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411 Box Office Report: Dark Phoenix Falls Short, Secret Life of Pets 2 Takes #1

June 9, 2019 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
X-Men Dark Phoenix Sophie Turner 1

It was a weekend of disappointing sequels at the box office, with Dark Phoenix and Secret Life of Pets 2 both missing expectations. Secret Life of Pets 2 came out on top for the weekend to open with $47.1 million, well short of the expected $55 million start. The opening was less than half of the first film’s $104.4 million opening in July of 2016, and reps the lowest start for an Illumniation Entertainment film since Sing got off to a $35.3 million opening in December of 2016.

While expectations were bullish about Secret Life of Pets 2, there were definite signs to be concerned about. Universal’s marketing of the film was all over the place to start, with trailers never providing a clear view of the storyline. That resulted in muddled messaging, despite the studio hyping this one early on. The first film proved to be the studio’s biggest hit to date, but audiences just weren’t as interested in a second helping of the franchise. The reviews didn’t help, with the critics giving it a mild 54% compared to the first film’s 73%. There is some good news here though, as the film had a better day-to-day hold than the first which was a bit more front-loaded.

That hold suggests good word of mouth, and this film will need it. Toy Story 4 opens in just two weeks and will almost certainly take all of Secret Life’s thunder away. The first film had a pretty good 3.53 multiple off its opening weekend, and that’s a bit much to expect from this one. A $150 million final domestic gross is very achievable, which means the film will have to rely on overseas grosses to make profit on its $80 million budget plus marketing. Thus far it’s off to a $49 million start overseas for a $97 million worldwide start. Secret Life of Pets 2 will make a bit of money, but Universal and Illumniation were definitely hoping for more.

While Secret Life of Pets 2 disappointed, at least it didn’t go out with a whimper. That’s where Dark Phoenix lies. The final film of the current X-Men franchise opened to just $33 million, a far cry below even the modest $50 million that analysts figured it would do heading into the weekend. The opening makes it the lowest start for an X-Men film with ease, below The Wolverine’s $53.1 million opening back in July of 2013. Among main series entries, the all-time low was the first X-Men way back in 2000 with $54.5 million.

There’s a whole column to be written about what went wrong with Dark Phoenix, but it all boils down to a combination of bad buzz, poor reviews, and situations outside of the film itself’s control. Dark Phoenix’s lame-duck status can’t be ignored; as the last main X-Men film under 20th Century Fox’s regime, audience are already looking ahead to the iconic mutants’ eventual debut in the MCU, even if that’s years away. Add in the fact that the last adaptation of Dark Phoenix, X-Men: The Last Stand, is the most-deried main franchise entry among fans. Add in the poor reception to X-Men: Apocalypse, and the result was that few people really cared much how the franchise ended. That was made worse when word of the word came that the final act was “reconfigured” (read: reshot), which is not something you do when you have a great movie. Constant release date change moves didn’t help the buzz, either.

Then the critical word came in, and it was not kind. At 22%, Dark Phoenix has the worst critic consensus of any X-Men film to date. Yes, that includes the much-hated X-Men Origins – Wolverine, which was somewhat higher at 37%. The Dark Phoenix story from the comics is a fan-favorite, but it’s a difficult one to adapt to film and fans weren’t impressed. Dark Phoenix scored a B- CinemaScore and again, that’s the lowest score for an X-Men film. Even X-Men: Apocalypse and X-Men: The Last Stand got A- scores. (Only X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: First Class got below As, and they were both a B+). All this adds up to a disastrous start

The good news here that all this will fall on Fox’s reputation and not Disney, leaving them free to bring the mutants into the MCU without much baggage. But can the film somehow bring in a profit for Disney, who now own Fox? Short answer: no. The film cost $200 million before marketing and the overseas take is just $107 million so far. That sounds okay, but its running 16% behind X-Men: Apocalypse in the same timeframe. Unless something changes Dark Phoenix will probably end around $85 million domestically and $300 million worldwide. With a $200 million production budget plus marketing expenses, this is likely a nine-digit money loser. It’s a sad end to a franchise that kicked off the modern superhero film nineteen years ago.

On the other hand, Disney had something to smile about with Aladdin. The live-action adaptation of the animated classic was down a solid 43% in its third weekend with $24.5 million. That brings the film to an impressive $232.4 million domestically and $604.9 million worldwide. Those are great numbers for the $183 million-budgeted film, which benefitted from Secret Life’s disappointing start. Aladdin should end its domestic run at around $280 million or more in the US, a very solid hit for the studio.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters was a bit less rosy, following up its mild #1 start last weekend with a 68% drop to $15.5 million. Warner Bros. surely wanted more from this film, especially with Godzilla vs. Kong set to release next year. However, they aren’t crying too hard yet. The movie’s second-weekend hold was not unexpected, after all; the 2014 reboot dropped a similar 67% in May of 2014. King of the Monsters currently sits at $78.6 million domestically and $292.3 million worldwide, and should be able to make it to around $110 million domestically. The overseas numbers are solid enough that this might still be an okay result for the studio. The budget was a big $170 million.

Rocketman was off an expected 45% in its second weekend with $14 million. That brings the Elton John musical biopic to $50.5 million domestically and $101.8 million worldwide on a $40 million budget. This was never going to be a massive hit like Bohemian Rhapsody, but it’s still driving its way to around $80 million domestically and a solid profit for Paramount.

Olivia Spencer’s horror-thriller Ma took an expected drop for the genre, down 57% to $7.8 million in its second week. The film is sitting pretty right now with $32.8 million domestically and $40.1 million worldwide against a $5 million budget and moderate marketing. It’s on its way to an easy $45 million or so domestically, plenty for the low-budget film.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum dropped a very nice 33% in its fourth weekend to $7.4 million. That brings the third film in the franchise to $138.7 million domestically and $252.3 million worldwide, making it officially the highest grossing of the series on both metrics. It’s a big hit for Lionsgate, with a likely final domestic gross of $160 million or so against a $55 million budget.

Avengers: Endgame pulled in $4.8 million, down 40% in its fifth weekend. The MCU blockbuster is now up to $824.4 million domestically and $2.730 billion worldwide. It continues to be close as to whether it will top Avatar’s $2.788 billion worldwide, but either way it’s a huge profit on a $350 million budget. The domestic gross looks like around $840 million.

Pokemon Detective Pikachu slid 57% in its fifth weekend with $3 million. The live-action/CGI hybrid film now has $137.4 million domestically and $409.5 million worldwide, looking good against its $150 million budget. Pikachu should close out with about $150 million domestically and is a hit.

Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart was down another 52% in its third weekend for $1.6 million to bring its total to $17.8 million thus far. The film had a small budget and shouldn’t lose money, even with a somewhat low $20 million final take.

Next weekend sees the arrival of Men In Black International, the latest entry in Sony’s sci-fi comedy/action franchise. The film should lead the way with a $35 million to $40 million start. Warner Bros.’ new Shaft revival is targeting the low $20 million range, while Luc Besson’s action film Anna will hit the mid-single digits.

BOX OFFICE TOP TEN (Three-Day Domestic Numbers)
1. Secret Life of Pets 2 – $47.1 million ($48 million total)
2. Dark Phoenix – $33 million ($33 million total)
3. Aladdin – $24.5 million ($232.4 million total)
4. Godzilla: King of the Monsters – $15.5 million ($78.6 million total)
5. Rocketman – $14 million ($50.5 million total)
6. Ma – $7.8 million ($32.8 million total)
7. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum – $7.4 million ($138.7 million total)
8. Avengers: Endgame – $4.8 million ($824.4 million total)
9. Pokemon Detective Pikachu – $3 million ($137.4 million total)
10. Booksmart – $1.6 million ($17.8 million total)