If you thought last weekend’s underwhelming sequel performances were a disappointment, the follow-ups this time around were surely a shambles. Whether we start with ‘Men in Black International’s franchise-low $30m opening, or ‘Shaft’ biting the bullet with just $8.9m, sequel-itis has infected the Box Office for the 2nd weekend in a row, continuing a worrying summer trend that started so brightly with ‘John Wick 3’ a month ago.
How did the new releases get on?
It was a shocking weekend for the newbies, led by ‘Men in Black International’, the latest in the popular franchise directed by ‘The Fate of the Furious’ helmer F. Gary Gray. The newest instalment is the 1st without the acting duo of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones (replaced by ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ double-act Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson’, and of course trilogy director Barry Sonnenfeld.
‘International’s $30m is by far the lowest opening of the series, almost halving the last’s $54.6m opening from 2012, although its reduced $110m budget (compared to ‘MiB 3’s $225m) slightly eases the pressure on Sony, whose focus primarily turns to its overseas performance. This weekend saw it earn $73.7m from 36 countries, including $26.3m from China. At least some audiences enjoyed it, it seems.
Why didn’t it resonate over in the states? Sitting on a wretched 23% on Rotten Tomatoes (although a slightly better Cinemascore of B), it could be argued that audiences (who, in this case, were 56% male and 53% aged 25+) didn’t care for yet another ‘Men in Black’ film, especially one not including Smith and Jones. Although the joint efforts of Hemsworth and Thompson were praised, it was always a difficult task to fill the formers’ giant shoes.
Moving forward, ‘International’ will be lucky to break the $100m barrier domestically, and looks to join ‘Dark Phoenix’ in the $70m-ish club once their respective runs are over. Still, it’s a better opening than Warner Bros’ ‘Shaft’, which capitulated with just $8.9m. It marks a shocking drop-off from its predecessor released 19 years ago, which saw a $21.7m opening when released by Paramount in the summer of 2000.
The 3rd ‘Shaft’ film, after the 1971 and 2000 releases, sees all 3 generations of the John Shaft family (played by Jessie Usher, Samuel L Jackson, Richard Roundtree) team up to uncover a conspiracy. Fun fact: Jackson is only 6 years younger than Roundtree in real life, yet that’s the last problem on the minds of critics, with the film sitting on 35% on the Tomatometer.
‘Shaft’ fans were more generous with their praise, with the film’s A on Cinemascore the best of this weekend’s new releases. Regardless, an $8m start from a $30m budget, coupled with WB selling off the international distribution rights to Netflix for a reported $7m, makes this the 2nd flop of the weekend, leaving ‘Late Night’ to salvage any Box Office credibility.
It barely did. ‘Late Night’, starring Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson, picked up just $5.3m from its wide opening in 2,220 cinemas this weekend. Although its minuscule $4m budget gives it some breathing room, it’s an opening that lags behind fellow Amazon Studio release ‘The Big Sick’ ($7.6m) back in 2017.
The film, originally to be directed by Paul Feig, was written by Kaling and sees her character Molly, a writer, help save the job of Katherine (Thompson), the host of a popular late-night talk show. It was a hit with critics and audiences alike, providing a ray of hope that this film could leg out as the summer goes on.
How did the others do?
By far the best-performing sequel in the last 2 weeks is ‘The Secret Life of Pets 2’, who earned $24.4m this Friday to Sunday for a running domestic total of $92.7m. It’s a respectable total on the surface, until compared to ‘The Secret Life of Pets’, who had already opened to $104.4m in its 1st 3 days. While that film went onto earn $368.4m in the U.S. alone, ‘Pets 2’ will be lucky to hit that total worldwide.
Yet, it still stands head and shoulders above ‘Dark Phoenix’, who made superhero-history this weekend for the wrong reasons. Its 71.5% 2nd weekend drop is the biggest fall for a major superhero film ever, beating the likes of ‘Hellboy 2’ (70.7%) and ‘Batman v Superman’ (69.1%). Its gross of just $9.4m this weekend puts it at just $52.1m domestically, and just over $200m worldwide.