Box Office: DARK PHOENIX Kills Off the X-Men Franchise with Worst Opening Ever

Welcome to the Beat’s Weekend Box Office Recap!
The summer movie season is only partially into its second month, but I’m already dubbing it the “Summer of Blood (TM).”
It’s not just that few movies are doing as well as my predictions, but few of the new movies –whether they’re sequels or original premises — are delivering on the potential for movies to do big business during a season when more people go to the movies than at other times in the year.
This is the second weekend in a row where a major sequel to a blockbuster movie failed to open with more than $50 million. In fact, BOTH of this weekend’s new sequels failed to reach that mark, opening with roughly half the opening of their respective predecessors.
Following in the wake of the 2016 animated $368.4 million blockbuster, Universal’s The Secret Life of Pets 2 came into the weekend with the best chances of being #1, opening in 4,561 theaters Friday. After a weak $2.3 million in Thursday previews, it looked unlikely the sequel would come anywhere near the $104 million opening of the 2016 movie. After taking first place on Friday with $16.5 million, The Secret Life of Pets 2 ended its first weekend with an estimated $48 million, which included roughly a million from sneak previews a few weeks back. That’s the third-worst opening for Illumination Entertainment, the animation house that paired with Universal for 2010’s Despicable Me and has continued to deliver hit after hit.
The last Illumination movie to do that poorly was 2016’s Sing, although that opened just before Christmas with $35.2 million and was able to convert that into a huge blockbuster of $270.5 million thanks to the holidays. By comparison, The Secret Life of Pets 2 only has two weeks to have any sort of impact before Disney-Pixar’s Toy Story 4 obliterates it, so we’ll have to see if can even make $150 million domestically. (I was way too high on my own prediction, since I thought the lack of srong family films other than Pokémon would help Pets get an audience of younger kids with schools being out for the summer. Nope.)
Things went even worse for 20th Century Fox’s Dark Phoenix, the finale to the X-Men finale that began all the way back in 2000 with Bryan Singer‘s X-Men. Some  might say that Fox’s early superhero hit helped pave the way for the new age of modern superhero movies. (Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige was a mere Associate Producer on that movie.) As the sequel to 2016’s X-Men: ApocalypseDark Phoenix came into the weekend with bad buzz and terrible reviews, with many of the franchise’s biggest fans knowing it was going to be the last movie under the 20th Century Fox aegis with Disney now in charge.  Most people expect Marvel Studios to eventually take over Marvel’s mutants, so Dark Phoenix really didn’t stand much of a chance.
Directed by Simon Kinberg, the second attempt to adapt “The Dark Phoenix” saga starred Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner as Jean Grey with Jennifer LawrenceJames McAvoyMichael Fassbender and Nicholas Hoult all reprising their X-characters for the fourth time. After making $5 million in Thursday previews — twice as much as the Pets sequel — Dark Phoenix wound up with $14 million on Friday and a pitiful $33 million (estimated) for its opening weekend in 3,721 theaters.  That’s not just bad for a summer movie, but it’s very VERY bad for an X-Men movie, less than the openings for the 2011 reboot X-Men: First Class ($55.1 million) and even Singer’s initial movie, its $54.5 million opening being fantastic when you consider that’s before 19 years of ticket price inflation.
Dark Phoenix did better overseas with $107 million in 53 territories, most of that amount coming from China’s $45.6 million debut. South Korea, Mexico and the United Kingdom also saw decent business with $5 million or more, but that pathetic domestic opening is just not a great way to end a franchise that has had spotty moments but generally had its fans.
Although few new movies are delivering on the promise of their predecessors, many of the returning movies aren’t holding up well either, many of them losing 50% or more business this weekend.
The rare exception is Walt Disney Pictures, which continues to be dominant. This weekend, Guy Ritchie‘s fantasy-musical Aladdin, starring Will Smith, as it dropped to third place with $24.5 million, down just 43% from last weekend and racking up $232.4 million domestic since opening over Memorial Day weekend. That makes Aladdin Disney’s third movie of the year to cross the $200 million mark, also making it the only studio to have any movies that grossed over $200 million.
Last week’s disappointment, Warners’ Godzilla: King of the Monsters had a painful 68% drop to fourth place with $15.5 million in its second weekend. It has made $78.6 million in ten days, less than the 2014 reboot made in its opening weekend, and it’s probably going to keep struggling even as it surpasses $100 million.  As with many domestic flops, Godzilla has been helped overseas with $213.7 million from the international box office.
Paramount’s Elton John biopic Rocketman was #5 this weekend with $14 million, down 46% from its opening with $50.5 million grossed so far.
The Octavia Spencer thriller Ma from Universal Pictures dropped to sixth place with $7.8 million (down 56%) with a running total of $32.8 million, which is a solid number for a movie that only cost $5 million to make.
Keanu Reeves’ action-threequel John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum had the best hold in the top 10, dropping just 33% to seventh place with $7.4 million, despite losing nearly 900 theaters. The hit Lionsgate franchise has made $139 million domestically, paving the way for a fourth movie in 2021 as well as making it one of the few non-Disney movies to be doing well in the “Summer of Blood.”
It’s especially surprising how poorly movies are doing this summer when you consider that Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame  has been setting records for the past seven weeks. This weekend was its last in the top 10 with $4.8 million with its domestic total reaching $824.4 million.
Opening in four theaters in New York and L.A., Mindy Kaling‘s comedy Late Night, co-starring Emma Thompson, took in $249,000 or $62,400 per theater, which is the best per-theater average of the year. Next week, Amazon will expand Late Night nationwide in hopes it can make a mark despite the weak box office showings of other festival favorites like Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart.
A24 released its own Sundance hit, Joe Talbot‘s The Last Black Man in San Francisco into seven theaters in New York, L.A. and San Francisco Friday where it grossed $230,000 or $33,000 per theater. Ron Howard‘s Pavarotti doc, released by CBS Films into 19 theaters, ended up with an estimated $143,000.

This Week’s Top 10: 

Rank Last Week Rank Movie Studio Weekend Gross % Change Total Gross
1 New The Secret Life of Pets 2 Universal $47.1 million N/A $48 million
2 New Dark Phoenix 20th Century Fox $33 million N/A $33 million
3 2 Aladdin Disney $24.5 million -43% $232.4 million
4 1 Godzilla: King of the Monsters Warner Bros. $15.5 million -68% $78.6 million
5 3 Rocketman Paramount $14 million -46% $50.5 million
6 4 Ma Universal $7.8 million -57% $32.8 million
7 5 John Wick Chapter 3 Warner Bros. $7.4 million -33% $138.7 million
8 6 Avengers: Endgame U.A. Releasing $4.8 million -40% $824.4 million
9 7 Pokémon: Detective Pikachu Screen Gems $3 million -57% $137.4 million
10 8 Booksmart U.A. Releasing $1.6 million 52% $33.2 million

Although many of this summer’s movies haven’t been the hits many expected, the estimated top 10 is still up nearly $50 million from the same weekend last year when Warner Bros’ all-woman heist movie Ocean’s 8 topped the box office with $41.6 million. A24’s horror film Hereditary opened in fourth place with $13.6 million, far surpassing the crime thriller Hotel Artemis which opened with $10 million less.
Check back on Wednesday for The Beat‘s Box Office Preview looking at Sony’s sci-fi spin-off Men in Black International and the return of Shaft.


  1. how spoiled are we as a society when 33 million dollars made in a single weekend for a movie( more money than the majority of us will see in 10 life times) is considered “pitiful”.

  2. I question calling Booksmart’s box office “weak”. It’s made almost $18 million in three weeks, with a small budget, a not well known cast, and little marketing push. I imagine it’s going to end up making a profit.

  3. X-Men will be back in a few years, with a new cast and new approach. I doubt many people were excited about seeing Dark Phoenix; like Apocalypse, it was made because of contractual obligations, and no other reason.
    Given its small budget, Booksmart has probably already made a tidy profit.

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