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Director Robert Rodriguez’s Alita: Battle Angel easily won the Presidents Day holiday corridor with a less-than-heavenly $43 million domestic debut. That includes $34.3 million for the four-day weekend proper after opening on Thursday.
The good news: Alita — a passion project for James Cameron, who produced and co-wrote — came in well ahead of prerelease tracking thanks to strong word of mouth. Throughout the weekend, the male-fueled pic gained momentum. The bad: The long-gestating cyberpunk adventure cost 20th Century Fox at least $200 million to produce before tax rebates and incentives brought the net budget down to $165 million-$170 million (that doesn’t include marketing).
Alita will need to have strong legs domestically and do huge business overseas to avoid losing tens of millions and becoming the first big-budget miss of the year. The film earned $56 million from 86 foreign markets over the weekend for an early offshore total of $94.3 million and roughly $137.3 million globally through Monday. So far overseas, Alita is pacing ahead of Ready Player One, which earned $455.2 million internationally.
Japan and China, where the pic will open Friday, will be key (Cameron is set to attend Monday’s premiere in China). Alita was the top-grossing film of the weekend overseas, save for China, where the sci-fi sensation The Wandering Earth earned another $96.9 million for a total of $609.2 million.
Audiences gave Alita an A- CinemaScore, helping to minimize the damage of lukewarm reviews from critics. The movie, based on Yukito Kishiro’s Japanese manga series Gunnm, stars Rosa Salazar as a young cyborg.
With the Disney-21st Century Fox merger about to close, Alita is likely the final release from Fox as a stand-alone studio. Cameron has long made his home at Fox, and produced Alita alongside Jon Landau, his partner at Lightstorm.
Holdover The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, now in its second weekend, came in at No. 2 with an estimated four-day gross of $27.3 million for a domestic cume of $68.8 million through Monday. The sequel, which continues to pace well below the 2014 original, earned another $12.2 million overseas for a disappointing foreign total of $34.7 million. Its global cume stands at $128.5 million.
Alita hit theaters one day after fellow new releases Happy Death Day 2U and Isn’t It Romantic rolled out Wednesday. The trio of films opened midweek to take advantage of Valentine’s Day heading into the long Presidents Day frame.
Domestic revenue for the holiday weekend was down 60 percent from last year, when Black Panther opened to a record-shattering $242 million. Comparisons to 2018 were always going to be brutal, but 2019 Presidents Day revenue is also running behind 2017 by more than 17 percent — not to mention that it is the worst showing for Presidents Day weekend since 2004.
New Line’s Isn’t it Romantic landed at No. 3 with a four-day gross of $16.6 million, putting its six-day debut at $22.9 million. The comedy stars Rebel Wilson as a rom-com-detesting Manhattanite who suddenly finds herself living in her very own romantic comedy. Liam Hemsworth, Priyanka Chopra and Adam Devine co-star.
Paramount and Taraji P. Henson’s gender-bending comedy What Men Want, now in its second weekend, came in fourth with an estimated four-day tally of $12.7 million for an domestic total of $37.6 million.
Blumhouse and Universal’s Happy Death Day 2U, rounding out the top five, earned an estimated $11 million over the four-day holiday frame for a six-day launch of $14.7 million. While that’s well behind tracking, the slasher pic cost a modest $9 million to produce.
In the sequel to 2017’s Happy Death Day, which launched to $26 million, Jessica Rothe reprises her role as a young woman who once again finds herself living the same day over and over after being killed, only this time her friends are targets.
Overseas, Happy Death Day 2U took in $11.8 million from its first 41 markets for a global bow of $27 million.
Elsewhere, the Dwayne Johnson-produced Fighting With My Family debuted Wednesday in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles to promising numbers. From MGM, the WWE biographical drama posted a four-day location average of $41,581, the best of any film, and a six-day average of $50,154. The pic, which earned an A CinemaScore, is set to expand nationwide this weekend.
Feb. 17, 7:30 a.m. Updated with revised weekend estimates.
Feb. 18, 8:00 a.m. Updated with revised weekend estimates.
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