With Chris Hemsworth’ “Men in Black: International” and “Shaft” sequels not doing so well at the weekend box office, many are quick to say that it’s franchise fatigue again. There’s only one problem with that.
How can those same people account for Keanu Reeves’ “John Wick 3” continuing to thrive at the box office? In just 31 days, the $75 million action sequel has brought in $276.1 million worldwide. That’s now over 60 percent domestic and worldwide better than “John Wick: Chapter 2.” The Reeves film has actually bested “Captain America: Civil War” box office jump from “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”
To makes things even more confusing to those franchise fatiguers, “John Wick 3” is an original R-rated star-driven franchise that seems to have happened accidentally. There weren’t big plans on more films during the making of “John Wick,” it just happened organically. When you give theater-going audiences what they want, they will respond in kind. It’s when you just use a business model to make movies is when you’ll continue having surefire films bomb at the box office.
So rather than trying to make copies of the John Wick franchise Hollywood, come up with more originality.
Brand familiarity isn’t everything when it comes to attracting audiences to the multiplex, and Hollywood is learning that lesson the hard way this summer with a slew of underperforming sequels and reboots. That so-called franchise fatigue came to a head this weekend with the releases of “Men in Black: International” and “Shaft.”
The writing may have been on the wall after neither an X-Men movie (“Dark Phoenix”) nor a Godzilla movie (“Godzilla: King of the Monsters”) could get moviegoers enthusiastic enough to turn out. But this weekend, down over 50% from last year, is the worst yet.
“This was a rough weekend,” said Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “We’ve had some big franchises that are not resonating with audiences or critics.”
And there’s a common denominator between all the recent disappointments: Poor reviews. All four have been certified “rotten” on Rotten Tomatoes.
“Men in Black: International” took the No. 1 spot in North America, but it’s a dubious distinction for the Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth-led reboot which isn’t exactly the franchise-revitalizer it hoped to be. Sony Pictures on Sunday estimates the F. Gary Gray-directed film earned only $28.5 million over the weekend against a reported $110 million production budget. The three previous “Men in Black” films all opened to over $50 million not accounting for inflation.
However, international audiences are helping the bottom line with the film earning $73.7 million from 36 markets, bringing its global total to $102.2 million.
The weekend’s other big new release, “Shaft,” which introduces another generation to the franchise, couldn’t even manage to carve out a place in the top five, which instead was populated mostly by holdovers.
“The Secret Life of Pets 2” got the No. 2 spot in its second weekend with $23.8 million. Disney’s “Aladdin,” now in weekend four, took third with $16.7 million. “Dark Phoenix” placed fourth with $9 million and “Rocketman” coasted to fifth with $8.8 million.
“Shaft,” a Warner Bros. release, placed sixth on the charts, with a disappointing $8.3 million.
Directed by Tim Story, “Shaft” features Samuel L. Jackson reprising his role from almost 20 years ago and Jessie T. Usher as his son. It was made for around $30 million.
Although critics did not praise the film, audiences who turned out (54% of whom were women) were more enthusiastic, giving the film an A CinemaScore.
Even some originals had a tough time this weekend. Amazon Studios expanded its Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson comedy “Late Night,” which it acquired the North American rights to for a Sundance record of $13 million, to 2,220 theaters where it earned $5.1 million.
“The real bright spots have been the smaller indies,” Dergarabedian said. “We think of summer as blockbuster season, but it’s turned into indie film season.”
Jim Jarmusch’s star-studded zombie comedy “The Dead Don’t Die” mostly survived its mixed reviews and opened to $2.35 million from 613 locations.
Documentaries like “Echo in the Canyon” and “Pavarotti” have been making a modest mark in limited release, and the acclaimed drama “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” expanded to 36 locations and earned $361,120. It expands further next weekend.
But the marketplace is hurting and it’s not a problem with the weekend, which last year saw “Incredibles 2” open to over $182 million, but with the major movies themselves.
The disappointments have come, mostly, from “movies that just don’t deliver,” according to Dergarabedian.
But it’s too simplistic to fault all franchises and next weekend the marketplace will be singing a different tune when “Toy Story 4” opens.
″‘Toy Story 4’ is going to erase the memory of this very tough weekend,” Dergarabedian said.
North American Box Office
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. “Men in Black: International,” $28.5 million ($73.7 million international).
2. “The Secret Life of Pets 2,” $23.8 million ($8.5 million international).
3. “Aladdin,” $16.7 million ($47.5 million international).
4. “Dark Phoenix,” $9 million ($24.2 million international).
5. “Rocketman,” $8.8 million ($8.5 million international).
6. “Shaft,” $8.3 million.
7. “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” $8.1 million ($14.1 million international).
8. “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum,” $6.1 million ($6.2 million international).
9. “Late Night,” $5.1 million ($255,000 international).
10. “Ma,” $3.6 million ($2.3 million international).
Worldwide Box Office
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to Comscore:
1. “Men in Black: International,” $73.7 million.
2. “Aladdin,” $47.5 million.
3. “Dark Phoenix,” $24.2 million.
4. “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” $14.1 million.
5. “My Best Summer (Zui Hao De Wo Men),” $8.7 million.
6. “The Secret Life of Pets 2” and “Rocketman,” $8.5 million.
7. “Parasite,” $7.8 million.
8. “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum,” $6.2 million.
9. “A City Called Macau,” $4.1 million.
10. “Chasing the Dragon 2: Wild Wild Bunch,” $3.4 million.