Saturday Update: Universal reports this morning that Secret Life of Pets 2 claimed first place in its first day of release with $16.5 million. This is a somewhat surprising turn of events given its fellow opener — Dark Phoenix — was expected to at least debut atop the box office on Friday due to its fan following (although our pre-release forecasts had always expected the animated sequel to win the weekend overall).
Pets 2, however, is still under-performing. The Illumination sequel registered 57 percent lower than its predecessor’s $38.5 million first day three summers ago, a film that went on to set the still-standing record weekend debut for an original film ($104.4 million).
Despite representing the first (supposed) tentpole animated release of this summer, it seems likely at this stage that two Disney titles have sucked the air out of the market for Pets 2‘s audience. Namely, those would be Aladdin, which has performed very well going into its third weekend, and the forthcoming Toy Story 4, which has dominated ticket sales for the past two weeks as families claim their seats for what’s shaping up to be the biggest animated release since last year’s Incredibles 2.
Nevertheless, the news is more dire for a film Disney itself inherited in the recent Fox acquisition. Dark Phoenix bowed with $14 million on Friday, which marks a new low in the 12-film X-Men franchise Fox has brought to the big screen over the last 19 years. The previous low was 2013’s The Wolverine ($20.655 million).
In Phoenix‘s case, a number of factors were working against it. Most were previously covered in our weekend forecast, although it’s clear that the fan goodwill of the franchise finally evaporated after nearly two decades of generally consistent box office turnouts. Aside from poor reviews, retelling a story audiences saw 13 years ago in The Last Stand, and the lack of a hook with fans already more interested in the future of the franchise under Marvel Studios’ control at Disney, spoiling a major character’s death in the trailers probably didn’t do it any favors either. The pervasive darkness of the trailers likewise made it a tough sell to young comic book movie fans and families.
If that weren’t enough, the franchise’s growing list of plot holes likely caught up with it. With a widely praised cast taking over quasi-reboot duties in 2011’s First Class, fans were able to forgive most of the minor story inconsistencies that began to pile up with each installment. 2014’s Days of Future Past went a long way toward rectifying many of them, and it also provided an emotional coda for the original cast led by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen — as 2017’s Logan did for Hugh Jackman. Those two storylines stand among the most popular in the brand’s comic book lore, and their film counterparts made them difficult acts to follow.
With the acclaim and success of those two films, and First Class before them, the franchise was back on the upswing — but going back to the well while trying to stick to the sort-of-same timeline made little sense without an emotional hook to keep moviegoers engaged.
For the weekend, Universal now projects $46.2 million for Pets 2 — and they’ll be including Fandango’s May 25 screening earnings in Sunday’s gross. Disney hasn’t offered a new projection for Phoenix, but if it plays similar to recent X-Men films and 2015’s Fantastic Four, Boxoffice projects it to land around $31.8 million this weekend. That would be less than the opening *days* of Logan ($33 million) and X-Men: Days of Future Past ($35.5 million).
Dark Phoenix is the first film in the franchise not to debut in first place at the box office. It’s virtually guaranteed to be the lowest grossing overall (“beating” The Wolverine‘s $132.6 million), and the first to miss $100 million domestically by the end of its run.
In the case of both films, release strategy could be cited as a problem. Hindsight is 20/20, but given the early 2019 box office slump during, and a forthcoming pre-holiday slate that has a few gaps of its own, its arguable that each of this weekend’s openers might have fared better — and faced less competition — with another spot on the calendar.
The studios’ own relative expectations (Universal had expected in the $50 million+ range for Pets 2, while Disney expected $40-50 million for Phoenix) are being missed this weekend, but pre-release tracking also got it significantly wrong. With two consecutive weekends of lukewarm-to-outright-poor debuts from franchise titles (and a third potentially ahead next weekend), there’s reason to wonder if the early summer market is slipping into a slump after a strong May. However, even with these select performers in mind, the overall top ten films this weekend are still estimated to earn north of $150 million — a 37 percent increase from the same weekend last year.
Much of that improvement can be attributed to holdovers like Aladdin, which eased 41 percent from last Friday to $7.034 million yesterday and stands at $214.9 million in 15 days of domestic play. Similarly, Rocketman added $3.76 million yesterday for a $40.3 million total thus far as it looks toward a strong second frame.
Unfortunately, Godzilla: King of the Monsters isn’t finding its footing yet as it sank more than 78 percent from opening day last week to $4.2 million yesterday. It now stands at $67.3 million through eight days domestically.
Early Weekend Estimates (Domestic)
FRI, JUN. 7 – SUN, JUN. 9
|1||The Secret Life of Pets 2||$45,000,000||—||4,561||—||$9,866||$45,000,000||1||Universal|
|4||Godzilla: King of the Monsters||$14,700,000||-69%||4,108||0||$3,578||$77,757,097||2||Warner Bros.|
|6||Ma (2019)||$7,200,000||-60%||2,816||8||$2,557||$32,148,075||2||Universal Pictures|
|7||John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum||$6,600,000||-40%||2,776||-828||$2,378||$137,862,998||4||Lionsgate|
|9||POKÉMON Detective Pikachu||$3,200,000||-54%||2,161||-986||$1,481||$137,621,719||5||Warner Bros.|
|10||Booksmart||$1,600,000||-52%||1,134||-1384||$1,411||$17,837,413||3||United Artists Releasing|
|1||A Dog’s Journey||$1,500,000||35%||631||-1043||$2,377||$21,180,820||4||Universal Pictures|
|2||The Intruder||$315,000||-61%||306||-501||$1,029||$34,951,180||6||Sony / Screen Gems|
|4||Dumbo||$125,000||-79%||112||-118||$1,116||$113,843,182||11||Walt Disney Pictures|
|6||Breakthrough||$80,000||-46%||137||-114||$584||$40,456,835||8||20th Century Fox|
|1||Penguins||$32,000||-68%||55||10||$582||$7,690,517||8||Disney / Disneynature|
Friday Update: Disney reports this morning that Fox’s X-Men finale, Dark Phoenix, earned an estimated $5.0 million from last night’s first showings beginning at 7pm — plus IMAX fan events at 6pm. That lands generally around pre-release expectations, coming in 39 percent below X-Men: Apocalypse‘s $8.2 million Thursday night start three years ago as part of Memorial Day weekend. It also registered 47 percent behind Logan‘s $9.5 million start in March 2017.
Based on last night’s performance, we’re expecting an opening weekend in the range of $40 – 50 million.
Meanwhile, The Secret Life of Pets 2 earned a solid $2.3 million from shows beginning at 6pm last night. That, too, was down from its predecessor by a 57 percent clip and 44 percent below Despicable Me 3‘s $4.1 million. However, it came in ahead of The Grinch‘s $2.2 million by 5 percent.
Read more of our analysis on the weekend ahead in our earlier forecast here.
Continued updates to follow throughout the weekend…