Box Office Wrap Up: As Phoenix Turns to Ash, Box Office Rises.
Sequels continue to crater, yet the box office is doing brisk business so far this summer.
I hope you like a paradox. For the second weekend in a row, big blockbuster sequels absolutely bombed. Godzilla delivered under projections and less than half what the first film made. The Secret Life of Pets 2 shared a similar fate this week, massively under-performing compared to the first film. And the X-Men…well there’s no nice way to explain what happened to Fox’s final outing in the super mutant franchise. So with the top grossing films all being flops, you’d expect the box office to be in free fall.
For a second straight week, the box office over-performed compared to recent years. This week’s total take was the third best tally in a decade. Clearly something weird is going on under the hood. Let’s get to the bottom of this box office mystery.
This Week in Box Office History.
The domestic box office was down a modest 6% compared to last week, but up a healthy 36% compared to last year. The overall take of 163 million dollars was the third best earnings for this frame. Overall, Summer 2019 is tracking 14% better than 2018 – no surprise there as 2018’s summer was miserable – but the big news is that Summer 2019 is currently on pace to be the second best summer in a decade, reversing a downward trend that’s been in effect since 2015.
How to reconcile these optimistic tones against three big sequels crumpling on release? There are two trends at work here.
- The franchises in question are not habitually early June releases. Re-shoots, soft early impressions, and studio insider baseball all forced these films into a new time slot. The dominance of Disney – Endgame and Aladdin are still impacting the box office and Toy Story 4 is just right around the corner – is forcing smaller fish to find new niches. So, while the new time slot is nowhere near as lucrative as the old time slot, it does mean we’re getting bigger movies spread out, increasing the early June numbers.
- Those Disney films and a few other notable surprise success stories like Rocketman, Ma, and John Wick 3 are having long tails. Aladdin in particular is aging gracefully at the box office. Several late May films debuted well above expectations, so their contributions to the current box is still being felt.
So, we’re in for a record June, right? Not necessarily. The last few summers have all had massive Pixar launches. The Incredibles 2 and Finding Dory went on to break records all over the place. If Toy Story 4 finds itself in the same sequel slump that has been gripping the rest of the box office, it could erase the early lead we’ve built up this year. It’s unlikely, since Toy Story has been making more money with each outing and has a natural home in June…but ask the Ice Age franchise how quickly summer dominance can evaporate.
Top Film Last Year: Ocean’s 8.
Top Film Last Decade: The Hangover.
Top Three Films.
The Secret Life of Pets 2 left its mark on the top spot, but the dog was more bark than bite. The sequel took in 47 million dollars, less than half of what the first film made. It was also the lowest opening for an Illumination Animation feature since 2016’s Sing. The take wasn’t too terrible in relationship to a 80 million dollar budget, but as we noted above, it’s about to run into the Disney wood chipper when Toy Story 4 sucks all of the demographic air out of the room.
Dark Phoenix had a dark weekend at the second spot. The film was absolutely savaged by critics, though the numbers were a bit better with fans who awarded it 65% on Rotten Tomatoes and a B- on Cinemascore. Regardless of the film’s quality, its earnings were abysmal. At 33 million dollars, it was the worst opening of the 12 film franchise, fully 50% lower than the last outing, Apocalypse, and 20 million dollars behind what the first X-Men film earned way back in 2000. Adding fuel to my hypothesis above, one can see that all of the highest earning X movies premiered in early to mid May, while the clunkers tended to land in June.
Aladdin held on for third place, upping its domestic total to 232 million dollars. With its current legs, it will probably won’t wind up challenging Alice in Wonderland for the third best live-action adaptation of a Disney film, but it should comfortably pass Malificent and Oz the Great and Powerful for fourth place.
Godzilla slipped 65%, down to fourth place. That’s a very bad indicator for a film on the knife’s edge of being declared a flop. Foreign sales have slowed as well, leaving the big green brute still shy of the 300 million dollar mark globally, against a 170 million dollar budget.
Two limited release films has strong weekends, even though they finished outside the top ten. Amazon Studio’s female led buddy comedy, Late Night, landed in 16th spot, taking in 250 thousand dollars at just four locations. That’s a big 62k per screen average – Endgame notched 76K at its peak. A24’s critically applauded drama, The Last Black Man in San Fransisco, had a solid debut: it took in 235 thousand at six locations for a 33k average. Hopefully that will catch enough attention to earn both these films national expansions.
Top Ten Films.
1. The Secret Life of Pets 2 (47.1)
2. Dark Phoenix (33.0)
3. Aladdin (24.5)
4. Godzilla King of the Monsters (15.5)
5. Rocketman (14.0)
6. Ma (7.8)
7. John Wick Chapter 3 (7.4)
8. Avengers Endgame (4.8)
9. Pokemon Detective Pikachu (2.9)
10. Booksmart (1.55)