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411 Box Office Report: Men in Black: International Claims Soft #1, Dark Phoenix Falls Hard

June 16, 2019 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Men in Black Dark Phoenix

It was a rough start at the box office for Men in Black: International, which won the weekend but not with much. The revival of the Men in Black franchise opened atop the box office with just $28.5 million. That’s well below the $35 million to $40 million that was projected leading into the weekend. It’s just barely more than half of the opening of the previous three entries, all of which started with between $51.1 million and $54.6 million. It’s also the lowest start for director F. Gary Gray since 2009’s Law Abiding Citizen — though to be fair, his only films in-between were Straight Outta Compton and The Fate of the Furious.

Dissecting what happened with Men in Black: International would take more writing than there is time for in this report, and there will be several pieces around the internet doing just that soon enough. The bottom line though is that quite simply, no one asked it. The Men in Black franchise has always been one that traded on the goodwill to the original film, and audiences would forgive a lot for the chance to see Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith together again. While taking nothing away from Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson, they just aren’t Jones and Smith. So low interest had this one in a bit of jeopardy from the start. Then you factor in the low critic regard (an ugly 24% on Rotten Tomatoes) and you have real concerns. A film like this will be critic-proof if there’s interest, and a film without huge fan enthusiasm can be lifted by great reviews. If both are lacking, you’re DOA.

To make matters worse, MiB: International is the lowest-scoring film in the series among fans, with a B CinemaScore. That’s not the worst score in the world, but fandom-reliant films like this should aim for the B+ that the previous three films got as a minimum. The one thing that this film has going for it is some surprisingly strong day-to-day holds throughout the weekend; early weekend estimates had it around $25 million, but it pulled up after Friday night which suggests more interest from families than fanpeople.

Will that be enough to save the film? Unlikely. Fortunately, the film was kept fairly inexpensive, at least compared to the $225 million budget for MiB 3. $110 million is much more reasonable, but still doesn’t give Sony much room to breathe. This series has traditionally had very good holds, but those were based on more enthusiasm and better word of mouth. If we lowball the series’ multiple and go with MIB 3’s 3.28 (itself a high expectation for this film), that would put it at a domestic final gross of about $93.5. $85 million seems to be more realistic. Overseas would need to pick up the slack to the tune of a $300 million worldwide tally for breakeven and a $73.7 million international start isn’t bad, but isn’t amazing either. It’s possible that Sony will not end up losing money on this film, but it isn’t out of the woods.

The Secret Life of Pets 2 had an expected drop, falling 49% in its second weekend to $23.8 million. The animated sequel’s drop was comparable to Kung Fu Panda 2 in 2011. It now has $92.4 million domestically and $154.5 million worldwide, not a fantastic number against its $80 million budget. It should still be in okay shape and will make a tiny bit of money, but nowhere near what Universal and Illumination hoped. The final domestic gross should fall around $140 million to $150 million.

Aladdin continues to show strength, dropping just 32% in its fourth weekend as the new releases which followed it have all fallen short. The live-action Disney adaptation brought in $16.7 million and now sits at $263.4 million domestically and $724.8 million worldwide. These are great numbers for the film, which should end up with around $290 million by the end of its US run. The budget was $183 million, making this a sizable hit that is helping the studio forget the failure of Dumbo earlier this year.

The news was bad for MiB: International, but it wasn’t the worst news for a fandom-reliant film this weekend. No, that would belong to Dark Phoenix, which followed up its poor start with a flat-out ugly second weekend. The final film in the Fox-produced main X-Men franchise fell 73% to just $9 million in its second weekend. That is the worst hold for the franchise with ease, beating X-Men Origins: Wolverine’s 69% drop for the ignominious honor. For perspective, the film had a lower number in its second weekend than X-Men: Days of Future Past had in its fifth. Dark Phoenix is in full-on box office bomb mode now, with $51.8 million domestically and $204.3 million worldwide against a $200 million budget. That $100 million loss margin seems to be accurate and perhaps even a little modest. The domestic final is now looking to be around $75 million.

Rocketman is rather nicely finding its footing, down a mild 36% in its third weekend with $8.8 million. The Elton John musical biopic now has $66.1 million domestically and $133.1 million worldwide on a $40 million budget. This is a nicely profitable film that is still on course for around $80 million to $85 million domestically, and a solid profit for Paramount.

It was disappointment all around the new releases this weekend, as Shaft followed MiB: International’s lead to open low at $8.3 million. That is way below the $15 million to $20 million start that Warner Bros. was hoping for. This is not good news for the revival, which has two of the same factors as MiB: a lack of demand and low critic scores (35% on RT). The one thing Shaft does have going for it is potential for very good word of mouth; the CinemaScore was a great A, which could help it out. It will need a lot of help though; the budget was $35 million and foreign grosses won’t matter here, as they were sold off to Netflix. Warner’s income on that is a reported $22 million, and Shaft will need more than the $30 million to $35 million its going to get domestically for a profit.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters slipped 48% in its third weekend, bringing in $8.1 million. The kaiju battle royal now stands at $93.7 million domestically and $339.5 million worldwide against a $170 million budget plus marketing. The film is still looking on par for around $110 million total stateside and shouldn’t be in bad shape for Warner Bros., perhaps bringing in a tiny amount of profit. It’s not the result they wanted, but it’s not a total failure either.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum showed some renewed signs of life in its fifth weekend, down just 18% for $6.1 million. That brings the action flick to $148.6 million domestically and $276.1 million worldwide, making a major hit against a $55 million budget. The final domestic gross is on course for $160 million.

The Mindy Kaling/Emma Thompson comedy Late Night expanded wide this weekend with a mild $5.1 million. The film has been a hit with critics (80% on RT), but that didn’t help low awareness or the fact that it was opening against a much larger film that featured Thompson in a supporting role in MiB: International. The late night show-set film has a total of $5.4 million so far including one weekend in limited release, and could make it to around $12 million to $15 million if it is played out right. If it gets some overseas support due to Thompson’s UK appeal, it could make a small profit against its $4 million budget.

The horror-thriller Ma closed out the top 10 with $3.6 million, down 54% in its third weekend. The Olivia Spencer-starring film now has $40.3 million domestically and $51.7 million worldwide, a profit for Universal against its $5 million budget. It should finish off with around $48 million in the US.

Next weekend will see the return of big numbers with the opening of Toy Story 4. The Pixar animated film is targeting a massive $150 million. Meanwhile, the Child’s Play remake is looking at a start in the mid to high teens, and Luc Besson’s action film Anna will hit the mid-single digits.

BOX OFFICE TOP TEN (Three-Day Domestic Numbers)
1. Men in Black: International – $28.5 million ($28.5 million total)
2. Secret Life of Pets 2 – $23.8 million ($92.4 million total)
3. Aladdin – $16.7 million ($263.4 million total)
4. Dark Phoenix – $9 million ($51.8 million total)
5. Rocketman – $8.8 million ($66.1 million total)
6. Shaft – $8.3 million ($8.3 million total)
7. Godzilla: King of the Monsters – $8.1 million ($93.7 million total)
8. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum – $6.1 million ($148.6 million total)
9. Late Night – $5.1 million ($5.1 million total)
10. Ma – $3.6 million ($3.6 million total)