LOS ANGELES – After nearly 20 years and a dozen films, the current manifestation of X-Men movies is going out with a whimper.
Scorched by poor reviews, “Dark Phoenix” earned a franchise low of $33 million from 3,700 North American locations over the weekend for a second-place finish, according to studio estimates on Sunday. First place went instead to “The Secret Life of Pets 2.”
The sequel, featuring the voices of Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish and Harrison Ford in his first animated role, grossed an estimated $47.1 million in ticket sales. Although less than half of what the first film opened to in 2016, it’s still a major win for the studio, considering the production budget was around $80 million. Including international grosses, its global total is already sitting at $97 million.
“It’s a fantastic result,” says Jim Orr, Universal’s president of domestic theatrical distribution. “We couldn’t be more proud.”
Duke (left, voiced by Eric Stonestreet) and Max (Patton Oswalt) have a lot to learn from no-nonsense farm dog Rooster (Harrison Ford) in “The Secret Life of Pets 2.” (Photo: ILLUMINATION ENTERTAINMENT/UNIVERSAL PICTURES)
With decidedly less stellar results, “Dark Phoenix” trailed behind the talking animals. Directed by longtime X-Men scribe Simon Kinberg, it focuses on Jean Grey, who is played by Sophie Turner, fresh off of her “Game of Thrones” run as Sansa Stark. It also brings back James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence. It’s the de facto conclusion to the modern X-Men movies that started in 2000, and also the first major 20th Century Fox film to be released by Disney following the acquisition.
Listen to this week’s episode of USA TODAY’s podcast, The Mothership, to hear our Tech Reporter and Film Critic discuss whether X-Men’s “Dark Phoenix” will rise from its counterpart’s ashes.
But the quality wasn’t there and it scored even worse reviews overall than the widely disparaged “X-Men: Apocalypse.” Audiences who showed up seemed to concur with the critics, giving it a deadly B-minus on CinemaScore.
“It’s softer than we hoped,” says Cathleen Taff, Disney’s president of theatrical distribution. “While the film didn’t open the way we wanted, we think the legacy of the X-Men series is important and it’s more important than how one film opens. We’re trying to keep it in perspective.”
Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey gets imbued with great power that tears her apart, inside and out, in the X-Men film “Dark Phoenix.” (Photo: 20TH CENTURY FOX)
Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore, notes even with the lackluster North American debut and reception, “Dark Phoenix” was No. 1 internationally with $107 million from 53 territories, including China. Globally, it earned $140 million.
“In the international marketplace, it seems like the spectacle and the brand wins out,” Dergarabedian says.
Also, the X-Men characters, which had been licensed to Fox, are now expected to be integrated with Disney’s stable of characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Disney’s new extended “Aladdin” trailer is here for the live-action remake that hits theaters May 24.WALT DISNEY STUDIOS
Disney has another winner in its books in “Aladdin,” which coasted to third place in its third weekend with an additional $24.5 million. Globally, it has earned $604.9 million to date.
“Godzilla: King of The Monsters” had a titan-sized second-weekend fall, however, down 67% with $15.5 million.
And the acclaimed Elton John biopic “Rocketman” rounded out the top five with $14 million.
Overall, the box office is healthy. The weekend is up 37% from last year when “Ocean’s 8” opened and the year-to-date deficit improved again. The year is now down 5.9%.
Final numbers are expected Monday.