animated films have ever opened to less than $50 million and gone on to gross that much, and they were The Lion King, Shrek and, well, Illumination’s Sing. It grossed $33.5 million from Wednesday to Friday and $35.2 million over Friday to Monday during the 2016 holiday season and just grew and grew albeit with no direct animated competition until its eighth week when The Lego Batman Movie opened.
Pets 2 is not going to have that luxury. As mentioned, Toy Story 4 is opening in just two weeks and the first-day pre-sales on May 28 outsold Incredibles 2. The first Pets movie opened three weeks after Finding Dory had already grossed $400 million. Toy Story 4 could gross half of that in its first three days, and Pets 2 could end up looking at a relatively soft domestic number even if its international numbers ($49 million to date) will no doubt turn it into another solid success for Illumination.
The X-Men films have not exactly been financial juggernauts. Logan and X-Men; Days of Future Past did very well as did both of the Deadpool films. X-Men: Apocalypse did cross the half-billion mark but barely squeaked out a profit for the studio. The rest of the films failed to cross that line and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: First Class, and X-Men: The Last Stand did not even get out of the red while still in theaters. Now, in what is hardly a surprise, Dark Phoenix is setting new lows all around in what appears to be one last gasp before the heroes are repackaged under Disney’s version of Marvel.
Starting with the critical response, Dark Phoenix now replaces X-Men Origins: Wolverine (37%) as the worst-scored of the franchise with a 22%. Six of the 11 films (not counting Once Upon a Deadpool) have scored 80% or higher. The Wolverine used to be the low-water mark for the franchise opening with $53.1 million, but Dark Phoenix scraped up just $33 million this weekend. It is also the only film in the series to have a per-theater-average less than $10,000 with an estimated $8,869. Phoenix may have started with a reasonable $5 million in Thursday previews, but among films to open on Thursdays between $4 million–$6 million, only Blade Runner 2049 had a lower opening with $32.7 million. When the final numbers come out Monday, Dark Phoenix may own that distinction.
Thanks to extensive reshoots the film’s budget ballooned to $200 million. Days of Future Past survived that number, when it became the highest-grossing non-Deadpool film in the group. Brett Ratner’s The Last Stand failed with a $210-million budget despite still being the highest-grossing domestic entry with X-Men in the title. The last five films (including Logan and the Deadpools) have grossed between $389 million–$513 million overseas. Dark Phoenix has made $107 million internationally so far. Seventeen of the 37 films to open between $32 million–$34 million failed to reach $100 million, and Dark Phoenix is likely to be joining that list possibly with $50 million less than what The Wolverine ($132.5 million) finished with.
Warner Bros.’ Godzilla: King of the Monsters could just as easily have been placed in the “Rotten Returns” section. After the diminishing returns last weekend that ended up with just a $47.7 million weekend (a little more than half of 2014’s Godzilla $93 million opening), the film dropped 67.5% in weekend two to $15.5 million. Let’s put that in perspective: First, a film with $75 million or more after 10 days has never failed to reach $100 million, though there are a couple (Fifty Shades Freed, The Cat in the Hat) which came within a couple million of doing so. There is only one film that grossed over $41 million in its opening weekend and then dropped under $15 million the next: The Fault in Our Stars, which opened to $48 million and fell to $14.7 million. That film still managed to gross $124.8 million, but Godzilla is already behind its pace by $2 million and that is likely to fall off further. The film is up to $292 million globally and $425 million looks to be the magic number it needs to get into the black.
Last week’s other releases did not drop quite as bad. Ma did fall 56.8%, which puts it just above Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare ($32.7 vs. $30.2 million after 10 days) and ahead in its second weekend gross by $26,575 if the estimates hold. That film finished with just $41.4 million. Elton John musical biopic Rocketman fell 45.6% to $14 million, which puts its final estimate somewhere between $70 million–$80 million domestic. It has grossed $101 million worldwide to date.
Pokemon Detective Pikachu has passed $400 million globally, but still needs around another $40 million in order to claim success. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, at half the cost, has made over $252 million worldwide and is in the win column for Lionsgate. The Keanu Reeves action spectacular is actually right in line with what the first Mission: Impossible had made after 24 days ($138.7 million), and it is only $1.2 million behind what it made in weekend four ($8.6 million.) That is giving it a final estimate somewhere between $155 million–$175 million domestically; enough to pass La La Land for the sixth highest-grossing domestic film in Lionsgate history.
Amazon this weekend opened the first of their big Sundance acquisitions this weekend. Late Night (81%) opened in four theaters and grossed $249,654 for a $62,414 per-theater-average. That is the best four-theater opening of 2019 so far, besting Sundance surprise screening Fighting With My Family, which made $138,780 before it went wide, as Late Night will be doing next week. That number is better than similar Amazon openings such as Beautiful Boy ($218,888) and Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far on Foot ($83,339). In 2018, the top four theater openings were The Favourite ($422,410), Free Solo ($298,288), Eighth Grade ($263,797), and Mid90s ($258,157). Along with Eighth Grade, some other top Sundance PTAs over the years include The Kids Are All Right ($70,282) and The Big Sick ($84,315).
Disney has the two biggest successes in the Top 10: Aladdin, which passed $600 million worldwide this weekend and now has a legitimate shot at reaching $300 million domestic, and Avengers: Endgame, which, at $2.730 billion, is roughly $57 million away from passing Avatar and breaking the all-time record. Next week will be its eighth and likely final week in the Top 10. Avatar spent 14 weeks in the Top 10; seven of those in the No. 1 slot back in 2009.
Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, and Co. took the top spot with Ocean’s 8 grossing $41.6 million, higher than any of Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s films and ultimately outgrossing both of the sequels. Ari Aster’s Sundance horror sensation, Hereditary, opened in fourth with $13.5 million behind Solo: A Star Wars Story and Deadpool 2. Global Road (formerly Open Road’s) Hotel Artemis proved to be a bust with just $3.2 million, while Avengers: Infinity War passed the $650 million line. The Top 10 films grossed $109.66 million and averaged 70.2% on the Tomatometer. This year’s Top 10 grossed an estimated $158.72 million and averaged 66.5% on the Tomatometer.
A pair of reboots hope to take a small piece of the box office next weekend led by Men In Black International. A new cast, led by MCU buddies Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth and guided by F. Gary Gray, suit up to fight new aliens. There is also a sequel to the 2000 remake of the 1971 original Shaft with Samuel L. Jackson. It is also called Shaft. Son of Shaft may be more appropriate or maybe Shaft: First Blood Part II. But Jackson returns with director Tim Story taking over for the late John Singleton. Finally, Jim Jarmusch takes on the zombie genre with an all-star cast, including Bill Murray and Adam Driver, in The Dead Don’t Die. The film from the indie darling was met with some indifference from Cannes this year and currently sits at 50% on the Tomatometer.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]