Everything is awe...ful?
by Tim Briody
February 10, 2019
So this was supposed to be the weekend when the 2019 box office finally came into its own, a sequel to a successful animated film was about as sure a thing as you bet on this weekend. However, The LEGO Movie 2 shockingly underperforms, which is something that suddenly might be a recurring theme this year at the box office.
The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part does win the weekend pretty easily, but with only $34.4 million. Consider that The LEGO Movie, on this same weekend in 2014, opened to $69 million on its way to a $257 million total, and that's a stunning downfall. Even in 2017, the LEGO Batman spinoff started with $53 million and landed with $175 million. It's not as bad off as The LEGO Ninjago Movie, from the fall of 2017, which opened to $20.4 million and finished with $59.2 million but it might as well be with the dramatic fall off here from the first proper film to the sequel.
So barring otherworldly legs, the question we're going to be asking is "what happened?" As Kim Hollis said yesterday, we may be approaching the point when the majority of audiences decide that only the biggest event movies are truly worthy of a trip to the theater. After Glass's underwhelming opening weekend was mainly attributed to the lousy reviews, The LEGO Movie 2 doesn't really have the same excuse, it rated 84% Fresh at Rotten Tomatoes, not quite the 95% of the first one, but that's still solid.
To add to Kim's point, the quality of films (and binge-able shows) available on Netflix and Amazon has increased to the point where it's now easier to stay home and watch something on there, rather than venture out to the theater, especially when it'll probably be on the streaming services in a couple of months. We'll go see the big ones, like Avengers, Captain Marvel, Star Wars, sure. So maybe everyone was skipping this one to wait for How to Train Your Dragon 3?
While it's not total doom and gloom just yet, if I'm any other studio than Disney, I'm suddenly very frightened for what this year's box office will bring.
Financially, The LEGO Movie 2 has a little bit of work to do. With a reported $99 million budget (up a bit from the $65 million price tag of the original), it will need a boost from overseas audiences to end up significantly in the black. Right now, $100 million seems like the ceiling, but things will be much clearer after next weekend. Either way, Warner Bros. cannot be happy about this performance.
Second place goes to What Men Want, a loose update of the Mel Gibson/Helen Hunt 2000 movie What Women Want. Led by Taraji. P. Henson and Tracy Morgan, the romantic comedy earned $19 million, which is not that bad. Getting a weekend ahead of Valentine's Day was the right call for this, and Henson has definitely been charming in comedic roles going back to the Think Like a Man movies. It's just shy of its $20 million budget after opening weekend, so Paramount has an inexpensive winner here.
Cold Pursuit marks the first time this year three openers have taken the top three spots. With $10.8 million, the film appears to have been unscathed despite the dumb comments recently made by star Liam Neeson. The controversy didn't seem to affect the box office, as really this always felt like the ceiling for the black comedy action entry. Even just last year Neeson's The Commuter landed with $13.7 million opening weekend, as once again he tries to recapture the magic that was Taken, but misses the mark. Unfortunately, Neeson's comments are what we'll always associate with this movie, not that it's a dark and gritty version of Mr. Plow. It also had a reported $60 million budget, so that's not great either.
The Upside creeps closer to $100 million as the leggiest film of 2018 dips just 17% in its fifth weekend with $7.2 million and $85.8 million to date. If only the true event films are gonna be huge, the future is relatively inexpensive ($38 million reported budget) crowd pleasers like this one.
Glass is bumped all the way from first to fifth after three weekends at the top, but falls short of $100 million still, with $6.4 million (down 33%) and $98.4 million to date. It'll get there this week but is still going to go down as a disappointment, and may have been a bellwether for future releases this year. We'll see.
The Prodigy was the fourth opener this weekend and took sixth with $6 million. Cheap horror is also still going to be fine if we're entering a new box office era (our nation turns its lonely eyes to you, Blumhouse), as this one from the rebooted Orion Pictures (now a subsidiary of MGM) only cost $6 million, so everything from here on out is a bonus. Not a big bonus, mind you, but still.
Green Book continues to hang in there as we get closer to the Oscars (someone buy Liam Neeson a ticket, maybe?), sliding just 18% to $3.5 million and giving it $61.5 million since its November release.
Aquaman bids farewell to the top five in its ninth weekend with $3.3 million (down 32%) and $328.5 million to date, while Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse earns $3 million in its ninth weekend and has $179.8 million, outlasting all the December releases except for Aquaman and most of January's as well. A sequel for that one cannot come quickly enough.
Wrapping up the top ten is the big collapse of the weekend as Miss Bala dives 60% after attempting to counterprogram the Super Bowl, earning $2.7 million and giving it $11.8 million in two weekends. Still short of its $15 million budget, with poor reviews, it never had much of a chance in theaters.
The top 12 films this weekend managed $100 million, that's down from last year's $119.4 million when Fifty Shades Freed opened with $38.5 million. That's right, the third Fifty Shades of Grey movie earned more on opening weekend than the second LEGO Movie. If you needed more evidence that things are changing at the box office, well, consider that next weekend's slate will compare to the opening weekend of Black Panther. It's not going to be pretty.
That's not to say next weekend is bad, there's horror sequel and best titled film of 2019 Happy Death Day 2U, the trope filled comedy Isn't It Romantic and Alita: Battle Angel. Okay, so maybe one out of three is looking bad.