So far 2017 has only seen one film open higher than $30 million, M. Night Shyamalan’s Split, which opened with $40 million on the weekend of January 20th. This weekend, three films are opening north of $30 million, and while the numbers are big, the three films combined barely eked out more than the surprise $132 million Deadpool put up on this weekend last year. (Interestingly, Deadpool combined the sex, violence, and subversive genre bending comedy of the three new releases this weekend).
We’ll start with The LEGO Batman Movie, the follow up to 2014’s smash-hit The LEGO Movie, which also opened in February 2014 with $69 million domestic on its way to a $469 million worldwide haul (on only a $60 million budget). The spin-off The LEGO Batman cost $20 million more, and will end the weekend with around $15 million less than the original, but $56 million is a nice sum considering that much of New England was blanketed in snow. More importantly, like The LEGO Movie, The LEGO Batman Movie is expected to dominate the kids-and-parents market well into March, barring competition from, uh, Rock Dog, though most parents would gladly watch The LEGO Batman Movie a second or third time with their kids before watching Rock Dog once. As Mike Ryan pointed out, The LEGO Batman Movie is the first fun DC movie, and in many ways, the jokes are targeted more at the parents than the kids. The film also scored well with critics (91 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences, who gave it an A on Cinemascore. Look for The LEGO Batman Movie to keep the franchise momentum up ahead of September’s The LEGO NINJAGO Movie, which looks like another winner for LEGO.
There were concerns heading into the weekend — after the dismal reception from critics for Fifty Shades of Grey and more terrible reviews for Fifty Shades Darker (currently sitting at 10 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) — that the franchise might suffer a Divergent-like fall and end up airing the final installment as a Lifetime movie. Those fears, however, were put to rest by the a strong opening weekend.
Darker will open in the $45-$46 million range, which is well short of the $85 million of the original, but these movies are relatively inexpensive ($55 million budget) and do huge numbers internationally (the first film made $571 million globally). The first installment was hugely frontloaded, meaning that Darker will probably see about 50 percent of its overall domestic take this weekend. Still, even if the second in the planned trilogy barely breaks $100 million stateside, it’s a big hit for Universal once worldwide receipts are accounted for.
Importantly, the target audience was left immensely satisfied by the film. Eighty percent of the audience were women (most over the age of 25) and more than 80 percent of those women say they would recommend the film to their friends, according to Deadline. The audience is also heavily populated with groups of women attending together, most of whom were fans of the E.L. James novels. The third movie in the trilogy, Fifty Shades Freed, is already lined up to open in February of next year.
The third big hit of the weekend John Wick: Chapter 2, looks to open with around $30 million, or double what the original John Wick opened with on this same weekend in 2015 ($14 million). The original only managed $43 million domestically (and a little more than $80 million worldwide), which typically isn’t enough to warrant a sequel. In fact, sequels for inexpensive horror films typically aren’t greenlit after $40 million grosses. However, John Wick was huge on home release, generating over $50 million in receipts, a rare film to find a huge cult audience in the digital era. In fact, according to Deadline, John Wick was the third highest grossing home release title in Lionsgate history, behind only Hunger Games and Divergent.
The budget on the second film doubled to $40 million to cover the expense of three times as many bullets to the face, but the investment was clearly worth it. John Wick: Chapter 2 is a huge hit with critics (90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and the core demographic — men over the age of 25 — are loving it. There should be enough legs in the film to ensure a third installment if Keanu Reeves wants to return.
The three new films sucked up most of the oxygen at the Valentine’s Day box-office, leaving little air for holdovers. Split led the way, adding another $10 million to bring its overall total to more than $112 million, as the M. Night Shyamalan film is finally starting to slow at the box office. In week eight, Hidden Figures added another $8 million to bring its overall gross to around $131 million. It is now the highest grossing Best Picture nominee of the year ahead of La La Land’s $126 million (the Gosling movie came in 8th place this weekend with $5 million).
Sixth place went to the dog snuff film, A Dog’s Purpose, which has quietly amassed $42 million on a $22 million budget. Rings grabbed seventh place, falling 60 percent in its second weekend with $5.3 million. Best picture nominee Lion continues to quietly chug along, coming in 9th and raising its cumulative gross to $30 million. Last week’s stinker, The Space Between Us, dropped another 60 percent to come in tenth place with only $1.5 million. With a $30 million price tag and less than $7 million at the box office, this looks like a major flop for STX Entertainment.
After a huge Valentine’s Day weekend, the box office is not taking a breather next week, as three new films seek to topple The LEGO Batman: Matt Damon’s The Great Wall, Charlie Day and Ice Cube’s Fist Fight and Gore Verbinski’s hour horror film, A Cure for Wellness, which is hoping to capitalize on its Super Bowl ad.