As ‘Alien: Covenant’ Disappoints, We Have to Ask: What Happens to Box Office When the Franchises Aren’t Enough?

With "Alien" and "Wimpy Kid," underperforming, this may be the summer where we find out what happens when franchises no longer carry the day.
'Alien: Covenant' Disappoints at the Box Office, and Summer May Suffer
'Alien: Covenant' Disappoints at the Box Office, and Summer May Suffer
'Alien: Covenant' Disappoints at the Box Office, and Summer May Suffer
'Alien: Covenant' Disappoints at the Box Office, and Summer May Suffer
'Alien: Covenant' Disappoints at the Box Office, and Summer May Suffer
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This was expected to be a nice pre-Memorial Day box-office weekend: a solid franchise opener and two lower-budget films doing their job to create modest improvement over last year. That didn’t happen.

Instead, the top 10 fell ten percent from last year, “Alien: Covenant” did around $10 million below consensus expectations; the reboot of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” also underperformed. Only the female-centered young adult entry, “Everything, Everything,” escaped relatively unscathed.

Help should be on the way. Next week sees two films with optimistic projections — the R-rated film version of “Baywatch” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” (#5 in that franchise). Last year saw two openers (“X-Men: Apocalypse” and “Alice Through the Looking Glass”) only total $92 million between them for the three-day weekend. That should be easy to best — but that’s what we thought this week. It might be time to worry.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2


The Top 10

1. Alien: Covenant (20th Century Fox) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Metacritic: 66; Est. budget: $97 million

$36,000,000 in 3,761 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $9,572; Cumulative: $36,000,000

2. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Disney) Week 3; Last weekend: #1

$35,062,000 (-46%) in 4,347 theaters (no change); PTA: $4,347; Cumulative: $301,799,000

3. Everything, Everything (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 51; Est. budget: $10 million

$12,000,000 in 2,801 theaters; PTA: $4,284; Cumulative: $12,000,000

4. Snatched (20th Century Fox) Week 2; Last weekend: #2

$7,600,000 (-61%) in 3,511 theaters (+10); PTA: $2,165; Cumulative: $32,783,000

5. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (20th Century Fox) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Metacritic: 41; Est. budget: $22 million

$7,200,000 in 3,157 theaters; PTA: $2,281; Cumulative: $7,200,000

6. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword  (Warner Bros.) Week 2; Last weekend: #3

$6,850,000 (-55%) in 3,702 theaters (no change); PTA: $1,850; Cumulative: $27,201,000

7. The Fate of the Furious (Universal) Week 6; Last weekend: #4

$3,174,000 (-41%) in 2,287 theaters (-780); PTA: $1,388; Cumulative: $219,884,000

8. The Boss Baby (20th Century Fox) Week 8; Last weekend: #6

$2,800,000 (-38%) in 2,071 theaters (-840); PTA: $1,352; Cumulative: $166,153

9. Beauty and the Beast (Disney) Week 10; Last weekend: #5

$2,403,000 (-50%) in 1,792 theaters (-380); PTA: $1,341; Cumulative: $497,782,000

10. How to Be a Latin Lover (Lionsgate) Week 4; Last weekend: #7

$2,200,000 (-43%) in 948 theaters (-175); PTA: $2,321; Cumulative: $29,459,000

The Takeaways

Top 10 Takes a Dip

Last Monday provided a pleasant surprise when, thanks to a very strong Mother’s Day, that weekend actually went up. As always, a trend is a work in progress; one weekend doesn’t mean trouble ahead.

The shortfall from “Alien: Covenant” combined with less-than-expected totals for “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul” means the top 10 fell about 10 percent from last year. So far, May is down 12 percent from 2016, mainly because the dominant “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is down from last year’s “Captain America: Civil War.”

Let’s face it: Relying on sequels as easier worldwide sells is starting to cause serious issues in domestic results. And since most of these are as or more expensive as their series continue, even the more stable foreign grosses don’t guarantee making up the difference.

The overarching problem is, what if some enduring franchises are in decline? What will replace them? Increasingly, Marvel, most D.C. Comics, top animation from Disney, Pixar, Universal, Dreamworks, 20th Century Fox, and an annual Star Wars entry should keep things close to steady. What happens if they don’t?

“Pirates” next weekend will test the revised interest in that series after a six-year break, and a reimagined “Baywatch” as a more adult venture should give some comfort. But less and less is guaranteed, with each week providing potential pitfalls.

“Alien: Covenant”20th Century Fox

“Alien: Covenant” Worse Than It Looks

It has been five years since “Prometheus,” the last Aliens movie and ticket prices have increased, which means attendance actually dropped 35 percent this time.

“Prometheus” gained from Ridley Scott returning to the series he started. This one returned to core monsters and frights, and returning lead Michael Fassbender is now better known.

This time, Saturday fell 21 percent, compared to 26 percent in 2012. So that’s a positive sign of sorts.

But in adjusted totals, “Covenant” is next to last in the franchise its opening figure. It could struggle to reach $100 million. That would place it sixth adjusted among the eight entries, with a small chance it could come in even lower.

They reason? A combination of the ongoing audience resistance to sequels, plus a reliance on an aging, male audience. The domestic makeup was 62 percent male, 66 percent 25 and older. That represents a film that appealed little beyond its core fans.

This is a series that, unless it finds some fresh blood and ideas, won’t justify the budget, which landed somewhere between $95 and 110 million. This just might be the end.

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul”

Next page: Why Fox had eight films in the top 10 — and that’s still not enough

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