Talk about a terrible Presidents Day weekend at the box office.
The four-day frame, which has come alive in recent years with such opening hits as Universal’s Fifty Shades of Grey ($93M), Fox’s Deadpool ($152.1M) and last year’s Disney/Marvel epic Black Panther–the third-highest 4-day opener of all-time with $242.1M–is down a whopping 56% from a year ago with an estimated $151.1M.
A year ago at this time, Black Panther led all films to the 4-day holiday’s best result with $346.6M per ComScore. So much for playing outside the summer period, but it’s a product-driven business and when the goods aren’t there, few are leaving the house. The last Presidents Day Weekend stretch to gross this low was in 2001 with $147.1M per ComScore. The second weekend of MGM’s Hannibal ($33.5M) was the No. 1 film then.
Essentially this is what the February holiday period looks like when there isn’t a superhero movie on the marquee. The second-best Presidents Day weekend belongs to 2016 with $278.4M thanks to Deadpool.
James Cameron’s $170M production, Alita, a fresh piece of sci-fi IP, obviously wasn’t enough to excite the masses even though it bested its projections with a $41M-plus five-day start. While Wall Street analysts will be in an uproar over this weekend’s poor results and spur exhibitor stocks to plummet this week, others in distribution say it’s unfair to comp Alita ($27.8M 3-day, $33M 4-day) to a Marvel movie. The more proper sci-fi comps would be Blade Runner 2049 ($32.7M 3-day), Oblivion ($37M), or even John Carter ($30.1M); IP that never counted a huge fan base when it arrived in the theatrical marketplace.
The current annual domestic box office for Jan. 1-Feb. 17 is $1.2 billion, -20% from the same period a year ago. Despite the box office recession, March should get us back on track with Captain Marvel on March 8 (a $100M-plus estimated start), Jordan Peele’s Us on March 22 and Disney’s live-action Dumbo on March 29.