February in 2019 gets the short straw. Not only does this month have the fewest days with which to accrue box office, but this February also follows in the footsteps of the staggering performance of last year’s Black Panther, the biggest film of that year. On top of that, this February had lackluster titles, and even those that were expected to do well tended to fall well short of expectations. Last year holds the record for the largest February gross of all time, almost half of which was due to Black Panther. This year has the lowest gross since 2013 in absolute dollars, but truthfully has the lowest gross since 1995 when adjusting for inflation (Hello, Brady Bunch Movie!). If there is a silver lining, it is that new releases made up the bulk of the money, even if the pie itself was small. Save us Captain Marvel!
February 2019 Box Office Recap
By Steven Slater
March 12, 2019
1) The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part
Opening Weekend: $34.1 M
Monthly Total: $85.1 M
This is part two. It comes after the first one. Before the third. Do not count Batman or Ninjago. There is only this one second part. Never a second second. Why is a unit of time called a second and not a first? Are you still with me? Good. Despite all the bad news, and much of it was indeed bad, this LEGO film was able to take the box office crown for February. Warner Bros. seems to have squeezed too many golden eggs from this goose too quickly, as this sequel to the original breakout hit fell back to earth in a hard way. The first film opened in 2014 to $69 million, a tad above its modest production budget, and finished with domestic/international totals of $258/$469 million. The first semi-sequel, the LEGO Batman movie, opened with $53 million and finished with $176/$312 million. If we toss Ninjago aside (he’s used to it), then we see that this Second Part is actually acting like Part Three, with numbers diminishing accordingly. The opening weekend was lass than half of the first film’s, and we can expect a final domestic total under half of the original’s gross as well. While three main LEGO films in five years does not seem like too many, people apparently had their fill of plastic brick action with one dose. Also not helping things is that the production budgets are creeping up, so there is a chance this LEGO film does not get into the black. After their moderate if not spectacular box office success with Spider-man, and all the other drama they have been through, Miller and Lord can at least feel good with how well Spider-man was received, Oscar win and all.
2) How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Opening Weekend: $55 M
Monthly Total: $67.7 M
At the top we are two for two, as we have animated films dominating the charts this month. Dreamworks Animation releases their third Dragons film under their third studio, Universal, and sees an opening that fits right in with the two previous films. TL;DR is LEGO trends down, Dragons maintain. The bow was actually a bit higher than the first two films, but the end result should be the same. Looking at the trilogy, they opened to about $44, $49 and $55 million, with the first two ending up with $218 and $177 million domestic grosses, and $494 and $622 million worldwide receipts. The third should follow suit, with a domestic gross that gets to around $170 million, but worldwide receipts that could match the second film. All in all, an excellent result considering what happened to the LEGO films. The other great news is that the budgets have actually shrunk with each film, so even with slightly diminishing domestic returns, Dragons numero tres will be good business for Dreamworks and Universal.
3) Alita: Battle Angel
Opening Weekend: $28.5 M
Monthly Total: $65.2 M
You may not consider Alita to be an animated title, but we might as well just say that CGI animation was what a lot of people saw in theaters this February. Alita actually did a bit better than I would have expected, after the kindred spirit disaster that was Mortal Engines and the reaction to Rosa Salazar’s augmented eyes. Even so, Alita carries a huge budget (courtesy of James Cameron) that will be impossible to meet, even with some moderate assistance from China. Given early buzz has been lukewarm for Dark Phoenix, Fox may be ending its life as a solo studio with more of a thud than a 20th Century Fox fanfare. Pour one out for them until Avatar 2 finally hits theaters.
4) What Men Want
Opening Weekend: $18.2 M
Monthly Total: $46.9 M
This documentary about Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic behavior is doing exceptionally well. Well, actually, this remake of the Gibson/Helen Hunt film, redone in the more progressive modern era with Taraji P. Henson in the lead role, switches things up to try an maintain a fresh angle. Unfortunately, it appears they struck out, even if the box office is decent. What Men Want carried a budget in the low $20’s of millions, which it nearly earned after one weekend. It fell hard, though, and will only wind up under $60 million in the end. This is all the more painful considering the 2000 film earned $182 million domestic, and was the fifth largest film of that year. Next time will hopefully be more along the lines of what audiences want.
5) Isn’t it Romantic
Opening Weekend: $14.2 M
Monthly Total: $35.7 M
Never begin a movie title with a contraction! It’s bad luck! Like waging a land war with Russia. Now that you are reading the rest of this in the voice of Wallace Shawn, note also that there is no question mark at the end of the title. Movies titles deliberately never have a question mark, much as skyscrapers never have a floor 13. It’s bad luck! The trivia notes for Who Framed Roger Rabbit taught me this important cinematic lesson. Back to the film starring Rebel Wilson (no, it is not a Pitch Perfect sequel), the rather clever film premise does not appear to have delivered quality or box office in spades. The budget was probably limited on this one as with What Men Want, and getting to $50 million should be enough that no one blames this film for anything. In fact, if one considers Rebel Wilson as the bigger star from the 2016 film How to be Single, her box office performance is very consistent. Luckily, Warner Bros. has other bigger hits coming down the pike, although the LEGO movie’s performance must have them sweating about Shazam! and my personal favorite, Detective Pikachu.
6) The Upside
Monthly Total: $34 M
Running Total: $100.8 M
Finally we reach the first holdover of the month, as The Upside kept its streak going throughout February. After being the second highest grossing new film of January, Upside leaps past Glass and pulls out the older crowds. After three weeks in release, Upside was still able to earn plenty of cash in month two. With tiny weekend drops up until the final weekend in February, The Upside is the leggier movie of 2019 so far, passing a 5.0 multiplier. In fact, with only half the opening weekend of Glass, it may get within about five million of Glass’ domestic total. Next up is the sequel The Upside Down starring those pesky kids from small-town Hawkins, Indiana.
Monthly Total: $29.5 M
Running Total: $108.6 M
M. Night is back! Oh, wait, never mind, the good ones were a fluke. Again. Shyamalan is a director who veers like a drunk driver, occasionally driving straight and then suddenly careening into a one way street in the wrong direction. Glass does not appear to have been the outright abomination that After Earth and the Avatar movie were (no, not that one), but simply mediocre enough that it is earning most of its money off the goodwill of Split, and perhaps Unbreakable. After matching Split’s opening, Glass fell over fifty percent in weekend two and has not looked back. This means it will struggle to get past $110 million, almost $30 million less than Split. The great news is this is still a Jason Blum production, so the budget was a modest $20 million. Next up for Blum is the Jason Peele horror film Us, whereas Shyamalan may pivot back to an old project he’s had in development hell since 1992.
8) Cold Pursuit
Opening Weekend: $11 M
Monthly Total: $28.3 M
I think of all recent Liam Neeson films, this one had me the most jazzed up to watch it. Something about the trailer was just off-kilter enough to put a little interest in Liam’s grizzled old man visage after umpteen films where he was playing the same character. Unfortunately, what audiences do not really want is off-kilter Liam Neeson, his comments on prior racist attitudes notwithstanding. The odd remake filmed by its original director, Cold Pursuit will not be the next Fargo. Liam Neeson has struggled to reemerge from the shadow of Taken, the third film of which was his last hit. This film will not be able to squeeze out a 3.0 multiplier, and expect it in the bargain bin shortly.
9) Happy Death Day 2U
Opening Weekend: $9.5 M
Monthly Total: $22.8 M
What can one add to the story of this film beyond its title? I think Hemingway’s six word story has suddenly been eclipsed by something two shorter, if 2U counts as one word. Yet another micro-budgeted film produced by Jason Blum, this other sequel on his roster opened with only a third of the first film’s bow, and will be lucky to finish with half of its domestic gross. Will there be a third movie? Will it be called Happy 3eath Day?
10) Green Book
Monthly Total: $19.7 M
Running Total: $71.2 M
However you may feel about Green Book as a film, it’s box office is leagues ahead of the other two presumed Oscar front-runners, The Favourite and Roma (even if Roma is hard to quantify). That being said, it is also far under Black Panther and Bohemian Rhapsody. Therefore, it is decidedly in the middle of the road, which seems perfectly fitting. After going wide with only $5.5 million during Thanksgiving weekend, Green Book has seen it’s numbers fall and rise multiple times over the past few months. Although not quite as leggy as The Greatest Showman, it has earned the best multiplier from the holiday period, with a 14.0 and counting. In fact, it’s third highest weekend was the first one in March, right after it’s big Oscar win. Look for this one to do well on DVD with the older crowd (whoever heard of 4K UHD Blu-Ray), since The Favourite was a bit too Lanthimossy for them.
Missing out on the top ten are Miss Bala, with $14.8 million, Aquaman with $14.5 million, Spider-man with $14.4 million, Prodigy with $14 million, and Fighting with My Family with $10.3 million. Those same titles also give us the top ten openers for the month. February 2019 grosses came out to about $624 million, with about two thirds of that from new films. If you want to feel even worse about box office in 2019, consider these two statistics: at the end of February, only two films had barely broken the $100 million mark; and the Chinese film The Wandering Earth has earned $677 million dollars in China, which by itself is more than all films in all movie theaters earned in February stateside.
I think I am beginning to understand now. If Disney does not release a movie, then there is no box office. I will pray to the effigy of Bob Iger and hope that Captain Marvel and Dumbo rescue us from the doldrums of the modern movie theater. April will again mostly be a disaster, and then at the tail end it and May will be saved by Avengers: Really the End. Then the whole summer will be salvaged by their trifecta of Aladdin, Toy Story 4 and The Lion King. Seriously, can any other studio even be noticed amongst those titles right now? Never mind Will Smith’s genie. You can’t put that genie...you know what, forget it.