May 2019 Box Office Recap
By Steven Slater
June 12, 2019
In 1977, May was officially crowned the month of the blockbuster, the beginning of the summer movie season, the moment when the masses can get excited about movies once again. A lot has changed, especially recently, and May is no longer the month on a pedestal it once was. We still always see a few blockbusters open in May, but often the summer opener comes in April, or arguably any month after Black Panther smashed records in February. This year, the fifth month saw movies earn $1.077 billion at the domestic box office, which is actually the second highest total behind 2013. This helps boost the yearly total compared to last year’s record grosses, as Avengers has helped even the playing field with last year’s Black Panther. One nagging issue, however, is the struggle for any big budget title outside the Marvel pantheon. The pie may be getting bigger, but the slices are getting smaller.
1) Avengers: Endgame
Monthly Box Office: $382.7 M
Running Total: $809.8 M
By a country mile, Avengers destroyed the competition this month, as expected. After having a week to earn the most money ever accrued in seven days, the Endgame slowed down a bit in May, succumbing to gravity. Unlike The Force Awakens, which had the holiday box office to prop it’s insane grosses, Endgame exploded out of the gate but had surprisingly less staying power. Avengers fell higher than 50% on average every weekend in May, including almost 60% on its second weekend. So although it opened almost $110 million above TFA, Avengers immediately had lower weekdays, and by weekend three Star Wars was pulling ahead on a day-to-day basis. Therefore, it is now certain that Avengers will not take the domestic crown, and instead finish around $840 million, about $100 million behind TFA’s final total of $936 million. When, oh when, shall we see a billion dollar earner in North America? I would guess after we see one in China.
Avengers still has bragging rights in one regard; within a few days, it should take the worldwide box office crown from Avatar, beating the latter’s $2.788 billion, and finally taking James Cameron off his perch after twenty two years! Never mind adjusting for inflation (hello Victor Fleming!). Again, Avengers exploded out of the gate with a global bow of $1.22 billion, and yet it will barely finish with twice that amount. Three days is the world to a modern big event film. The biggest foreign country by far is China, as expected, with over $600 million in grosses, followed by Britain and South Korea with over $100 million each. One interesting tidbit; by the end of the month, Avengers was on it’s 36th day, and was earning less than Captain Marvel on its 36th day (both Fridays, by the way). For whatever reason, everyone saw Avengers already, and it does not have the legs of the year’s earlier Marvel film, even with an opening over twice as large.
Opening Weekend: $91.5 M
Monthly Box Office: $154.6 M
Well, it’s not a Dumbo, and it’s not a Beauty and the Beast, so let’s firmly plant Aladdin right in the middle of the box office scale. With a decent opening weekend, and decent holds, Aladdin looks aimed for a decent finish. Perhaps it will be merely the appetizer for the main entree, The Lion King, finishing the live action tri-fecta from Disney’s second golden age of animation (minus fourth wheel The Little Mermaid). Luckily, Aladdin has had the legs expected of more family-oriented fare, and should earn close to $300 million by the end of its run. Unlike many recent remakes, this means it will out-earn the original, which finished with a phenomenal $217 million and was the top film of 1992. The modern version, however, has a huge budget approaching $200 million, so its ultimate fate may still be to not earn a profit. I think now we need a hard-R, edgy version of Aladdin, or just do the entire 1001 Nights. That will make Iago molt.
3) Pokemon Detective Pikachu
Opening Weekend: $54.4 M
Monthly Box Office: $125.8 M
Everyone needs a reminder now and again that time is marching on, quicker than you expect. Much as we just celebrated the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we also can celebrate this year as the 20th anniversary of the first Pokemon movie. That’s right, Pokemon has been around for more than 25% of our post-World War II world. Warner Bros.’ live-action Pokémon film, however, is the first of its kind, and somehow managed to beat expectations of what everyone thought those words would mean. Perhaps inserting the consciousness of Deadpool into any character inevitably results in quality. He is the David Attenborough of animated creatures. With weekend drops averaging 50%, Pikachu is heading for a 3.0 multiplier, although with a large $150 million budget that still will not be enough. It does, however, absolve Nintendo somewhat of the stench of Super Mario Bros. After Dune, that should be the next project Denis Villeneuve resurrects from the dead.
4) John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
Opening Weekend: $56.8 M
Monthly Box Office: $117.6 M
Pokemon may be over twenty years old, but Keanu is fifty four and still kicking major ass. He and Tom Cruise seem to inhabit that realm of disillusionment where Sean Connery used to reside, the aged action hero. Like Cruise’s Mission: Impossible franchise, Reeve’s new franchise just keeps getting better and better, whether the metric is reviews or box office. The third entry in this unlikely dog-loving saga exploded with an opening weekend higher than the $43 million domestic total of the first John Wick. The second film more than doubled that total, and there’s no reason to think the third cannot triple it and then some. Although it dropped by about 55% each weekend in May, these first days in June are showing a few extra legs. John Wick 4 is coming baby.
5) The Intruder
Opening Weekend: $10.9 M
Monthly Box Office: $33.6 M
Something about this and the next few titles makes me feel like these are all leftovers from the late 1990’s. This is a film where Dennis Quaid sells a property to Meagan Good and Michael Ealy, and then he ain’t no Mister Nice Guy anymore. Kind of gives me the vibes of Pacific Heights, where Michael Keaton was in Quaid’s shoes (there’s that 90’s vibe again). With a modest opening, Intruder has seen drops between 33% and 44%, accumulating a tidy sum to profit over its $8 million budget. Unfortunately, it has pretty much run out of steam by the end of May, and will only earn about a million more.
6) The Hustle
Opening Weekend: $13 M
Monthly Box Office: $32.3 M
Given that Steve Martin and Michael Caine are still alive, a nice cameo would have been the least they should have received. I doubt many care, but this is a remake of that famous duo’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, with Hustle recasting the leads with Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson. Honestly, those two probably could have pulled it off, except the film is apparently terrible. An exception here, as Scoundrels was made in the 1980’s...so tangentially a 90’s vibe. This opened higher but fell faster than Intruder, and will end up with about the same amount.
7) Long Shot
Opening Weekend: $9.7 M
Monthly Box Office: $29.7 M
Somehow, this film is 80% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Yet, that did nothing for it’s box office prospects, nor did the cast headlined by Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron. Somewhere in here is a $100 million earner, but only if Judd Apatow had been involved. With a meager opening unable to crack double digits, and a swift exit from theaters, this will be in the bargain bin soon enough. At least it is Seth Rosen’s biggest live-action film in three years. So, um, yeah.
8) Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Opening Weekend: $19.5 M (Friday only)
Monthly Box Office: $19.5 M
Despite being available for viewing but one short day and change in May, Godzilla is still the eighth biggest movie of the month. Suck it, Uglydolls. The sort-of sequel to both 2014’s Godzilla and 2017’s Kong: Skull Island, King of Monsters looks like Pacific Rim 3 if you ask me. Apparently that was just fine by audiences, as they did give Godzilla a bigger opening weekend than either Pacific Rim film. Like Pikachu, though, Warner Bros. gave this a large budget, and it will struggle to earn that back, even with the international popularity of the king of lizards. After the 2014 film exploded with $93 million in three days, the fact that this film may be unable to crack $100 million domestic is very troubling for future prospects.
Opening Weekend: $8.6 M
Monthly Box Office: $19.4 M
What, you might ask, are Uglydolls? Well, it actually strikes me as much more interesting than the box office, so here you go. David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim were dating in college, but Kim had to move away due to an expired student visa. So Horvath wrote her letters, including one with a character at the bottom, Wage. Kim replied with a fully sewn doll of Wage, the first “Uglydoll”. Horvath showed his pal Eric Nakamura, owner of Giant Robot, who ordered a bunch. Fast forward, and there are tons of Uglydolls, looking kind of like 1990’s Nicktoon characters, expanding into pop culture and animated tv shows and movies. Chris Meledandri, the John Lasseter of Illumination Entertainment, planned to produce a film. Then it moved to STX, where Robert Rodriguez was going to write and direct the film. Then something called Alita stole his attention, and his story was adapted into the current film. Kelly Clarkson and Nick Jonas voice two characters, and you can bet there’s a show tune or two to go along with them. Uglydolls cost $45 million to produce, and will end up with $20 million domestic.
10) A Dog’s Journey
Opening Weekend: $8 M
Monthly Box Office: $18 M
Dennis Quaid’s second film in the top ten, A Dog’s Journey is trying to be the next big dog franchise after Air Bud went to doggy heaven. This is the second film based around a dog that apparently believes in the tenants of reincarnation, rather than all canine companions going to the almighty. Unfortunately, this reincarnation opened to less than half of the original, and will wind up grossing about a third of the original’s $64 million. Sorry, buddy, but this one’s Old Yeller now.
Just missing out on the top ten are Poms with $13.1 million, Brightburn with $12.6 million, Booksmart with $12 million, our second holdover from April, Breakthrough with $12 million, and Captain Marvel with $10.7 million, hanging on for yet another month. Overall, thanks to the power of Disney, May was a very big month and boosted the yearly total to over $4.5 billion. Right now the top three films of the year are from Disney, which has given that one studio almost a 35% market share. After that WB has around 15%, Universal 14%, and everyone else table scraps under 7%. With a marketplace dominated so completely by one studio, it will be interesting to see how Disney can control the changing habits of viewing content. Studios were forcefully split from theatrical presentation by antitrust lawsuit back when, but Disney will be starting a streaming service later this year exclusively for their content. Netflix has a head start there, but I wonder ultimately who can compete. On the silver screen, the answer is increasingly, no one. Will June be any different?