This Box Office weekend sees 2 big-budget sequels go head-to-head, as The Secret Life of Pets 2 aims to keep ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ on a tight leash. While the Illumination release rides high from a predecessor that became the biggest opening for an original film of all time, ‘Dark Phoenix’ will likely become the 1st X-Men film to open below $50m, signalling a bitter end for the beloved franchise.

So, what’s opening this weekend?

As mentioned above, ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ became the biggest opening of all time for a completely original film with $104.4m in 2016, as studio Illumination were hot off the success of ‘Minions’.

Fast-forward 3 years and the film remains as the only original movie to have a 3-day start hit the century mark, leaving big shoes to fill for ‘The Secret Life of Pets 2’. In the years in-between, the sequel’s production was hit hard by lead Louis C.K.’s removal after his harassment scandal, with many wondering how it would affect things at the Box Office.

Well, a seamless replacement in Patton Oswalt, as well as the addition of Harrison Ford, Tiffany Haddish, and Nick Kroll to join an already strong cast consisting of Kevin Hart, Ellie Kemper, and Jenny Slate gives the release a steadier-than-expected foundation. Although critic reviews aren’t flattering, audience scores tell a completely different story, with Rotten Tomatoes’ 56% vs. 94% ratings mirroring that of another family-friendly hit ‘Aladdin’.

So what’s to happen? Illumination’s last 2 releases, ‘The Grinch’ and ‘Despicable Me 3’ both opened in the $70m region too, and we’re forecasting a similar opening for ‘The Secret Life of Pets 2’ at $75m, removing ‘How to Train Your Dragon 3’ from the biggest-animated-opening-of-2019 throne.

Next is ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’, the swansong of a 19-year old franchise soon to be swallowed by the jaws of the MCU. As the title suggests, the film is an adaptation of the famous ‘Phoenix’ storyline from the X-Men comics, involving the transformation of mutant Jean Grey into the darker, uncontrollable Phoenix. The film sees Sophie Turner as Grey, alongside Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, and Nicholas Hoult.

Sounds promising, but the reviews tell a different story. The film holds a shocking franchise-low 24% on Rotten Tomatoes, paving the way for a bigger disappointment than the last ‘Phoenix’ adaptation (‘The Last Stand’), and potentially ‘Godzilla 2’-level flop. A sub-$50m opening is likely, and we’re predicting just that with $49m, a sorry end to the mother of the modern superhero franchise.

What else is on?

Last weekend’s winner Godzilla 2’ faces a battle to remain in the spotlight this time around. If its predecessor, released 5 years ago, was anything to go by, we’re in store for a near-70% drop this weekend, which would leave the film grossing just $16m. Now, we’re a tad more optimistic with a $20m weekend, but this doesn’t change the fact that Warner Bros have released 2 sequels half a decade after their originals this year (remember ‘LEGO Movie 2’), with both flopping. Perhaps we were a little hasty with awarding our ‘Studio of the Year’ award back in January…