NOTE: Thanks to Valentine’s Day on Thursday and President’s Day on Monday, some are monitoring this as a five-day weekend. The information below is based on the first three/four days and projections for late Sunday and Monday.
There’s good and bad news about the #1 movie of the weekend, ‘Alita: Battle Angel’, and the fact that it is #1 is a nice place to start. Despite some scathing reviews, audiences opted to check it out for themselves to decide whether they liked it or not. The film has been widely praised for its 3D visual effects, with many urging theatergoers to spring for the premium tickets for that reason. The extra cash certainly helped give ‘Alita’ a bump to $27.8M 3-day and $33M 4-day and $41.7M 5-day. It was only tracking to make $24M-28M, so it did better than expected.
The bad news is that this is still a weak opening. Though its budget was originally reported to be between $200M-$250M, supposedly tax breaks brought it down to $170M. But insiders say that the break-even point is $500M, which looks… well, impossible. But it has yet to open in China, and this sort of movie (heavy on CGI, light on story) always does phenomenally there. But bear in mind that only about 25% of what it makes there goes to Fox. The picture is doing excellently in Japan, the source of the original manga, in only preview screenings.
Part of the issue in the U.S. seems to be Fox’s marketing department not knowing who this movie is for. On the surface– cyborgs with shiny sharp metal appendages– it seems made for the male 25+ crowd, but under that surface lies a YA love story, seemingly for teen girls. Of those who attended opening weekend screenings, there were very few girls under 12, but those that did see it loved it the most with a 100% positive reaction. Its overall audience ranking according to CinemaScore was a great A-. Critics are split, with nearly half absolutely loving it and half hating it, to the tune of a 59% Rotten Tomatoes score.
The other big problem is that this is essentially a new science fiction property, and those aren’t doing well lately, with December’s ‘Mortal Engines’ serving as the most recent reminder. There are some that seem to be staying away at first just to see how others react before heading to theaters, especially considering the “see it in 3D” push. Some are actually predicting that ‘Alita’s second weekend could be bigger than its first, considering that audiences are nearly universally loving it.
Of course, perhaps the biggest reason some are wary? Those creepy wide anime eyes. But this was a stylistic choice Rodriguez made to make the film look more like the source material.
Moving on, ‘The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part’ held up better than expected, to remain at #2, making $19.1M for Fri, Sat, and Sun, and $24.7M over five days.
Valentines Day helped the new Rebel Wilson romantic comedy spoof ‘Isn’t It Romantic?’, which made $14.2M over Fri, Sat, and Sun, $16.5M with Monday added in, and $22.7M with Thursday and Wednesday night previews. Audiences liked it well enough, giving it three and a half stars according to PostTrak. Critics don’t find it terrible, with a 69% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes.
Valentines Day also bolstered ‘What Men Want’, which opened last weekend. This picture, starring Taraji P. Henson, earned an additional $10.9M 3-day and $12.6 5-day.
The movie that experts expected to give ‘Alita’ a run for its money– ‘Happy Death Day 2U’– is, er, not. While ‘Alita’ outpaced its tracking, ‘Happy Death Day 2U’ is coming in below expectations. It was eyed to make $17M-20M over three days and $23M-$25M over five, but instead took in $9M for three and $10.4M for five. Its budget was just $9M, so it will make money, but perhaps not as much as was expected and hoped.
The biggest issue seems to be that this is a sequel to a horror movie that was a big hit, but not exactly a phenomenon. Critics also didn’t like it as much, with it ranking 66% on RT, versus the 75% earned by the first.
- Alita: Battle Angel (20th Century Fox) – $24.4M 3-day/ $28.8M 4-day/ $37.5M Total
- The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (Warner Brothers) – $19.1M 3-day/$24.7 4-day
- Isn’t It Romantic (New Line/Warner Brothers) – $13.3M 3-day/ $15.5M 4-day/ $21.7M Total
- What Men Want (Paramount) – $10.4M 3-day/ $12M 4-day
- Happy Death Day 2 U (Universal/Blumhouse) – $9M 3-day/ $10.4M 4-day/ $14.9M Total
This President’s Day weekend accounted for just over $150M at the box office, which is down considerably from last year, when ‘Black Panther’ opened and carried the B.O. to $346.5M. Not only that, but this is the lowest-grossing four-day weekend since 2001.
Opening in limited release, ‘Fighting With My Family’ is doing great at four theaters. Audiences have given it an A CinemaScore and it’s ranked at 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. Annapurna’s Erik Lomis exclaimed:
“Audiences and critics are falling in love with ‘Fighting With My Family’ — it’s the first great movie of 2019. It was produced by Dwayne Johnson, who saw the potential of a great film when he discovered the rags-to-riches story of the WWE’s Paige and her lovable, crazy family. The brilliant writer/director Stephen Merchant and his talented cast really deliver on heart and hilarity. We’re locked and loaded for a great expansion next weekend — word-of-mouth is superb.”
Johnson also has a supporting role as himself. Look for this to do great as it expands.
But is it strong enough to take down next week’s big release, ‘How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World’? Eh, probably not. But does the weak performance of ‘The LEGO Movie 2’ indicate that the family audience is a bit overwhelmed? Or simply not in need of theatrical entertainment at this time?
Reviews are strong– 96%. This is also being sold as the final chapter of this popular trilogy, and the trailer has been screening in theaters since last fall. These factors could lead to a stronger showing than that of ‘The LEGO Movie 2’.
Will ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ take the #1 spot from ‘Alita’? Check back to see.