Box Office Preview: DreamWorks’ Dragon-Training Trilogy Comes to an End

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Welcome back to the Beat’s weekly Box Office Preview!

The month of February ends with two movies, including one that opened in New York and L.A. last weekend. At least one of them will try to end the month on a high note after a number of disappointing sequels this year so far. Oh, also, it’s Oscar Sunday, which could keep movie fans home on Sunday night. You can read what I think about the Oscar chances for Marvel Studios’ Black Panther right here.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD (DreamWorks Animation/Universal)

DreamWorks Animation / Universal

The big release for the last weekend of February is the third movie in one of DreamWorks Animation’s more successful franchises after the Shrek and maybe Madagascar movies.

Based on Cressida Cowell’s children’s book, the first How to Train Your Dragon opened in March 2010 with $43.7 million on its way to $217.6 million domestic and almost $500 million worldwide. That was followed in 2014 by How to Train Your Dragon 2, which did slightly better opening weekend ($49.5 million) but less overall, at least domestically. It’s now been five years since that movie, which is the same gap between The LEGO Movie and The LEGO Movie 2. In this case, the franchise has been kept alive by two animated shows, Dragons: Riders of Berk and Dragons: Race to the Edge, which have helped keep the characters alive between movies.

Canadian actor and filmmaker Jay Baruchel has been providing the voice of the young Viking Hiccup since the very first movie and throughout the series, joined by America Ferrera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Jonah Hill (Superbad), although T.J. Miller was wisely replaced (by Justin Ruppel) for the third movie, given his personal issues over the past couple years. Gerard Butler and Oscar-winning actor Cate Blanchett once again provide their voices, but in much smaller roles, while F. Murray Abraham voices the new villain Grimmel. Craig Ferguson, Kristin Wiig and Kit Harrington also return to voice their characters, and writer/director Dean DeBlois is also back for his third movie, having had an impressive run with the franchise.

What’s interesting about the finale of this trilogy is that, despite all the movies being produced by DreamWorks Animation, they were each released by a different studio. Paramount distributed the first “Dragon” movie, Fox the second one and now Universal for the third. In some ways, Universal is going to benefit from all the work put in by the other studios as well as the Cartoon Network and Netflix.

That last bit is incredibly important because the third movie is now coming into theaters with a huge number of younger fans who have seen the movies and cartoons on Netflix and will be more likely to see the new movie than the last one. While some of the original young fans of the series may have already aged out, there’s always new kids to take their place.

Universal had special previews for the movie earlier in the month that were fairly well-attended, grossing $2.5 million (which will be added into Friday), but the movie has already being playing overseas for a few weeks where it’s grossed $175 million, so there isn’t nearly as much pressure for it to deliver Stateside. reviews have been stellar so far, which might help unsure parents decide whether to bring their kids.

In my mind, there’s little question that How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is going to do well this weekend, and despite any misgivings I might have about my last two sequel predictions, I think How to Train Your Dragon will break the jinx and open bigger than the last one. Figure on it grossing over $50 million this weekend and grossing somewhere in the $150 million range domestically.

FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY (MGM/WWE Films)

After a relatively decent opening in New York and L.A. over Presidents’ Day weekend, this wrestling biopic written and directed by Stephen Merchant (The Office) is expanding nationwide.

This weekend, MGM will expand the movie into 2,500 theaters nationwide and with the number of commercials being run during WWE broadcasts, it’s a given that the enormous fanbase for professional wrestling will be the movie’s primary audience.

The cast includes Florence Pugh (as Paige), Jack Lowden (as her brother Zak), and Nick Frost and Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) as their parents. Vince Vaughn plays the NXT coach who pushes Paige through her training in the development center. but the real star that gives the movie any weight with the fans is producer Dwayne Johnson, who basically makes a glorified cameo but has been featured in most of the marketing.

Like with How to Train Your Dragon, reviews for the MGM title has been fantastic ever since the movie premiered at Sundance in January, and that’s somewhat unprecedented for WWE Films.

We probably can’t expect Fighting with My Family to do nearly as well as a normal Dwayne Johnson movie, but having the real Paige out and about promoting the movie should help it bring in the WWE fans with WWE Films having the widest theatrical release since John Cena’s The Marine all the way back in 2006.

The newly-revived MGM’s fourth major release after last year’s Death Wish, Operation Finale and Creed 2 should fare decently this weekend with between $8 and 10 million, which should be good for fourth or fifth place.

This Week’s Box Office Predictions:  

  1. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (DreamWorks Animation) – $53.6 million N/A
  2. Alita: Battle Angel (20thCentury Fox) – $14.5 million -49%
  3. The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (Warner Bros.) – $12.5 million -41%
  4. Isn’t It Romantic? (New Line/WB) – $8.6 million -40%
  5. Fighting with my Family (MGM) – $8.5 million +4939%
  6. What Men Want (Paramount) – $6.4 million -39%
  7. Happy Death Day 2 U (Universal) – $4.4 million -54%
  8. The Upside (STX) – $4.1 million -25%
  9. Cold Pursuit (Lionsgate/Summit) – $3.2 million -46%
  10. Glass (Universal) – $2 million -48%

Also, Roadside Attractions is releasing the faith-based sports drama Run the Race, exec. produced by footballer Tim Tebow, and that could very well sneak into the bottom of the top 10 depending on how many theaters it gets.

Not too much of major significance in limited release although Oscilloscope will be releasing the inspiring award-winning festival doc WRESTLE in New York this weekend and then in L.A. on March 1. It’s a fantastic documentary about a group of Alabama high school students trying to get their school to the state wrestling championships, also in hopes of getting college scholarships that can also help break them break their families’ cycle of not achieving higher education.

Next week, it’s officially March, and Tyler Perry is back as Madea in what’s expected to be his/her last comedy, Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral. Also, Irish filmmaker Neil Jordan (The Crying Game) returns with the psychological thriller Greta. Check back next Monday for a wrap-up of how the movies above did this weekend.

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