Heading into the weekend, it looked like The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part was a surefire box office hit. Even given how The LEGO Batman Movie came in a bit behind expectations in 2017 and The LEGO Ninjago Movie outright flopped the same year, it still looked like the newest LEGO adventure was on track for a strong bow in the $45-50 million range. Instead, The LEGO Movie 2 ended up opening to far lower numbers than anyone could have predicted. This feature took in only $34.4 million this weekend, down about 50% from the opening weekend of the first LEGO movie and down 36% from the opening weekend of The LEGO Batman Movie. It did hold on decently well throughout the weekend with a massive Friday-to-Saturday increase, but that doesn’t help much when those day-to-day holds still only result in a $34.4 million bow.
Given that these LEGO movies don’t perform well overseas and the $99 million budget of this movie (making it by far the most expensive LEGO movie yet), the future isn’t bright for The LEGO Movie 2, which will gross only $115 million domestically if it performs like The LEGO Batman Movie from here on out in terms of weekend-to-weekend holds. I’ve already seen many saying this dismal opening weekend is due to Warner Bros. opening two other LEGO movies in 2017, thus diluting demand for a straight-up sequel to the original LEGO movie, and while that likely didn’t help, that alone couldn’t cause this poor of an opening weekend. The marketing for this new LEGO movie just didn’t offer up enough new enticing elements to viewers, particularly older ones, and that might have been a key factor in why this one underperformed to such a severe degree.
In second place this frame was another wide release newcomer, What Men Want, which grossed a solid $19 million. Though nowhere near as big as the $33.6 million opening weekend of What Women Want, What Men Want only cost $20 million versus the $70 million pricetag of What Women Want, so this new Taraji P. Henson vehicle didn’t need to be anywhere near as successful as What Wome Want to be considered a box office hit. Plus, What Men Want scored the twelfth biggest opening weekend ever for a comedy remake, a subgenre that’s littered with high-profile duds.
In third place we find yet another wide release newcomer, Cold Pursuit, which continued Lionsgate’s cold streak (no pun intended!) at the domestic box office with only a $10.8 million, a poor opening below even the debuts of previous Liam Neeson box office non-starters like A Walk Among The Tombstones ($12.7 million) and Run All Night ($11 million). Liam Neeson’s action hero routine is just old hat for audiences at this point and the presence of dark humor in the marketing campaign for Cold Pursuit couldn’t help it out. Liam Neeson’s comments on the film’s press tour from this past week also likely didn’t help an already struggling feature.
Now we come to a pair of January 2019 holdovers, the biggest of which was The Upside, which dipped a mere 17% this frame to gross another $7.2 million. This crowdpleaser juggernaut has now grossed $85.8 million and will pass $100 million domestically in no time. Rounding out the top five was Glass, which fell only 32% for a fourth-weekend gross of $6.4 million and a domestic total of $98.4 million. Glass will become the first movie of 2019 to crack $100 million at the domestic box office sometime this week.
Our final new wide release this weekend was The Prodigy, which grossed $6 million. This one didn’t end up breaking out as a sleeper hit, but it was made on such a cheap budget (only $6 million) that this is a fine debut for the title. This is the 12th biggest opening weekend ever for an Orion Pictures release and is also a bigger opening weekend than any title released by BH Tilt, a studio that Orion seems to be patterning itself off of.
Green Book held wonderfully this frame as it dipped only 18% to gross another $3.5 million for a $61.5 million domestic total. There’s a solid chance, especially given that next weekend has a four-day holiday weekend, that this one manages to cracks $75 million domestically. Aquaman fell only 32% this weekend, which allowed it to take in another $3.3 million for a $328.5 million domestic gross. Normally, when a new computer-animated family movie enters the marketplace, holdovers of the same ilk fall like a stone The fact that The LEGO Movie 2 was not the event movie it was supposed to be could be seen in how Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse was the rare animated family movie holdover to not drop sharply in the face of a similar newcomer. On the contrary, the smash hit feature kept on chugging as it dipped just 33% to add another $3 million to its domestic gross that now stands at $179.8 million. Rounding out the top ten was Miss Bala, which fell a sharp 60% this frame for a second-weekend gross of only $2.7 million for a domestic gross of $11.8 million.
Right outside the top ten was A Dog’s Way Home, which fell 46% for a fifth-weekend gross of $1.9 million and a domestic gross of $38.9 million. Meanwhile, They Shall Not Grow Old continued its impressive domestic box office run by dipping only 31% this frame, grossing another $1.6 million in the process for a fantastic domestic gross of $13.5 million. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse may not have been impacted by the arrival of LEGO Movie 2, but The Kid Who Would Be King certainly was as it fell a whopping 65% for a third-weekend gross of just $1.5 million and a domestic gross of only $15 million. It’s looking likely that this thing ends up with a domestic gross beneath $20 million and it’s certainly guaranteed to dethrone the $23 million domestic haul of Transcendence for the title of worst domestic box office gross for a film released in over 3,400 locations.
This year’s edition of The Oscar Nominated Short Films grossed $912,000 from 265 locations for a per-theater average of $3,442. That’s the biggest opening weekend yet for this annual fixture. Cold War eased 4% this weekend as its theater count increased to 270 locations for an eighth weekend gross of $500,859 for a $2.8 million domestic gross while Capernaum went into 63 locations and grossed $140,773 for a per-theater average of $2,234 and a domestic gross of $734,063. Serenity fell a sharp 93% this weekend as it lost 2,278 locations from last weekend. Its third-weekend gross was a pathetic $125,000 and the feature has grossed only $8.4 million domestically. In its second weekend of release, Arctic expanded into 15 locations and grossed $82,619 for a per-theater average of $5,508 and a domestic gross of $149,527. After expanding into over 200 locations last weekend, Destroyer retreated 69% this frame to gross another $77,645 for a domestic gross of $1.45 million.
Finally making its domestic bow this frame was the new Asghar Farhadi feature Everybody Knows, which actually got off to a decent $75,000 start at 4 locations for a per-theater average of $18,750. On the other hand, the popularity of Peppa Pig did not translate into strong theatrical box office for Peppa Celebrate’s Chinese New Year, which grossed a measly $7,000 from 67 locations for a per-theater average of $107. Never Look Away continued its slow roll-out by increasing its location count to just 3 theaters, grossing $40,465 for a per-theater average of $13,488 and a domestic gross of $109,438. Lords of Chaos bowed in 4 locations this weekend and grossed $28,086 for a per-theater average of $7,022.
The top 12 movies this weekend grossed a total of $100 million, a much weaker than usual haul for the sixth weekend of the year. For comparison’s sake, the sixth weekend of 2017 (which saw The LEGO Batman Movie topping the marketplace) grossed $174.2 million while the sixth weekend of 2012 saw a $173 million haul. These sixth weekends of the year usually see 3-4 high-profile newcomers trying to establish themselves before the big President’s Day holiday frame the subsequent weekend, but whereas the same weekends in 2017 and 2012 were headlined by either big franchise continuations (LEGO Batman, the first John Wick & Fifty Shades sequels) or buzzy star-studded original films (The Vow, Safe House), this year’s crop of newcomers came off as too derivative of past hits. Six weekends into 2019 and the year has only grossed only $943.7 million to date, which is down 17-23% from the domestic box office hauls of the last five years at the same point.
Given that 2018 just delivered the biggest October ever, the third biggest November ever and the fourth biggest December ever at the domestic box office, it’s clear that this isn’t an issue about people abandoning movie theaters or some other fictional hyperbolic issue, it’s merely the issue of the marketplace currently lacking enticing new titles or big award season sleeper hits that usually fuel the box office at this time of the year. In years past, late January has delivered sleeper hits like Taken, Kung Fu Panda 3, A Dog’s Purpose, even Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters took in $19.6 million over the last weekend of January 2013. For comparison’s sake, it just felt like studios gave up for some reason over the last two weekends and just dumped critically reviled projects they didn’t have much confidence in, like Serenity or Miss Bala, into over 2,000 locations (even a critically acclaimed title like The Kid Who Would Be King felt like it was dumped by 20th Century Fox without much fanfare). That’s why everything’s not so awesome at the domestic box office right now, when the movies don’t look interesting, people won’t come out like they did in past January’s and February’s. Let’s see if Rebel Wilson, a killer in a baby mask and Alita: Battle Angel can maybe turn things around for the 2019 domestic box office over the four-day President’s Day holiday weekend next weekend…