“John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” opened to a domestic total of $57 million; after “Us,” it’s the best opening for a non-Marvel release this year. That’s encouraging as we approach a summer that largely features sequels to previous hits, but — after three very strong weekends — it’s the first weekend in which the total gross lagged behind last year, when “Deadpool 2” debuted to $125 million.
In total, all films grossed around $150 million, for a $60 million shortfall against 2018. For the year so far, grosses are running $400 million short, or 9% below — a gap that would be much worse without “Endgame.” Memorial Day weekend lies ahead, with “Aladdin” leading the way. But advance predictions of its gross place it below what “Solo: A Star Wars Story” did last year, so we could see another falloff before some of June’s major openers come around.
In the meantime, there is nothing but positive vibes from “Parabellum.” Its opening weekend is the best in the entire run of the franchise, and comes close to doubling the first sequel’s 2017 opening. It’s also the first R-rated non-fantasy action film to hit #1 since “The Equalizer 2” last summer, double that of “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” and ahead of any of the three “Taken” — the Liam Neeson-starring franchise that is this genre’s template.
And it’s in the “Taken” comparisons that really “Parabellum” stands out. The opening for the first “Taken” sequel doubled the original for a series best and grossed an amazing six times multiple. The third “Taken” was down a bit from #2, while ahead of the initial entry. But it barely doubled its opening, and the series ended.
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By comparison, “John Wick” is taking on the feel of the “Fast and Furious” series. With limited expectations, its surprise initial success spawned a slightly bigger second film, while the third provided the best opening yet.
Future prospects are great, with Keanu Reeves’ continuing a great career turnaround. (He seemed past his due date when “47 Ronin” bombed in 2013). It’s similar to what Tom Cruise continues to do with the “Mission: Impossible” series. Those and the “Fast and Furious” entries, of course, are much bigger, but they are also substantially bigger investments. The budget for “Parabellum” has not been officially reported, but the previous ones had estimates of $40 million or less.
It’s also a big boost for recently struggling Lionsgate and represents the studios’ first major success since the final “Hunger Games” film. That’s vital in an industry increasingly dominated by Disney, Warner Bros., and Universal.
Combined, the other openers barely broke $10 million. “A Dog’s Journey” — not a sequel, but similar to the recent “A Dog’s Purpose” — opened to less than half of that January release. January also had “A Dog’s Way Home” from Sony, which debuted better than “Journey.” Even counting by dog years, this looks like overkill. An A Cinemascope provides some faint hope it might stick around.
“The Sun Is Also a Star” threatens to break the wrong kind of record: It made just $2.6 million in over 2,000 theaters. It has a female director in Ry Russo-Young, who rose from the independent world to make “Before I Wake” in 2017. Based on a YA novel, it’s a standalone project with two minority leads (Caribbean and Korean roots) and an overlay of immigration legal drama. Correct or no, its failure tells the industry that trying to be different is risky and tough to justify.
“Endgame” dropped out of first spot, with another 54% fall. Its ultimate figures are coming into view, but it will remain the film to beat in 2019. Like “Parabellum,” it gives hope that upcoming sequels in franchises like “Godzilla,” “Secret Life of Pets,” “Toy Story,” “Spider-Man,” and “Fast and Furious,” along with the live-action “The Lion King,” will right the struggling box-office ship.
A potential long-term franchise that seems shaky in its second domestic weekend is “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu,” which dropped 54%. It suggests a domestic final total under $140 million, which wouldn’t be that bad if this weren’t underperforming overseas: Foreign is $112 million compared to $94 million domestic. It’s hard to see the ultimate worldwide take reaching much more than $300 million. With combined production and marketing costs somewhere around that number, that makes the prospect of a sequel as risky as, say, “The Sun Is Also a Star.”
Post-Mother’s Day opening, “The Hustle” fell 53%, with the Riviera-set female scam artist comedy failing to get sufficient word of mouth. Two films in their third week are seeing better results. Sony’s thriller “The Intruder” dropped 44%, but at an $8 million budget it’s another decent showing for the Screen Gems unit. “Long Shot” dropped 45%, which is fairly impressive since it lost half of its dates. Its per-theater average only went down slightly.
Two STX releases round out the Top Ten, with the second weekend of their female-aimed comedy “Poms” falling 61% from its bad start. “UglyDolls,” losing a big chunk of theaters, also fell 61%.
The Top Ten
1. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (Lionsgate) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 74; Est. budget: $50 million
$57,025,000 in 3,850 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $14,812; Cumulative: $57,025,000
2. Avengers: Endgame (Disney) Week 4; Last weekend #1
$29,411,000 (-53%) in 4,220 theaters (-442); PTA: $6,969; Cumulative: $770,806,000
3. Pokemon Detective Pokemon (Warner Bros.) Week 2; Last weekend #2
$24,815,000 (-54%) in 4,248 theaters (-46); PTA: $5,842; Cumulative: $94,002,000
4. A Dog’s Journey (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic:42 ; Est. budget: $(unknown)
$8,000,000 in 3,267 theaters; PTA: $3,267; Cumulative: $8,000,000
5. The Hustle (United Artists) Week 2; Last weekend #3
$6,081,000 (-%) in 3,077 theaters (no change); PTA: $1,976; Cumulative: $23,146,000
6. The Intruder (Sony) Week 3; Last weekend #4
$4,025,000 (-44%) in 2,231 theaters (+9); PTA: $1,804; Cumulative: $28,058,000
7. Long Shot (Lionsgate) Week 3; Last weekend #5
$3,400,000 (-46%) in 4,248 theaters (-46); PTA: $1,804; Cumulative: $25,723,000
8. The Sun Is Also a Star (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: B- ; Metacritic: 52; Est. budget: $9 million
$2,600,000 in 2,073 theaters; PTA: $1,254; Cumulative: $2,600,000
9. Poms (STX) Week 2; Last weekend #6
$2,090,000 (-61%) in 2,750 theaters (no change); PTA: $760; Cumulative: $10,010,000
10. UglyDolls (STX) Week 3; Last weekend #7
$1,600,000 (-61%) in 2,030 theaters (-1,622); PTA: $788; Cumulative: $17,244,000