I haven’t used the term “franchise fatigue” in a while, but this weekend saw its effects, as the top two movies came up well under expectations, and at roughly half of what their predecessors made. This is on top of ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ which did the same last week.
As was expected, Illuminations’ ‘The Secret Life of Pets 2’ won the weekend, but came in far lower than expected, with $47.1 million, 56% less than the first ‘Secret Life of Pets’ in 2016, and versus projections that its opening would be $60M. In this case, it seems that there simply wasn’t a demand for a sequel to the first movie, which was just fine, and did well financially, but isn’t an instant family classic that folks were clamoring for another installment of. Marketing may be to blame here, as the ads for ‘The Secret Life of Pets 2’ didn’t do enough to indicate how this picture was different from the first.
However, the audiences that turned out had a great time, as families with kids under 12 gave it 5 out of 5 stars via tracking service PostTrak, with general audiences giving it only slightly less, 4½ stars. Through CinemaScore, it earned a glowing A-. Critics didn’t care for it, with its Rotten Tomatoes score being a weak 54%. (The first has a great 76%.)
‘Dark Phoenix’ is more of a dying ember than an inferno, with a $33M opening, the lowest ever for the ‘X-Men’ franchise. Even the first movie in 2000 made $54.4M in its opening frame.
In this case, it’s pretty obvious this was just a cash-grab on the part of 20th Century Fox, who had intended for ‘Dark Phoenix’ to open before it was bought out by Disney. That didn’t happen because the film kept getting delayed. In the eyes of audiences, this franchise is already dead. Everyone knows that Disney is going to reboot the whole shebang a few years down the road, so this movie doesn’t even “count,” and the last movie, ‘Apocalypse’ (also out in 2016) was one of the worst received by audiences.
On top of having the worst X-opening ever, ‘Dark Phoenix’ is also the worst reviewed, with a dismal 22% RT score, and has the worst audience reaction, with a B- CinemaScore, and 3 stars on PostTrak.
If it helps, ‘Dark Phoenix’ was the #1 movie worldwide, but it still made a paltry $107M overseas. (Verus ‘Days of Future Past’s $148M, and ‘Apocalypse’s $134M.) Combined with its US intake, that brings its worldwide total to $140M. ‘Dark Phoenix’ earned $45.6M in China, which is better than its domestic haul. ‘The Secret Life of Pets 2’ is being rolled out slowly in foreign markets.
Last week’s #1, ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ proved extremely front-loaded, as audiences rapidly shrank over the weekend, and this weekend, it only took in $15.5M, down 70% weekend over weekend. It fell to #4, as ‘Aladdin’ is still holding up quite well and clung to #3. The Disney fantasy made $24.5M more this weekend and, just for comparison, it was only down 43% from last week.
Addressing “franchise fatigue” in the case of ‘Godzilla’, it looks as though the studio overestimated audience interest in this brand and have stretched it too thin. Some experts believe that Warner Brothers and Legendary should have skipped this one, and jumped straight to ‘Godzilla Vs. Kong’, which is coming out next year. But the weak performance of ‘King of the Monsters’ may actually poison ‘GvK’.
‘Rocketman’ rounds out the Top Five, earning $14M.
- The Secret Life of Pets 2 (Universal/Illumination) – $47.1M
- Dark Phoenix (Disney/Fox) – $33M
- Aladdin (Disney) – $24.5M
- Godzilla: King of the Monsters (Warner Brothers/Legendary) – $15.5M
- Rocketman (Paramount) – $14M
“Franchise fatigue” might be a problem again next week when ‘Men in Black: International’ opens. This picture was already expected to open lower than the previous three movies in the franchise (at about $40M), but if audiences are just plain tired of these brands, that could drive ticket sales even lower. As well-liked as Chris Hemsworth is, some might be put off or even confused as to why he and Tessa Thompson are starring and not Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. (It appears that confusion among general audiences is also part of what torpedoed ‘Dark Phoenix’)
Additionally, if you want a laugh, ‘Shaft’ starring Samuel L. Jackson, and Jim Jarmusch’s ‘The Dead Don’t Die’ starring Bill Murray and Adam Driver are opening, although they are not expected to be major competitors against the more summery tentpoles. Also, the female-targeted ‘Late Night’ expands wider, after opening at just four theaters this past weekend.
Check back to see how things work out!