The platonic ideal of a summer movie weekend is probably a big noisy action movie, these days a superhero movie, alongside a family film, which these days automatically means something animated. That's more or less what we're given this weekend, though probably in a reverse of the usual order, as our action franchise comes in very troubled and the animated sequel is still riding high off its surprise dominance last time out.
Weekend Forecast for June 7-9, 2019
By Reagen Sulewski
June 6, 2019
The Secret Life of Pets rode its way to a stunning $104 million debut in the summer of 2016, thanks to a very clever, vignette-style trailer that highlighted a bunch of its characters from the POV of typical pet-like mayhem. That just goes to show how much marketing can make a movie, as this was a trifling nothing burger of a movie - light, pleasant, mostly entertaining even, but on par with a Pixar film? Even a Minions film? Pah, I say. Pah pah.
But because of that, and the subsequent $368 million domestic take (seriously, read that number again), we're obviously back for more. The big twist this time is that our pets have to deal with a new arrival - a baby. So yup, it's basically a sitcom with talking pets. Patton Oswalt takes over the lead role of Max (seeing as how Louis C.K.'s career blew up shortly after the release of the original), while Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey and breakout star Kevin Hart (as the formerly maniacal rabbit Snowball) return in their voice roles. They're joined by Nick Kroll, Tiffany Haddish and Harrison Ford (lending his gruff voice to what so far as I can tell is his first animated role).
Three years ago, the first Secret Life had the benefit of mystery and potential and a great set of ads could build anticipation and excitement like it did, to drive a big opening weekend. Now, we know what this series will actually bring us, which is a not-too-special piece of acceptable and inoffensive family entertainment. That $100 million plus opening weekend is long, long gone as a possibility. Ads have been much less impressive this time around and there's just not going to be the crossover audiences in the same volume. I'd look for an opening weekend around $62 million.
The more non-MCU super hero films that get release, the more impressive the MCU's feat of 20+ movies in continuity becomes. Fox's big remaining holdout of a franchise, the X-Men, sees its tenth official outing this weekend, but in half the movie, over twice the time, it's decayed to half the box office. Dark Phoenix is the fourth movie in the rebooted timeline featuring James MacAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Professor X and Magneto, with all of the Baby X-Men under their wing and repeating their classic adventures.
Dark Phoenix, in particular, is the second try at the story that was so monumentally botched by Brett Ratner in X-Men: The Last Stand, where Jean Grey is possessed by the Phoenix Force, a universe wide destructive force, which bonds with and corrupts her, turning her against her allies on the X-Men and threatens Earth itself. Sophie Turner, just recently finished with Game of Thrones, takes on the Phoenix role, playing her best "oh I'm so baaad, girl" role. Jennifer Lawrence (who seems to have pulled the "I'm Too Famous" rip cord), Nicholas Hoult, Alexandra Shipp, Evan Peters and Kodi Smit-McPhee return as other members of the X-Men, while Jessica Chastain is our main baddy, the leader of a group of aliens with designs on Earth.
While the concept of the rebooted X-Men is one with some value, in practice it's fallen prey to the same problems as with the original trilogy and some of the DC films - connectivity has been forced and plotting hasn't been given time to breathe. First Class was generally well received and Days of Future Past has its defenders, but Apocalypse was a disaster of a film and this film seems to be paying the price for that. Whether it's as bad as that or not, the reputation hit has been passed along, with the fact that it's a repeat of a story, even if it was last told over a decade ago, is a big demerit. It also doesn't help that outside of the big four of the cast, none of the actors have been able to make names separately for themselves. A case in point, one of those names in that cast list was made up. ...Well no, it wasn't but it you had to check, right?
These films seem curiously depopulated and sterile, almost as if they're made out of contractual obligation and that's going to be reflected in the opening weekend, which should be around $50 million, lower than the original film's start in 2000.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters did manage to win the weekend in its debut, but just barely, earning $47 million in what's starting to seem like the Summer of Unnecessary Sequels. We're at barely half the opening weekend of the 2014 film and with a sizable $170 million budget, that's going to be poisonous to Warner Brothers' plans to flesh out this into a monster series. Kong vs. Godzilla is locked in but beyond that? Don't reserve your tickets just yet. I'd expect a very steep drop to $22 million this weekend.
Aladdin had a fairly large second weekend drop as well, to $42 million. This puts it on pace for around $275 million, which mostly justifies the nearly $200 million budget for this one. It definitely erases away the bad taste from Dumbo earlier this year. Ultimately I think Disney got away with one here, and will have to tread lightly with its future live-action adaptations, as this drops to $23 million.
Rocketman underperformed slightly, with a $25 million opening, showing that the PG-13 vs R rating debate is still a valid one. Bohemian Rhapsody's more family friendly content gave it a wider net to cast over audiences, with Elton John's life story proving more restricting cinematically. I wouldn't expect huge legs here, but a solid $15 million seems right here.
Horror movie Ma had a decent $18 million start, with the Octavia Spencer-led film managing fourth place. Typical horror legs apply here and it should fall to about $8 million. Finally, John Wick Chapter 3 should drop down to about $6 million as it edges towards $150 million domestic.