Weekend Box Office Top 10 (Feb 22-Feb 24): (Title / Weekend Gross / Percent Change from Last Week / Weekend # / Distributor), Actuals
- How to Train Your Dragon 3 / $55,022,245/ (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Universal
- Alita: Battle Angel / $12,342,291 / -56.7% / Weekend 2 / Fox
- The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part / $9,683,481 / -53.5% / Weekend 3 / Warner Bros.
- Fighting With My Family / $7,813,113/ +5,529.9% / Weekend 2 / MGM
- Isn’t it Romantic / $7,121,121/ -50.0% / Weekend 2 / Warner Bros. (New Line)
- What Men Want / $5,248,197/ -50.8% / Weekend 3 / Paramount
- Happy Death Day 2U / $4,888,785/ -48.5% / Weekend 2 / Universal
- Cold Pursuit / $3,210,838/ -46.3% / Weekend 3 / Lionsgate (Summit)
- The Upside / $3,177,958/ -42.1% / Weekend 7 / STX Entertainment
- Run the Race / $2,160,713/ (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Roadside Attractions
11. Green Book / $2,128,015/ -26.3% / Weekend 15 / Universal
As per usual with the Oscars, Hollywood came to a dead halt in anticipation of the major awards ceremony which would officially close off the 2018 film year as we await the release of Captain Marvel to jumpstart 2019 blockbuster season. We may have just found I first major hit of the year, however, in How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World which, after being sold off to Universal, majorly outperformed expectations this past weekend. Outside of that, the spoils of Valentine’s Day all more or less dropped off the map with little impact on the overall box office.
In first place, we find How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, which soared this weekend with the series’ strongest opening weekend gross ever at $55 million. Topping both the original’s $43.7 million opening back in 2010 as well as the sequel’s 2014 opening of $49.4 million, How to Train Your Dragon 3 opted for an interesting release strategy in that its opening here in the United States marks one of the last stops on its worldwide rollout. Instead of opening day-and-date worldwide, this reported final installment of the series opened at the beginning of last month in the Oceania region (Australia and New Zealand) and since then has been expanding its release westward as the months have gone on. The last film to do this (at least that I can remember) was Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom this past summer, which debuted internationally two weeks ahead of its US release, stopping in China the weekend prior to opening domestically. This actually ended up working in the film’s favor as it had already amassed about $175 million in its international gross before its US premiere. Strong box office headlines (“It’s the number one movie in the World!”) helped build up anticipation in US audiences and translated into a very strong domestic opening of $148 million despite notably mixed reviews for the film. This Jurassic World sequel ended up grossing $1.3 billion worldwide, so clearly Universal’s decision to open the film internationally first paid off in a big way.
It’s clear that Universal’s prior success with Jurassic World 2 ended up fueling the decision to copy that release strategy with its newly acquired How to Train Your Dragon 3; the acquisition aspect being noteworthy in and of itself. The How to Train Your Dragon film franchise has been both critically and commercially successful since its inception, a fact that is all the more impressive when you realize that every single installment of the franchise has been released by a different studio. Yes, while series itself is produced by Dreamworks Animation, Dreamworks itself has had a rough time of it over the last decade. Sporting a slate of hit or miss fare, both critically and at the box office, the formerly lauded animation studio behind the Shrek franchise has proved to be something of a financial burden to whichever parent studio it happens to be residing with at the time. While it has its occasional strong animation performer (most recently the highly underrated Boss Baby for Fox), the shingle’s successes are simply not enough to justify studios keeping it for very long. As a result, each of the How to Train Your Dragon films has been shepherded by a different studio parent, the first being released by Paramount and the second by Fox. Most recently, after falling on difficult times, which undoubtedly led to the studio’s impending sale to Disney, Fox decided to sell off Dreamworks Animation and its assets to Universal, thereby placing the film in that studio’s animation division alongside the hugely successful Illumination Entertainment (behind Despicable Me, Secret Life of Pets, and most recently, The Grinch) and under the guidance of Illumination’s founder and CEO, Chris Meledandri.
Now, if Meledandri has proven anything in his time as CEO of Illumination, its his business savvy as Illumination has managed to not only crank out film after film that appeals a wide audience (thereby making for a high box office grosses) but also has done a pretty good job positioning their films to achieve their maximum potential at the box office. The Grinch was their most recent endeavor, which was positioned in early November to open with little Christmas competition before steamrolling through December. Looking at How to Train Your Dragon 3, a sequel that was to be released five years after the previous installment, Meledandri clearly wanted to stack the cards in the film’s favor. While every installment of the franchise has been met with critical acclaim and the series overall has garnered an extremely potent fanbase (one of my best friends is an ardent member 😁), a five-year gap between sequels definitely makes for quite the hurdle. By opening the film internationally first and leaving the States for last, Universal managed to create the perfect storm of anticipation by having US fans lament that everyone else on Earth was getting to see their beloved film first. Universal did wet our tongues through the process though, releasing reviews once it had debuted in Europe (the film currently holds a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 71 on Metacritic) and holding special preview screenings across the country in early February for megafans through a partnership with Fandango. These early screenings raked in a very strong $2.5 million which was then folded into How to Train Your Dragon 3‘s $55 million opening gross for a total opening haul of $57.5 million. Clearly, Universal really knows what they are doing as they were able to create a sheer tidal wave of box office momentum that is highly likely to pay huge dividends down the line; AND WITH A PROPERTY THAT WASN’T EVEN THEIRS LAST YEAR!!! It also certainly helps that a slew of advertisements across NBCUniversal’s numerous television networks, outside networks, as well as in their theme parks (not to mention putting a themed float in the Rose Parade earlier this year) made How to Train Your Dragon 3 the ultimate family moviegoing ticket this weekend.
As for the film’s future, I’m feeling quite optimistic. Admittedly, How to Train Your Dragon 3‘s demographic breakdown could’ve been slightly better, with 56% of audiences this weekend being Caucasian (a high percentage which usually doesn’t indicate a lot of crossover appeal). However, to its credit, How to Train Your Dragon 3 saw a surprisingly strong Hispanic presence at 22%, no doubt thanks to America Ferrera’s work in the series as the character of Astrid (a performance which has always garnered praise) as well as strong promotional tie-ins through other NBCUniversal properties, most notably the Spanish-language international syndication of NBC’s The Voice, La Voz. Also promising is the fact that the film’s age demographics were split 50/50 between audiences over and under the age of 25, with women making up the majority of the audience at 57%. This indicates a massive appeal across all ages, as reflected by strong exit polling from all age groups and an “A” Cinemascore. Having already grossed $275 million worldwide, this final installment of the franchise is gearing up to be a very large success, perhaps the best of the franchise which will be a fantastic note to close on.
As for the rest of the top ten, the major films this weekend were the rest of the Valentine’s Day weekend holdovers, all of which failed to sustain themselves outside of that frame. I was regrettably unable to cover their Valentine’s Day weekend performances due to personal matters, but the end result of that weekend was relatively simple. Alita: Battle Angel ended up surprising with a stronger-than-expected 5-day weekend gross. After pundits had predicted it to make just about $37 million through President’s Day that Monday, Alita ended up surging, thanks to positive word-of-mouth from audiences (as indicated by an “A-” Cinemascore), to a 5-day haul of $42 million. The news was bittersweet, however, as it confirmed both positive and negative things about the production. On one hand, the overperformance of the film, which ended up taking first place last weekend in both the 3-day and 5-day frames, showed the potency of the James Cameron brand. The technical filmmaking pioneer behind Terminator, Aliens, and Avatar has been the butt of the joke lately with the frequent ridicule of his upcoming Avatar sequels, but a strong opening from Alita (which Cameron produced and co-wrote) showed that he still has a pretty strong fanbase. However, the unfortunate fact of the matter is that despite a much stronger opening than anticipated, Alita is still highly unlikely to break even against its giant $170 million budget.
That point was made exponentially clear this weekend with Alita‘s second-weekend drop of 56.7%, which resulted in a $12.3 million gross in second place. While this drop is actually typical of a big studio blockbuster, Alita‘s opening weekend made it clear that it was not strong enough to take the hit. While its $42 million opening was indeed more than expected, it was parsed out over 5-days, while its 3-day gross was a meager $28 million in comparison. A drop of 56% to a gross of $12 million is a massive blow, indicating that the film’s overperformance last weekend was simply the product of a curiosity factor that didn’t truly materialize. While fans clearly had fun last weekend, the movie has proved itself to be hard to recommend. Despite generally positive reactions, diving deeper into said reactions shows us that many are having trouble grasping everything that Alita has to offer. Reports from last weekend show that Fox was unsure of how to market the film given its history has a manga that not many American’s are incredibly familiar with. They also have had to contend with the aversion that many people seem to have to the CGI work in the film that has been done on Alita herself. While Rosa Salazar’s performance as the title character has been consistently praised, the CGI work on her, particularly her enlarged “anime eyes” has put off some potential viewers given the creepiness of its presentation (think “uncanny valley”). Combined with complex worldbuilding and reviews that criticize the film for doing more to set up sequels than tell a cohesive story, even viewers who are enjoying the film must be finding it hard to recommend to anyone else. A drop of 56% cements the fact that Alita will likely not make it to $100 million domestically, thus its prospects for domestic revenue are nill. Although the film did debut in China this weekend to a record-setting $62 million, beating out Ready Player One which ended up seeing great success in the Middle Kingdom, even high grosses from overseas are likely to just barely push Alita to its break-even point of $550 million worldwide, especially given that Fox will likely only be getting back 25% of its Chinese revenue as per Chinese regulatory laws. As for fellow Valentine’s Day releases, Isn’t it Romantic and Happy Death Day 2U, both films dropped 50% in their second weekends; unsurprisingly so given their Valentine’s Day theming which likely put a quick expiration date on them. Isn’t it Romantic only grossed $7.1 million in fifth place while Death Day grossed $4.8 million in seventh place.
Outside of the Valentine’s Day holdovers, The Lego Movie 2 suffered another blow this weekend with a drop of 53.5% to a gross of $9.6 million in third place. After a second weekend hold of 39%, there was some hope that the film would end up potentially having great legs and be able to make a solid profit. However, what Warner Bros. clearly didn’t anticipate was just how strong the pull of How to Train Your Dragon 3 would be. While How to Train Your Dragon 3 has soared, it clearly flew away with much of The Lego Movie 2‘s audience. The film currently stands at a domestic gross of $83.3 million, and while it will likely make it to $100 million domestically, its weaker overseas gross will likely keep it from totally breaking even. Meanwhile, MGM’s Fighting With My Family trailed The Lego Movie 2 this weekend, expanding from limited release, where it had a solid debut last weekend with $34,695 per-theater in four theaters, into 2,711 theaters. While it should be commended for being able to pop into the top five with a gross of $7.8 million (and with a budget of just $11 million, it will likely see a profit down the line with streaming), given the film’s backing by Dwayne Johnson, it probably should’ve been able to at least make it into the $10 million range.
As for the rest of the top ten, Cold Pursuit found itself in eighth place with $3.2 million. Domestically, the film is up to $26.9 million worldwide, however, without strong support from the foreign box office (this movie’s only saving grace), the $60 million production is looking to be a dud. On the other hand, The Upside had a great weekend with another strong hold of 42.1% for a gross of $3.1 million, thus pushing it to $99.7 million domestic. By tomorrow, the film will likely pass $100 million at the domestic box office, becoming STX Entertainment’s second release to ever do so and the second film to make $100 million domestically this year. I’m exceedingly proud of STX and how they are evolving as a distributor; and given the recent release of the trailer for their upcoming Diane Keaton comedy, Poms, I am excited to see how they will continue to grow. Lastly, Roadside Attractions released Run the Race, a religious film that has had very little advertising but should be commended for being able to pop into the top ten on its own with a gross of $2.1 million.
As for the specialty market, nothing big happened in this space, and for good reason: THE OSCARS WERE THIS WEEKEND!! I personally didn’t watch (I wasn’t a fan of the Best Picture lineup), but I was very pleased to see wins for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse in the Best Animated Feature category (So well deserved!!) and Black Panther in the Costume Design category (it won two other awards for Production Design and Original Score, both well earned, but Costume Design was the category I was rooting for it in since its release last February). Best Picture ended up going to Green Book, and while it is not the movie I would have voted for, I have to say that it was well made and does have a good message; not just about racial equality, but also the importance of holding yourself to the highest standard. Green Book tied with Black Panther and Roma for the second most wins of the night (three a piece with Green Book taking home Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture) while Bohemian Rhapsody walked away with the most wins at four, including an unsurprising Best Actor win for Rami Malek.
I am very curious to see if any films get a post-Oscar boost in the coming weekend or even the next few weeks. Green Book has outlasted nearly every single Best Picture nominee as it is still going strong in its 15th weekend at the box office with a gross of $2.1 million in eleventh place (wow!). The film is officially profitable based on its domestic gross alone having past $69 million and making for a worldwide total of $144 million, all on a $23 million budget. I suspect anyone holding out on watching it will likely check it out next weekend and potentially push it into the top ten one more time. As for other winners, perhaps Sony will up the theater count for Spider-Verse to take advantage of its win and I could see Fox Searchlight expanding The Favourite‘s theater count to capitalize on Olivia Colman’s surprise Best Actress win over Glenn Close as there could be a slight curiosity factor regarding who she is. As for the rest though, both Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star is Born have long worn out their welcome and will likely be pulled from theaters soon while Black Panther and Blackkklansman left theaters a while back, Roma is a streaming release, and Vice failed to make any impression at the awards ceremony.
(Box Office Data from Box Office Mojo, Deadline, and Box Office Pro)