Friday Box Office Analysis
By Kim Hollis
February 9, 2019
"You've gotta stop pretending everything is awesome. It isn't."
Alas, Lucy aka Wyldstyle's words in The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part proved all too prophetic. Remember when I mentioned that 2019 might be the year when people finally decide that only event movies are truly worthy of a theatrical viewing. After Glass failed to expand from Split's performance despite promising a twist and a wrapping up of a superhero series (so to speak), we've seen continued blah weeks at the box office. The Upside is a strange bright spot, having earned more than $80 million domestically for STX Entertainment, but otherwise, 2019 has been a movie wasteland. Studios not named Disney or Blumhouse (for Universal) have to be worrying about their prospects.
Despite being a lot of fun and scoring good reviews overall, The LEGO Movie 2 just couldn't duplicate the magic of the original LEGO Movie. Or The LEGO Batman Movie. The sequel to the breakout animated hit of 2014 earned just half of what its predecessor did on its first Friday, in fact. It's also about $5 million behind LEGO Batman. So, we're looking at a total yesterday of $8.5 million, which is likely to lead to just a $31 million weekend and a lot of people talking about what went wrong. (Note that this number may wind up higher as the studio put out a sneak preview a few weekends ago and the box office from that may tally into the total.)
Honestly, I don't know that there's much blame to throw around, other than the fact that The LEGO Movie 2 seemed to be shockingly underpromoted compared to the other films of the franchise. It was like Warner Bros. just expected people to know it was coming. But really, the film has solid reviews and word of mouth (audiences at my sneak a few weeks ago were delighted with it). The product was just fine. I don't even think it's sequel-itis. I just think we've reached the point that if there isn't something TRULY special or distinctive about a film, people will stay home and view one of their many, many other options. Netflix has cannily timed some new films for release, along with complete TV series. Also, people are pretty wise to the fact that most movies will hit home video somewhere between two and three months after their theatrical release. Why pay $100 or so for a family to go see The LEGO Movie 2 and get snacks when you can just watch it at home in a couple of months?
My bold suggestion is that we're going to see a limited number of films break out in 2019. At this point, I'm not even sure about How to Train Your Dragon 3, which is absolutely an A+ film (I saw it last week), gorgeous and totally deserving of being seen on the big screen. But the second film in the series wasn't quite as well received as the first, which gives me pause for concern. It's the finale for the series, so there's still hope, but I'm not sure that it's a hit.
With that said, the films that *should* perform well in 2019 include Captain Marvel, Us, Dumbo, Pet Sematary, Avengers: Endgame, John Wick 3, Aladdin, Child's Play, Toy Story 4, Spider-Man: Far from Home, The Lion King, Hobbs & Shaw, It: Chapter 2, Doctor Sleep, Frozen 2, Jumanji 2, Star Wars IX, and various unnamed Blumhouse films. That's pretty much down to Disney, horror, superheroes, and John Wick. The theatrical landscape is changing, and studios and especially movie theaters have not adapted well.
The Taraji P. Henson comedy What Men Want debuted just $2 million behind The LEGO Movie 2, which I'm sure everyone expected. It's no great shakes with regard to reviews, but people do love Henson (including me). It's a genial, simple sort of comedy that will do well enough for Paramount that it will likely earn a sequel. With just a $20 million budget, a $6.6 million start on Friday will mean a seriously okay weekend debut right around $16 million.
Once upon a time, Liam Neeson was tearing it up as the old guy action star in movies like Taken and its many sequels and clones. Lionsgate went back to the well for Cold Pursuit, but they surely couldn't have foreseen that Neeson would talk about his vengeful desire to kill a black person after a friend was raped. It's possible that Cold Pursuit would have done poorly either way, but there's not a chance in the world that his strange confession helped matters. Yesterday's total of $3.6 million probably means a forgettable weekend total of $8.5 million. That might be best for everyone involved.
By the way, not all horror is good horror, as The Prodigy proved. The latest creepy kid movie earned just $2 million yesterday, though I suppose with a tiny $6 million budget, no one is going to be too upset. It's going to earn most of its revenue from home video, which is pretty typical for similar films of the genre. It'll hit about $5 million for the weekend.
Remember when Sony released Miss Bala over Super Bowl weekend? No one else does, either. It declined 74 percent from last Friday, and it's going to stay about that bad for the remainder of the weekend. $1.7 million for weekend two is just... ugh, not that anyone was expecting much from it anyway.
Box office commentary this year isn't fun, people. If you think Alita: Battle Angel is going to improve things, you're adorable.