Box Office Guy

Patrick Reardon

Things got a bit crowded at the summer box office last weekend. But with so many options available to moviegoers none of the newcomers were able to truly break out. "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" ($47.8m) and "Rocketman" ($25.7m) each came in lower than their lofty projections and "Ma" ($18.1m) was only able to meet its expectations. Things won't get any less crowded this weekend as a pair of big rookies hit theaters.

"The Secret Life of Pets 2" is a follow up to the 2016 hit, which had a stellar $104.4m opening weekend on its way to a massive domestic haul of $368.4m (the fourth highest grossing film of 2016). With the numbers like these a sequel was foregone conclusion.

"Pets 2" was produced by Illumination Entertainment which is the most successful creator of animated films that isn't named Pixar. Although Illumination is best known for their "Despicable Me" franchise their highest grossing film was actually "The Secret Life of Pets" (by a scant $323k over "Despicable Me 2").

With the understandable exclusion of Louis C.K. (Patton Oswalt takes over the voice of ‘Max') the rest of the cast is back (Kevin Hart, Eric Stonestreet, Tiffany Haddish, Dana Carvey, etc.). And they're joined by a new character who is voiced by Harrison Ford (I would kill to see outtakes from those recording sessions).

I don't expect "Pets 2" to top (or even come close to matching) the box office of its predecessor, but the floor is incredibly safe for this film. With the exception of "Sing" (which opened up during Christmas week in 2016), Illumination has never had a fully animated movie open up with less than $56.4m (the original "Despicable Me" way back in 2010). With a family friendly PG rating, an ultra wide 4,400+ theater count and a majority of schools being let out for the summer I don't see any way "The Secret Life of Pets 2" drops below this floor. With a cost of FB$664 it's my easy choice for a lineup anchor this weekend. Especially since I'm leery of this weekends other high profile new release.

"Dark Phoenix" is the latest chapter in the long running X-Men franchise (twelve films and counting over the past nineteen years if you include the "Deadpool" films). The Dark Phoenix Saga is one of the most popular storylines in X-Men lore, but the first time this story was adapted for the big screen, it was met with very mixed results. I say mixed because although most fans hated the way director Brett Ratner shoehorned this storyline into the kitchen sink movie know as "X-Men: The Last Stand" in 2006, the film is actually the highest (non "Deadpool") grossing film in franchise history ($234.4m domestic total). With "Dark Phoenix" writer-director-producer Simon Kinberg is attempting to give this saga the faithful big-screen treatment it deserves. Unfortunately, I don't believe audiences are going to be all that interested.

After successfully rebooting the franchise with a younger cast in 2011 ("X-Men: First Class" $146.4m domestic total), and then building upon that success by folding in some of the old cast members in 2014 ("X-Men: Days of Future Past" $233.9m domestic total), the franchise ran into a brick wall in 2016 ("X-Men: Apocalypse" $155.4m domestic total).

The dreary, humorless, needlessly long sequel stopped all franchise momentum dead in its tracks. If not for "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," "Apocalypse" would be the worst reviewed film in the series (47% on rotten tomatoes). However, it might not hold that distinction for long since "Dark Phoenix" is running at 21% fresh as of Wednesday morning (based on 94 reviews).

Between franchise fatigue, terrible reviews, minimal buzz, tough competition and the numerous delays (the film has had to move off two release dates, never a good sign); I think "Dark Phoenix" is headed to the worst numbers in X-Men franchise history. With a high price of FB$540 I'm steering clear this weekend. But don't panic X-Men fans; mutants won't be out of your lives for very long since "The New Mutants" is scheduled for release in April. And now that the X-Men are in the Walt Disney fold post 20th Century Fox merger, it's a safe bet that another proper X-Men reboot will be coming sooner than later. Jacob Tremblay as a young Charles Xavier anyone?

Since I'm out on "Dark Phoenix" and since most movies this summer haven't shown great staying power I'm building my lineup around "The Secret Life of Pets 2" (FB$664). However, the rest of my Cineplex is a tad trickier. I'm leaning slightly toward "Rocketman" since it's the best reviewed of the big movies released over the past few weeks, and it plays to an older audience that tends to take longer to see movies in a theater. With those two clogging up most of my budget I've got to use low-end filler. See my bonus pick below as a potential filler option.

And one last fun fact about "X-Men: Apocalypse" (I swear I'm not piling on). But I never got around to seeing the film in a theater so I got caught up with it on home video. The night I watched it: November 8th, 2016. I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

Weekend Picks

My picks for this weekend's top 5 in total box office (this week's cost in FML Bux in parentheses):

  1. The Secret Life of Pets 2 (FB$664)
  2. Dark Phoenix (FB$540)
  3. Aladdin (FB$277)
  4. Godzilla King of the Monsters (FB$251)
  5. Rocketman (FB$209)

Bonus Pick of the Week: "A Dog's Journey" (FB$6) This is based on the hope that it gets paired up as part of a double feature at drive-in theaters this weekend with "The Secret Life of Pets 2" (both are distributed by Universal). And honestly it's FB$6 filler. This is about as low risk, high reward as it gets. What have you got to lose?

Coming Attractions

Next weekend features a pair of high profile reboots. The bigger of the two involves Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson stepping into the considerable shoes of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in "Men in Black International." Elsewhere three generations of John Shafts (Richard Roundtree, Samuel L. Jackson, Jessie T. Usher) star in a reboot of a reboot in the appropriately titled "Shaft." For those of you clamoring for something original Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson star "Late Night" which was a big hit at Sundance earlier this year.

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