It’s a David vs. Goliath battle for the top spot at this year’s lengthy Presidents Day Weekend box office as Universal/Blumhouse’s microbudget Happy Death Day 2U squares off against James Cameron’s exorbitantly budgeted sci-fi pic Alita: Battle Angel.
After Warner Bros’ The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part and Universal/Blumhouse/BVI’s Glass fell far below their $50 milllion-plus opening projections, it’s clear we are in the thick of a swampy market until Disney/Marvel’s Captain Marvel arrives March 8, and nothing that is being said today is certain for this weekend. Currently, many are figuring it’s a close call between Alita and Happy Death Day 2U, with each pic’s respective three-day openings ranging between $18M-$22M and $17M-$20M.
Happy Death Day 2U, which cost an estimated $9M before P&A, opens tomorrow in roughly 3,000 locations with no previews tonight. Originally the feature was set to open Thursday, but stepped back a day out of respect for the one-year anniversary of the Parkland, FL high school shooting. Over the sequel’s Wednesday-through-Monday stretch, it is expected to make around $25M. Christoper Landon returns as director, and took over as writer.
The first movie, which made over $125M worldwide, centered on a college girl who was caught in a loop, and relives her murder over and over again until she discovers her killer’s identity. The assumption out there by rival distribution bosses is that the PG-13 Happy Death Day 2U will have an edge with the young dating crowd thanks to Valentine’s Day business.
Oy, Alita. Even if the movie hits No. 1, and clears $30M over five days (it’s expected to be under that), many believe this sci-fi female Pinocchio story is unlikely to break even. Studio sources say the pic cost $160M-$170M net before P&A. Alita has already accumulated more than $32M in 11 territories, mostly Asian markets like South Korea, Taiwan and Malaysia, and she will touch down in all countries next weekend with the exception of China and Japan.
The Robert Rodriguez-directed film, which is beautiful and a lot of fun if you watch it in one of its Dolby locations or Imax venues, is by far the most ambitious movie he’s ever made. Fox has been screening this recently in an effort to generate good buzz, despite 100 early reviews on Rotten Tomatoes slamming the pic with a 59% Rotten score. Pic will be booked at roughly 3,700 venues, and it will be available in Cameron’s prime format of 3D. The movie was originally scheduled to come out over the holidays against Bumblebee, Aquaman and Mary Poppins Returns, and the original IP pic would have been buried by thata competition (just look at what happened to Peter Jackson’s obscure sci-fi production Mortal Engines, which tanked, and that was before those brand pics hit).
New Line has the Rebel Wilson romantic comedy Isn’t It Romantic opening tomorrow sans previews tonight. The Todd Strauss-Schulson directed comedy is about a young woman who is disenchanted with love and mysteriously finds herself trapped inside a romantic comedy. At 3,300 sites, Romantic looks to pull in $22M over six days. Wilson’s How to Be Single played the Valentine’s Day frame three years ago, opened to $17.8M and finaled stateside with $46.8M, and $112.3M worldwide (it also starred Dakota Johnson and Alison Brie). Like Happy Death Day 2U, there isn’t an RT score yet for Romantic.
MGM will tee up the Dwayne Johnson-produced indie Fighting With My Family, about the rise of British female wrestler Paige, in four locations: New York’s Angelika and AMC Lincoln Square, and L.A.’s Century City AMC and ArcLight Hollywood. The studio will go wide with the Stephen Merchant-directed sports movie next weekend.
All said, unless Alita completely surprises, it looks to be an extremely dull Presidents Day weekend, especially when compared to the surefire hits that have launched here in the past like last year’s Black Panther ($242.1M), 2016’s Deadpool ($152.1M), and 2015’s Fifty Shades of Grey ($93M). The mind is baffled as to why no majors would take advantage of such a prime period for a mega tentpole, when there is 89% of K-12 schools off on Monday with another 32% colleges, per ComScore.