Comic book characters went head-to-head this weekend and the family-friendly version won the battle. Both films were hoping for greater turnouts, but while one is still posting decent numbers, the other may represent the third strike for its character. Worse than that is the launch of a new joint studio venture that kicked things off by failing one of the most praised animated studios making movies today.
As stated last week, Shazam is more DC’s Ant-Man than their Guardians of the Galaxy. To maintain the kind of momentum that would keep it in the universe of Paul Rudd’s character financially, it was hoping for around a 45% drop for its second weekend. Instead it fell 53%. Still good enough to beat this week’s challengers handily, but its hopes of reaching $170 million and beyond fell a bit. Among comic book adaptations to earn between $90-100 million after ten days, Shazam! joins the company of X-Men, X-Men: First Class, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, The Incredible Hulk, Batman Returns, The Wolverine, and Wanted. Batman Returns is the high bar with a $162 million final tally, while the four films surrounding it on that list grossed between $131-135 million. Shazam!’s second weekend ($25.1 million) was higher than all of those films except for Batman Returns ($25.4 million) but its final estimate is now in the $150 million range. Shazam! has grossed over $221 million worldwide to date.
This story is either sad or infuriating — maybe both, depending on who you ask. Ask critics which animated studio they would rather see put out more film – Illumination or Laika – and they’re likely to say Laika every day and twice on Sunday. Laika’s output has included Kubo and the Two Strings (97%), Coraline (90%), ParaNorman (87%), Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride (83%), and The Boxtrolls (76%), all of which are Certified Fresh. Yet, since Coraline in 2009, each successive Laika film has grossed less than the last from Coraline’s $75 million down to Kubo’s $48.
Laika jumped ship from Focus Features, a studio whose Laika projects rank as four of the top 12 grossers in their history. Now they put themselves in the hands of Annapurna, who this February partnered with MGM and Orion to release films under the banner of United Artists Releasing. Missing Link (89%) is their first effort, and they opened it to $5.8 million. In 3,413 theaters. That is a lower per-theater-average ($1,712) than Matthew McConaughey’s Serenity ($1,724). It is a worse average than Focus Features got for Neil Jordan’s Greta ($1,859). Focus opened Ratchet & Clank to $4.8 million for Pete’s sake. While UA Releasing has some high profile remakes and sequels on the horizon (Child’s Play, Bill & Ted Face the Music, Bond 25), this is a really disconcerting start. Especially for the animated company, which deserves better.
Another film that could have gone into the “Rotten Returns” section was the reboot of Hellboy. From Sony to Universal to Lionsgate, no studio has been able to make this character a thing. Despite two efforts from Gullermo del Toro, both 2004’s Hellboy and 2008’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army were financial failures, albeit ones with PG-13 ratings. The new R-rated Hellboy may not be family-friendly, but it wasn’t critic-friendly either. Garnering just a 15% on the Tomatometer, Hellboy is one of the worst-reviewed wide releases of 2019, ahead of only A Madea Family Funeral (13%), Replicas (10%), and this week’s release of After (13%), which Aviron opened in 2,138 theaters to bigger numbers than Missing Link ($6.2 million).
Back to Hellboy, though. It continues Lionsgate’s history of lackluster returns for comic book adaptations. Red was their biggest success, opening to $21.7 million and finishing with $90.3 million. Its sequel was not as well-received, with lines of $18 and $53.8 million. Kick-Ass was $19.8 and $48 million. Hellboy could not even reach their PG-13 Thomas Jane Punisher film, which opened to $13.8 million just two weeks after del Toro’s Hellboy opened to $23.1 milion in 2004. The Punisher finished with just $33.8 million. Neil Marshall’s $50 million production of Hellboy may not even make it to $30 million domestic, which is less than Hellboy II’s opening weekend alone of $34.5 million.
Disney’s Dumbo is also headed for a rough landing. The live-action version of their 1941 classic is up to just $89.9 million after 17 days. That puts it in league with Apollo 13, Borat, Home Alone 2, The World is Not Enough, District 9, Blades of Glory, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, Fifty Shades Freed, Superbad, Doctor Dolittle, The Fugitive; films between $89-91 million in the same period. Among that crop, only Fifty Shades Freed made less ($7.1 million) in its third weekend than Dumbo ($9.1 million). That is putting Tim Burton’s $170 million production somewhere between $100-110 million. With only $266 million worldwide, the film could end up being another $100+ million loser for Disney. Fortunately for them, not only is Avengers: Endgame on the horizon, but Captain Marvel still has the 21st best total ever after 38 days with $385 million, and with $1.064 billion worldwide, it’s now the 28th highest-grossing film ever.
The new Pet Sematary adaptation is following the path suggested in last week’s column. With a 59% drop in its second weekend to $10 million, the film is now in danger of coming up short of the $57.4 million of the 1989 film. The 2019 version is in league with other horror films like The Omen (2006), Evil Dead (2013), Gothika, White Noise, Dracula Untold, Happy Death Day, and The Cell – each of which had between $40-42 million after ten days of release, and only The Cell and Gothika made more than $57.4 million. With The Curse of La Llorona set to take a chunk of the horror fans away from a film that dropped from 82% on the Tomatometer after its closing night SXSW premiere to 58% by the end of its first weekend, an under $5 million haul next weekend could seal its fate in missing the 1989 goal. Nevertheless, it’s sill on pace to turn a profit for Paramount.
Doing better with horror fans is Jordan Peele’s Us, which is over $163 million, officially passing last year’s Blumhouse production of Halloween. The film is still $15 million ahead of last year’s A Quiet Place after 24 days, but it has fallen behind its fourth weekend take ($11-to-$6.9 million.) That is also less than Get Out’s fourth weekend ($13.4 million), though Us is still $30 million ahead of the pace of Peele’s debut. Us looks to land somewhere in the $180 million range. Universal also managed to open Little this weekend ahead of Hellboy. Its $15.4 million opening is higher than their Jason Bateman/Ryan Reynolds body-switch film, The Change-Up, which started with $13.5 million and finished with $37 million.
The video game adaptation, Rampage with Dwayne Johnson led the way with $35.7 million, just barely beating the second weekend of A Quiet Place, which finished with $32.9 million to just pass the $100 million mark in its 10th day of release. Opening in third was Blumhouse horror, Truth or Dare, with $18.6 million and Roadside’s most successful film to date, the song origin tale of I Can Only Imagine, passed $75 million in total sales. The Top Ten films grossed $131.79 million and averaged 66.8% on the Tomatometer. This year’s Top Ten grossed an estimated $101.45 and averaged 58.5%
Another horror film tries to separate fans from their money. This time it is The Curse of La Llorona, part of The Conjuring universe, about the infamous weeping woman who steals children. Its premiere at SXSW this year was not as well received as Pet Sematary, as it owns a 44% on the Tomatometer at the moment. (Sematary’s score dropped 20% from its SXSW premiere.) Also look out for 2018 SXSW premiere, Fast Color, from director Julia Hart and co-writer/producer Jordan Horowitz, starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a woman with powers in a bleak future.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]