Determining how well Alita: Battle Angel performed in its opening weekend is tricky. On the one hand, the film — produced and co-written by James Cameron and directed by Robert Rodriguez — easily topped the box office in its opening weekend, out-earning the second weekend of the drifting The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. With $33 million over the four-day holiday and $41 million since it opened on Wednesday, Battle Angel also beat expectations. So, that’s good, right?
Not exactly. The film cost $170 million to produce, and that’s before marketing expenses. It’s going to need at least $500 million to break even. The $41 million its earned stateside so far suggests that, without a dramatic turnaround, it’s going to struggle to put up $100 million in America. So far, it’s not exactly putting up huge numbers overseas, either. It earned $35 million in its opening weekend across the pond, while it opens in China next weekend. It’s only hope for profitability comes from the Middle Kingdom, but even that’s a long shot. Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One earned an impressive $212 million in China, but even that wouldn’t be enough to put Alita over the top, considering how modestly it is playing everywhere else.
I’m sure that there’s plenty of blame to go around. Reviews weren’t particularly good (59 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), although the audiences who did go see it were big fans (it received an A- Cinemascore). Lack of awareness obviously wasn’t a problem: They’ve been promoting for the film for over a year (in fact, it was originally supposed to be released over the holidays). Competition during this frame wasn’t exactly steep, either. I think it was just a matter of moviegoers not being that interested in a movie about a big-eyed robot that looks like a film heavy on style and light on substance. Anecdotally, the biggest compliment about the film I’ve heard from those who have seen it is, “It’s not as bad as it looks.” The $41 million it has earned so far is actually impressive considering that takeaway.
Meanwhile, The LEGO Movie 2 did manage to capture the second spot in its second weekend, earning $27.8 million over the four-day holiday to bring its total to $69 million. That is even with what The LEGO Movie earned in its opening weekend in 2014. This one also cost $40 million more to make than the original. It’s not exactly tearing it up in foreign markets, either. The first one earned $13 million in its opening weekend in the UK on its way to $54 million. This one only earned $5 million in its opening weekend there.
Rebel Wilson’s Isn’t It Romantic? did a very respectable $22 million over the holiday, including its Thursday Valentine’s Day numbers. That was good enough for third place, and with a budget of only $31 million, it is eyeing profitability despite the controversy that plagued the film early on. With a 69 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, reviews have also been more helpful than not. It’s performing similarly to Wilson’s 2016 film, How to Be Single, which ended up with $47 million. Expect similar numbers for Isn’t It Romantic?
With $12 million over the four-day holiday, What Men Want is also performing fairly well, having earned $37 million now on a $20 million budget.
Another slight disappointment this weekend was the performance of Happy Death Day 2U, which was expected to compete with Alita for the top spot at the box office. Moviegoers, however, weren’t particularly keen on seeing the sequel to Blumhouse hit, which earned $55 million stateside the first time around. This one limped out with $9 million over the four-day holiday and $13 million since its Wednesday opening (it was supposed to open on Valentine’s Day, but the studio opened it a day early out of respect for the Parkland families). It’s a Blumhouse pic, though, so it’s still bound to make a profit on only a $9 million budget, although a trilogy now seems (sadly) less likely. It’s interesting, however, to contrast the disappointing $13 million earnings of Happy Death Day 2 U with the $41 million opening of Alita. The $9 million movie has already made back its budget, while the $170 million movie hasn’t even earned by 25 percent of its budget in America.
The rest of the top ten were all holdovers. Liam Neeson’s Cold Pursuit is hanging in there, earning $6.5 million over four days, dropping about 50 percent in its second weekend to bring its total to $21 million. The pic is pinning its hopes for profitability on the worldwide box office. In its sixth week, The Upside fell to number six with $$6.74 over four days, and with $95.35 million, that $100 million mark is looking well within reach. Glass just crossed that mark and now sits at $105 million after its four-day $4.4 million total.
Last week’s horror entry The Prodigy dipped to number nine this weekend, earning $3.5 million over four days to bring its total to $11 million. Finally, Green Book rounds out the top ten, earning $3.2 million over the President’s Day holiday to bring its total to $66 million with another weekend to go before the Oscar ceremony.
Next weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World should easily take the top spot and probably do considerable damage to the already limping The Lego Movie 2 while Fighting with My Family — which performed well in limited release this weekend — expands into 2500 theaters and has some potential to be an unexpected hit.