Checking outside the window in some parts of the world, it looks a lot like winter with the Northeast about to get dumped on again later this week. But by box office standards, it might as well be summer with big grosses in the forecast for this weekend’s crop of Pre-Valentine’s Day entries: Warner Bros.’ The Lego Batman Movie, Universal’s Fifty Shades Darker and Lionsgate’s John Wick: Chapter 2.
Leading up to this weekend, much has been made about how much Fifty Shades Darker, the second film in E L James’ bestselling high-gloss S&M romance lit series, is expected to submit to Lego Batman stateside. While the first James title Fifty Shades of Grey had the upper hand at the Valentine’s Day box office two years ago with a then-record February opening of $85.1M, this time around, the older-female-skewing title essentially is acting like counterprogramming, expected to bring in $35M to Lego Batman‘s $60M-$65M (wow).
It’s a different story worldwide, where the Christian Grey-Anastasia Steele noir is expected to dominate with a global opening between $115M-$155M as it undresses in 57 offshore markets. International ticket sales for the sequel are projected between $80M-$120M. Lego Batman — swinging into 61 markets including France, Germany, Russia, Spain, UK, Korea, Brazil and Mexico — will have a global grapple of $100M-$105M, with $40M of that from outside the U.S./Canada.
Here in the U.S., Fifty Shades Darker is behaving like a sequel, with its estimated 59% decrease between films — c’mon, it’s not a superhero movie. Those truly are the only types of movies that can outstrip their previous chapters. The first film chalked up $243.1M and $158M overseas, filing behind the $160.3M international launch of Fast & Furious 6.
Fifty Shades Darker currently is boasting healthy advance ticket sales in the States, but we hear they’re largely for Tuesday, Valentine’s Day. Here’s what is important to remember: Fifty Shades of Grey‘s opening was whipped up by the lovers holiday falling on a Saturday. This year, it wouldn’t be surprising if Fifty Shades Darker plays out like a five-day opener, with a notable double-digit gross occurring on Tuesday.
Like most female-targeted pics, Fifty Shades of Grey was front-loaded, seeing a 74% drop in its second weekend but an ultimate stateside end of $166.1M and final worldwide of $571M — a beefy cash cow for Uni off an estimated $40M production cost before P&A. Fifty Shades Darker likely will profit as well when all ticket sales are tallied. The sequel and its threequel Fifty Shades Freed — due out on February 9, 2018 — were shot at the same time for cost effectiveness, but sources say on average Darker cost an estimated $55M before P&A.
Fifty Shades of Grey was No. 1 in 54 markets at launch and set a record for the biggest overseas February bow and biggest weekend for an R-rated film. It then chalked up $405M with 71% of the gross coming from abroad. The biggest market was the UK, followed by Germany, where the film had its premiere at the Berlin Film Festival. Brazil, France and Spain rounded out the top ex-U.S. plays. As ever, currency devaluation will have its role to play here, which helps explain the lower expectations.
Fifty Shades Darker‘s trailer broke industry records with 76M views internationally in the first 24 hours. The second trailer scored 37.7M in its first day. Folks evidently are responding to the darker story, and special advance screenings have been held for hardcore fans. This week, stars Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan and author James are attending red carpet events in Hamburg, Madrid and London.
The Lego Movie landed an $18.7M opening in 34 markets in 2014, with a $69M start in U.S./Canada, February’s fourth best. With that animated movie directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller earned $211M-plus overseas and $469.2M worldwide, the expectation is that this spinoff will open higher – it’s also got the benefit of kids vacations in several markets. The reason for the much higher low-end estimate on this film is that it is releasing in nearly all international markets, save majors Australia and Japan. It also has scored a China date, though that doesn’t hit until March 3 (the first film did not release in the Middle Kingdom).
Lego Batman will play at 4,000-plus locations surged by 3D, 2D, Imax, PLFs, motion and luxury seat ticketing. Thursday previews start at 5 PM stateside at 3,400 sites. Fifty Shades Darker will be in play at 3,705 venues, with Thursday shows beginning at 7 PM.
For guys with absolutely no patience for kissing onscreen or bright toy bricks, there’s Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 2, which co-stars his Matrix buddy Laurence Fishburne. The sequel to the 2014 shoot-’em-up is expected to best that pic’s $14.4M debut with an opening between $20M-$22M at 3,000 theaters, per industry estimates — remarkable for a R-rated genre action movie (Lionsgate sees lower, in the mid- to high-teens). John Wick ended its domestic run at $43M, and the sequel — which follows the urban assassin Wick squaring off with an Italian mob boss who has a price on his head — is expected to do better.
Limited reviews have been filed to date on Rotten Tomatoes for both Lego Batman and John Wick: Chapter 2, so we’ll update later in the week. No reviews logged for Fifty Shades Darker, but let’s face it, film reviewers have been sharpening their daggers to throw at the screen for weeks when it comes to this title. Despite its RT score of 25% rotten, Fifty Shades of Grey officially was critic-proof, a rare thing for a movie in this day and age.
Today, Uni/Blumhouse’s No. 1 champ of three weekends, Split, will cross $100M, becoming the fifth M. Night Shyamalan-directed title to do so at the domestic B.O. Given the onslaught of wide releases, Split no doubt will slow down this weekend by 50%-60% from its recent weekend take of $14.4M for $5.8M-$7.2M.