Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' Wins Valentine's Day With $8.7M

Comedies 'Isn't It Romantic' and 'What Men Want' see a big boost from the sweetheart's holiday, while 'Happy Death Day 2U' places fourth.
'Alita: Battle Angel'   |   Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox TM & 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Comedies 'Isn't It Romantic' and 'What Men Want' see a big boost from the sweetheart's holiday, while 'Happy Death Day 2U' places fourth.

The James Cameron-produced Alita: Battle Angel easily topped Valentine's Day with $8.7 million as it commenced its box office run in North America.

That puts the big-budget movie on pace to earn $36 million to $38 million in its five-day debut, ahead of expectations and enough to beat fellow new offerings Happy Death Day 2U and Isn't It Romantic. The trio of films opened midweek to take advantage of Valentine's Day heading into the long President's Day weekend.

Directed by Robert Rodriguez, Alita nevertheless remains a huge gamble for 20th Century Fox, considering the performance-capture pic cost as much as $200 million to produce before marketing (after rebates and tax incentives, the budget was $165 million-$170 million).

Alita in particular will need to do big business both domestically and overseas in order to avoid turning into the year's first big-budget miss (its early foreign gross is $32 million).

The cyberpunk adventure, starring Rosa Salazar, was written by Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis. Cameron produced alongside his partner at Lightstorm, Jon Landau. Alita has the benefit of playing on higher-priced Imax, premium large format and 3D screens. While reviews are lukewarm, the pic garnered an A- CinemaScore.

New Line's Isn't it Romantic, starring Rebel Wilson stars as a rom-com-detesting Manhattananite who suddenly finds herself living in her very own romantic comedy, was the next biggest winner on Valentine's Day. The comedy grossed $4.4 million for a two-day total of $6.2 million. It is now expected to post a six-day debut in the $20 million-$23 million range.

Paramount and Taraji P. Henson's gender-bending comedy What Men Want, which opened last weekend, was another Valentine's Day favorite, earning an estimated $3.2 million for a seven-day domestic total of $25.2 million.

Happy Death Day 2U, from Blumhouse and Universal, earned an estimated $2.7 million on Thursday for a two-day total of $3.7 million. There's a scenario in which the sequel may not earn much more than $10 million-$12 million in its six-day debut.

Tracking had suggested the slasher pic, which cost a modest $6 million to make, would match Alita over the long holiday weekend. In the sequel to 2017's Happy Death Day, Jessica Rothe reprises her role as a young woman who once again finds herself living the same day again and again after being killed, only this time her friends are targets.

Elsewhere, the Dwayne Johnson-produced Fighting With My Family is launching in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles before expanding nationwide next weekend. From MGM, the WWE biographical drama opened to $35,000 on Thursday for a location average of $8,750.

Feb. 14, 12:45 p.m. Updated with revised weekend projections.
Feb. 15, 7:45 a.m
. Updated with Thursday grosses.