Summer Sequelitis Scorches Franchises To B.O. Lows: ‘Secret Life Of Pets 2’ $47M+, ‘Dark Phoenix’ Dead At $33M – Worst Debut Ever For ‘X-Men’ Movie

Fox; Universal

SUNDAY AM WRITETHRU after Saturday 7:24 AM post: Here’s a trend: three franchise films in a row this summer —Godzilla: King of the Monsters, The Secret Life of Pets 2, and Dark Phoenix — opened to roughly half of what their previous films did. And we may have a fourth title next weekend, if Men in Black International does half of MIB 3‘s $54.4M.

What does this say? In most cases, franchise fatigue: The previous film was fine, and there was never a reason to make another movie. That, or there was already a complete hatred unseen with the previous installment, and no one wanted to see another chapter in the franchise. But studio development executives sometimes suffer from not being able to see the forest for the trees, and become clouded by the twin delusions of grandeur: Chinese and overseas box office results, and/or not knowing when to put the brakes on sequels, as they could endanger a franchise altogether.

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

While Dark Phoenix will get singed more this weekend as being the final nail in the Fox/Marvel X-Men franchise, both commercially and story-wise (that is, until Disney/Marvel decides to resuscitate it), we can’t let Universal/Illumination’s The Secret Life of Pets 2 off the hook. Universal is reporting a 3-day of $47.1M for Pets 2, -55% from the original’s $104.3M opening. The first film scored the best domestic debut ever for an original piece of IP. With Fandango previews the running cume is $48M. Global running total is $97M and next week the sequel will push the Secret Life of Pets franchise to $1 billion worldwide next week.


Yes, yes, yes, Pets 2 was made at a responsible $80M production cost before P&A, according to Illumination standards, and film finance experts expect the sequel to turn a profit, as the pic will leg out from its great exits of an A- CinemaScore (same as first movie) and 4 1/2 stars (as of last night) from general audiences, parents and kids under 12. Unfortunately this wasn’t enough to push the film past the $50M mark, though Saturday at $17M was +4% over Friday’s $16.4M. Saturday was even more sinister to Dark Phoenix with a $10.8M gross, repping a 23% drop from Friday’s $14M, still the worst opening ever for an X-Men movie at $33M per Disney. Worldwide Dark Phoenix is the No. 1 movie with $140M, $30M less than the $170M global projection our experts were seeing (much of that drop having to do with U.S./Canada). Also the global debut for Dark Phoenix is down from X-Men Days of Future Past ($262.9M) by -47% and Apocalypse ($166.6M) by 16% (unadjusted for inflation or currency exchanges). China at $45.6M is under the $50M-$60M projection, but +28% bigger than X-Men: Days of Future Past. Fox always knew they could count on the Middle Kingdom due to the traction of the second trailer there.

But did anyone think what’s going on here with Pets 2? What was the fire-breathing need for a sequel? More shenanigans from pets while you’re not at home? And did the marketing actually distinguish what the difference was between Secret Life of Pets 1 and 2? (In all respect to marketing — what did they have to work  with here that could distinguish Pets 2 from Pets 1?) The slowdown in business here is obvious: No one knows why they should go out of their way to see this sequel. As RelishMix spotted in the social media chatter: “Potential moviegoers ask where the original ideas have gone, why they are over-served on the pic’s digital ads when they’ve already decided after the first trailer or two whether or not they were ‘in or out.’”

Illumination/Universal Pictures

At least Despicable Me has been clever about each page it turns, from selling each movie very strongly off its new characters and fresh Gru set-ups. The conceit of that series is endless: He’s an evil-like 007, a wisenheimer, a fish out of water, so you can easily parachute him into off-kilter environments, or spin-off the Minions.

Unfortunately, with young animation studios like Illumination, their franchises are few, and original IP is always a challenge to launch at the B.O. So, the knee-jerk reaction after an original movie does well is to just make another one. But best to follow the Pixar rule of thumb: Wait that sequel out, make sure it’s the best version there is in development, milk out the brand in the meantime and make it a legacy with audiences, then pop it and get stupid rich. Yes, everyone is going to compare Secret Life of Pets 2 to the first film box office wise: it’s a g.d. sequel. Building a threequel is even more difficult now. Illumination, you’ve done better.

The first Secret Life of Pets also benefited from timing. .It was the first original Illumination film in the wake of Despicable Me and Minions success, planted in that early July period where the studio launches its movies. Audiences were primed and ready. In this spot, Pets 2 is two weeks before Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 4 and that’s the movie that families are holding their bucks out to see.

Secret Life of Pets 2‘s Friday audience was 62% female to 38% male, and 53% under 25, with 40% under 17 years old. The mix was 48% Caucasian, 25% Hispanic, 14% Asian/Other, and 13% African American. Life of Pets 2 played best in the Mid-West and South but was fairly solid throughout the nation.

Another hurdle here with Pets 2 is that it skewed younger among the under-12 set then playing up across all young adults. Universal reports that Kids under 10 through yesterday repped 33% of the audience versus the 10-12 demo who repped 13%. PostTrak showed that 7-9 year olds made up close to half of the under 12 audience. The 13-17 year old set only came out at 13%.

20th Century Fox

Poor, poor Dark Phoenix. On top of being the worst debut for an X-Men film, she’s also the worst-reviewed at 22% Rotten and the worst-received with a B- CinemaScore (lowest ever for the franchise) and ComScore/Screen Engine PostTrak’s of 3 stars among general audiences, 69% positive and a low 49% definite recommend. Despite having better exits than Dark Phoenix, with an 81% positive and A- CinemaScore, moviegoers weren’t amused with technically the last PG-13 X-Men movie, Apocalypse, and they showed that with their wallets: 4-day projections of $100M dropped to $79.8M during its opening, and stateside, the film is the second-lowest grossing X-Men movie at $155.4M, with First Class being the lowest at $146.4M.

Aside from bad reviews and the stink on this film after fanboy outcry over re-shoots and that last-minute date change following the September trailer drop (which said Feb 14) to this weekend, RelishMix captures the social media reaction in a bottle: “Fans said ‘goodbye’ to the 20th Century Fox X-Men films after Logan and/or Apocalypse. There have now been 12 X-Men-related films produced by the studio (counting Dark Phoenix), and it’s fair to say a contingent of fans are ready to hit pause and reset. This side of the fence – which includes more casual moviegoers – are confused by the story and its adaptation from the beloved comics storyline. The casual superhero ticket purchasers are also un-sold by Sophie Turner’s performance, the hyper action, and the unavoidable comparisons to the MCU entries like Captain Marvel.”

There’s something to be said here about poor dating and poor marketing — and you can’t blame Fox’s new owner, Disney, on this one. There’s not much the studio could have fixed on this movie after absorbing Fox back in March, and delaying it would only make it worse (Dark Phoenix literally completed shooting in 2017, and was already in post by when news about the Disney-Fox merger began to percolate back in December 2017).

The blood is on the hands of the previous Fox administration. However, Fox’s loss here on X-Men is also Disney’s gain, as it takes the old studio’s stable of Marvel characters into its family. Those who showed were 58% male/42% female and 71% under 35 with 56% falling between 18 – 34 years old. The mix was 41% Caucasian, 25% Hispanic, 17% African American, & 17% Asian/Other. Dark Phoenix played best on the coast.

Over the weekend, X-Men producer Lauren Shuler Donner distanced herself from the latest casualties in a tweet, now deleted. She informed us at TCA that she was only involved in Dark Phoenix and New Mutants in name only, and didn’t have control over their fates, as the Disney-Fox merger loomed. Donner was also name-only on Logan and Deadpool.

Late Night

Specialty notables: Amazon’s Late Night is alive in its four-theater NY and LA release, with a $249,6K 3-day, for a great per-screen of $62,4K, which is the best to date this year, besting Greenwich’s Echo in the Canyon, $58.8K.

Beamed Amazon Studios Head of Marketing and Distribution Bob Berney, “This is an amazing and promising start for Late Night, as one of the highest per screen average thus far this year, leading into our nationwide expansion next weekend. Opening in NY/LA first this weekend added another promotional beat to help further the film’s positive word-of-mouth in the regional markets. We had a number of sold out showings this weekend, including a Q&A at the Arclight on Saturday evening with Mindy Kaling and some of the cast. Social media efforts from Mindy and other notables, like Oprah, has also helped get the audience out, and we’re hoping this strong momentum continues on through next weekend.”

Reviews for the $13m Sundance pick-up are at 80% Certified Fresh. Word is that Amazon bought out these houses –Lincoln Square, the Angelika, The Landmark on Pico and Hollywood Arclight– on Wednesday and loaded the gross into Friday night, but the solid numbers were certainly there: Friday racked up $96K and Saturday grew to $108K.

A24’s Last Black Man in San Francisco, another Sundance Film Festival premiere, played at 7 sites made $230,7K or $37K a theater in LA, NY and San Francisco. Solid numbers at Lincoln SQ, Angelika, ALH, Landmark, ADH SF, Metron, and the Grand Lake Oakland. Rotten Tomatoes is 94% Certfied Fresh. Per screen was $32,96K. “Multiple enthusiastic sell outs reported in all San Francisco theaters, and exit polling that points to sensational word of mouth across all markets,” reports A24.

Vive’s Bharat from Ali Abbas Zafar drew $341K yesterday and is looking at $1.2M opening and a running total of $1.8M.

CBS’s Ron Howard Pavarotti doc played at 19 theaters in 17 markets inlcluding NY, LA, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, DC, Atlanta, Seattle, Phoenix, Miami, Clevaland, Fort Meyers and more. CBS is reporting $142K for the weekend. Saturday at $54K was up over Friday’s $51K. The doc had a solid number at the Paris in NY, as well as Century City in LA, but the rest were mediocre. Further theatrical expansion in the weeks to come.

Below are Sunday reported estimates from the studios:


thumb rank pic dis scrs(cg) fri sat sun 3-day total wk
1 Secret Life Of Pets 2 Uni/Ill 4,561 $16.4M $17M $13.6M $47.1M $48M 1
2 Dark Phoenix Dis/Fox 3,721 $14M $10.8M $8.2M $33M $33M 1
3 Aladdin Dis 3,805 (-671) $7M $9.7M $7.7M $24.5M (-43%) $232.3M 3
4 Godzilla: King…  UNI/Blum 4,108 $4.2M $6.3M  $5M $15.5M (-67%) $78.6M 2
5 Rocketman Par 3,610 $3.7M $5.7M $4.5M $14M (-45%) $50.4M 2
6 Ma Uni/Blum 2,816 (+8) $2.3M $3.1M  $2.3M $7.8M (-57%) $32.7M 2
7 John Wick 3 LG 2,776 (-828) $1.9M $3.1M $2.3M $7.4M
$138.6M 4
8 Avengers: Endgame Dis 2,121 (-984) $1.2M $2M $1.5M $4.8M (-40%) $824.3M 7
9 Pokemon… Sony 2,161 (-986) $855K $1.25M $875K $2.98M (-57%) $137.4M 5
10 Booksmart UA/MGM 1,134 (-1,384) $451K $643K $483K $1.5M (-52%) $17.8M 3


Estimates as of Saturday AM:


thumb rank film dis. screens (chg) friday 3-day total wk
1 Secret Life Of pets 2 Uni/Ill 4,561 $16.3M $46.2M $46.2M 1
2 Dark Phoenix Dis/Fox 3,721 $14M $33.9M $33.9M 1
3 Aladdin Dis 3,805 (-671) $6.7M (-43%) $24.6M (-43%) $210.1M 3
4 Godzilla..Monsters WB/Leg 4,108 $4.2M (-78%) $14.4M (-70%) $77.4M 2
5 Rocketman Par 3,610 $3.9M (-57%) $13.3M (-48%) $49.8M 2
6 John Wick 3 LG 2,776 (-828) $2M (-32%) $7.4M (-33%) $138.7M 4
7 Ma Uni/Blum 2,816 (+8) $2.2M (-69%) $7.1M
$32M 2
8 Avengers: Endgame Dis 2,121 (-984) $1.4M (-33%) $5.5M (-31%) $825.1M 7
9 Pokemon… WB/Leg 2,161 (-986) $887K (-52%) $3.3M
$137.7M 5
10 booksmart UA/ANNP 1,134 (1,384) $451K (-54%) $1.6M
$17.8M 3

UPDATED, 12:31 PM Friday: Right now, Universal/Illumination’s The Secret Life of Pets 2 is seeing $17 million today (including last night’s $2.3M previews) for a $47.6M weekend.

Although it’s currently below tracking for a $60M weekend, the animated pic has Saturday to look forward to, which could get it past $50M. Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t always completely capsize a family pic, and audience exit scores on PostTrak last night were excellent, with five stars from parents and kids under 12, and 4 1/2 stars from general audiences. Forty-four percent were general audiences, 25% parents, and 30% kids.

Fox’s Dark Phoenix under its new boss Disney — now that film has a lot to worry about. Pic is currently seeing $15M-$16M today (including those $5M previews), and some are seeing this bird being turned to toast with a $36.5M opening.

That would be the lowest opening ever for an X-Men movie, lower than the original 2000 film’s $54.4M start. That atrocious 23% Rotten Tomatoes score, the lowest for the franchise, means only the hard-core fans will attend. The pic is receiving three stars from general audiences who turned up at 85% on PostTrak; the split was 60%-40% males vs. females. A low 51% definite recommend.  Guys loathe Dark Phoenix more than woman, 67%-77%.

Disney has better bragging rights in the No. 3 spot with Aladdin with $25.5M, off 40% in Weekend 3 with a running total of $233.M.

Legendary/Warner Bros’ Godzilla: King of the Monsters looks like $4M in its second Friday, -79%. That’s aimed at a second downer of a weekend of $14.5M, off 69%, with a running total by Sunday of $77.5M.

Paramount’s Rocketman is seeing $3M today, -67%, for a second weekend of $11M, -57% and a 10-day total of $47.5M. 

Universal/Blumhouse’s Ma is seeing $2M today, -72%, for a three-day total of $7M, -61%, and a 10-day of $31.9M.

PREVIOUSLY, 7:41 AM Friday: School is increasingly out for the summer, with comScore reporting 62% K-12 on break Friday moving to 70% on Monday. Hopefully that will have some kind of positive impact at the domestic box office.

Disney is reporting $5M iin previews for the Fox X-Men finale Dark Phoenix. The hope is business isn’t front-loaded like Warner Bros/Legendary’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters last weekend, which posted a solid $6.3M but came up short of its $50M+ with a $47.7M.

Dark Phoenix is the worst-reviewed X-Men movie of all time at 21% Rotten. The pic’s Thursday is down 39% from the $8.2M and $8.1M preview night, respectfully, of the last two X-Men films, 2016’s Apocalypse and 2014’s Days of Future Past. Thursday night repped 23% of Days of Future Past‘s $35.5M opening Friday and 31% of Apocalypse‘s $26.3M. Both began over Memorial Day weekend, with Days of Future Past making $90.8M over 3 days and Apocalypse $65.7M.

Dark Phoenix‘s showtimes started at 6 PM with Imax events, followed by a full 7 PM blast. The Sophie Turner-Jessica Chastain-Jennifer Lawrence ensemble film’s Thursday night cash is slightly under recent fanboy pics like Pokemon Detective Pikachu ($5.7M) and Shazam! ($5.9M), which went on to gross 3-day totals of $54M.


Last night, Universal/Illumination’s The Secret Life of Pets 2 drew $2.3M at 3,250 locations that started showtimes at 6 PM. That figure is down 57% from the first 2016 installment’s $5.3M previews, which ultimately yielded the best opening weekend for an original piece of IP at $104.3M (far from the preview night of Illumination’s The Grinch ($2.15M, $67.5M opening weekend). Secret Life of Pets 2 is not expected to be as big as the original, but is poised to win the weekend with $60M over Dark Phoenix‘s $50M-$55M. However, the Marvel superhero mutant movie is projected to win over the world; the pic already bagging $15.8M overseas, $13M of that from China in its opening Thursday.

Among regular films in release, Disney’s Aladdin won Thursday ($4.7M), and he won the week ($65.1M) over Godzilla 2 ($2.6M, $63M).

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