Disney/Pixar’s “Toy Story 4” can’t come soon enough to buoy the floundering summer box office. This weekend’s openings are pathetic. Franchise reboot “Men in Black: International” (Sony) and the second remake of “Shaft” (Warner Bros.) together grossed under $37 million. Two summers ago, when “War for the Planet of the Apes” opened to “only” $56 million, it was considered low enough to threaten the future of that series.
Both of this weekend’s sequels were directed by proven veterans with domestic totals approaching $1 billion: F. Gary Gray (“The Fate of the Furious” and “Straight Outta Compton”) and Tim Story (“Fantastic Four” and “Ride Along”), who will doubtless return to making popular movies.
As a sign of the times, “Men in Black” still managed to place #1, while “Shaft” crept into sixth place. Studio greenlighters consider franchise entries to be the major reason theater doors stay open, but they keep failing to draw stateside moviegoers. Though the weekend showed the best Saturday jump in recent weeks, the totals will come in around $130 million. That’s less than half of the same weekend last year (which boasted the “Incredibles 2” opening). And so, halfway through the summer, the year-to-date lag has slipped back to around $500 million, over 7%.
With an optimistic Sony estimate of a mere 7% Sunday drop of $28.5 million (counting on a Father’s Day boost), this reboot of the Will Smith/Tommy Lee Jones trilogy opened to less than half of the (adjusted) initial gross of the third iteration, itself the lowest of the series. Whatever the final number, it’s a terrible return for a top name franchise led by two Marvel stars and and a proven director.
On the foreign side, the rest of the world added another $74 million, with only a handful of countries yet to open. While “X-Men” sequel “Dark Phoenix” (Disney) looks to lose perhaps $100 million, there’s enough international potential bounty to push the combined “Men in Black” total to $300 million. And a much lower budget (around $100 million) helps to mitigate this dismal showing.
On the positive side, we have likely seen the last of the summer’s big-budget sequel disasters. “Toy Story 4,” “The Lion King” (Disney), “Spider-Man: Far from Home” (Sony), and “Hobbs & Shaw” (Universal) combined likely cost their studios around $1 billion to make, but each one has a shot at reaching that level in worldwide receipts. The studios are looking to this quartet of mighty juggernauts to save the summer.
The first “Shaft” was 48 years ago. The second in 2000 grossed an adjusted $117 million, the late John Singleton’s third biggest hit. It shares with “Men in Black: International” a conscious effort to adjust the formula from its predecessors.
In this case, it meant turning Richard Roundtree’s iconic character Shaft into the grandfather of a multi-generational story including his son (Samuel L. Jackson) and grandson (Jessie Usher). Tim Story was brought in to combine comedy and action in this urban film.
“Shaft” earned an A Cinemascore — an unusual disparity with weak gross and poor reviews on the one hand and clear positive audience reaction on the other. Even with a lower-end budget (in the $30-35 million range), and with Netflix owning foreign rights (international streaming starts on June 28), this is going to need a strong hold in order to get into profit.
But franchise titles that open weak tend to fall hard. “Dark Phoenix” is one of the worst, down 73% in its second weekend. $9 million added gets it to about $52 million: the movie will be lucky to reach $65 million. That number is barely above the (adjusted) lowest openings for the past “X-Men” series films. Worldwide “Dark Phoenix” is tracking over $200 million, but it won’t get to $300 million. That’s $100 million less than “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” (Warner Bros.) will reach worldwide. Stateside it dropped 47%, and will crawl to a little over $100 million. Scary.
“The Secret Life of Pets 2” (Universal) came in second, down 49% from its opening. That’s slightly less than the first “Pets,” but that first film grossed more than twice as much. “Pets 2” will make money, but hardly at the level of its predecessor or other Illumination Animation titles like the “Despicable Me” entries. And that’s a worry. Steep fall-offs like this make one wonder how this keeps going as a big series. And “Pets 2” faces “Toy Story 4” this weekend.
Other films in their third or later weeks had a wide range of drops. By far the best hold came from “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” (Liongate), an entry in a still-robust series. It fell only 18%, and now could get to $165-170 million. It already has grossed above the first two combined domestically.
Also holding well were “Aladdin” (Disney), holding at #3, off 32%. It could hit $330 million domestic, close to $1 billion worldwide. The total results (as well as its budget) will be much lower for “Rocketman” (Paramount). But in its third weekend it did better than “Godzilla” (which opened the same date) and looks to hang around long enough to top $85 million. Japan is the main territory yet to open (China hasn’t been announced).
Making it into the Top Ten (#9) is Amazon’s well-reviewed “Late Night.” Its $5.1 million gross in over 2,200 theaters comes in slightly below the similarly positioned “Booksmart” (United Artists). Nuance as to what this means can be seen in our specialized report.
The Top Ten
1. Men in Black: International (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Metacritic: 38; Est. budget: $100 million
$28,500,000 in 4,224 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $6,747Cumulative: $28,500,000
2. The Secret Life of Pets 2 (Universal) Week 2; Last weekend #1
$ (-49%) in 4,564 theaters (+3); PTA: $5,215; Cumulative: $92,044,000
3. Aladdin (Disney) Week 4; Last weekend #2
$ (-32%) in 3,556 theaters (-249; PTA: $4,700; Cumulative: $263446,000
4. Dark Phoenix (Disney) Week 2; Last weekend #3
$9,005,000 (-73%) in 3,721 theaters (no change); PTA: $2,420; Cumulative: $51,767,000
5. Rocket Man (Paramount) Week 3; Last weekend #5
$8,800,000 (-36%) in 3,021 theaters (-589); PTA: $2,913; Cumulative: $66,143,000
6. Shaft (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 41; Est. budget: $30 million
$8,315,000 in 2,952 theaters; PTA: $2,817; Cumulative: $8,315,000
7. Godzilla: King of the Monsters (Warner Bros.) Week 3; Last weekend #4
$8,105,000 (-47%) in 3,207 theaters (-901); PTA: $2,527; Cumulative: $93,688,000
8. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (Lionsgate) Week 5; Last weekend #7
$6,100,000 (-18%) in 2,033 theaters (-743); PTA: $3,000; Cumulative: $148,627,000
9. Late Night (Amazon) Week 2; Last weekend #17
$5,137,000 (+1,986%) in 2,281 theaters (+2,214); PTA: $2,314; Cumulative: $5,450,000
10. Ma (Universal) Week 3; Last weekend #6
$3,610,000 (-54%) in 1,794 theaters (-1,022); PTA: $2,012; Cumulative: $40,350,000