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The downturn at the 2019 box office continued over the weekend as The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part failed to click with audiences in a major way, while Liam Neeson’s latest action pic Cold Pursuit was iced.
Lego Movie 2 topped the chart with $35 million from 4,303 theaters, but it was a hollow victory.
Warner Bros. — as well as the major tracking services — had expected the family-friendly sequel to assemble $50 million to $55 million in its domestic launch. But as box office returns came in over the weekend, it became apparent that a bad case of franchise fatigue has infected the toy turned movie series.
Despite strong reviews, the follow-up came in nearly 50 percent behind The Lego Movie, the 2014 box office sensation directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, and well behind the $53 million debut of the spinoff The Lego Batman Movie in February 2017. The only film in the series to fare worse was a second 2017 spinoff, The Lego Ninjago Movie, which opened to $20.4 million in September 2017.
Lord and Miller wrote and produced Lego Movie 2, which was directed by Mike Mitchell. They weren’t the only high-profile names to return: Chris Pratt once again voices the role of everyman construction worker Emmet Brickowski; and Will Ferrell voices the evil Lord Business. Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Charlie Day, Alison Brie and Nick Offerman also reprise their roles, while new additions to the voice cast include Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz and Maya Rudolph.
Like the first Lego pic, the sequel skewed male (57 percent). However, it played younger than the 2014 film, with 48 percent of ticket buyers 18 and younger, versus 41 percent for the former. Caucasians made up 54 percent of the audience, followed by Hispanics (19 percent), Asian/Other (15 percent) and African-Americans (12 percent).
Lego Movie 2 also struggled overseas, where it launched to $18.2 million from 63 markets for a global bow of $53.2 million. The pic was easily beat offshore by the threequel How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, which earned another $38.2 million from 46 markets for an early foreign cume of $138.7 million. How to Train Your Dragon 3 opens Feb. 22 in North America.
The James Cameron-produced Alita: Battle Angel wasn’t far behind Dragon as it debuted in its first 11 markets, grossing a stellar $32 million, including $10.9 million in South Korea. Fox is set to open the $200 million tentpole in the U.S. on Thursday in advance of the long Presidents Day weekend, when it will vie with Lego Movie 2 for fanboys and families.
After a record 2018, the domestic box office has stalled so far in 2019, with revenue to date falling nearly 15 percent behind the same corridor last year. The weekend itself was down around 20 percent.
Three other movies opened opposite Lego Movie 2, including the Paramount and Will Packer-produced What Men Want. The comedy, which cost a reported $20 million to make, came in No. 2 with a solid $19 million from 2,912 theaters, in line with expectations.
Directed by Adam Shankman, the pic is a gender-bending reimagining of Nancy Meyer’s 2000 comedy What Women Want. In the new iteration, Taraji P. Henson stars as a successful sports agent who is constantly sidelined by her male counterparts. When she suddenly can read the minds of men, she uses her newfound power to bench her colleagues and sign the next biggest basketball superstar. Aldis Hodge co-stars, with James Lopez producing alongside Packer.
What Men Want was the clear choice for females (66 percent). African-Americans made up the largest segment of the audience (48 percent), followed by Caucasians (28 percent), Hispanics (15 percent) and Asian/Other (9 percent).
Cold Pursuit debuted in third place with $10.8 million from 2,630 theaters, the worst showing for Neeson in the post-Taken era.
The Lionsgate and StudioCanal release, which cost a reported $60 million to make, launched amid a firestorm of controversy surrounding Neeson. Last week, the Irish actor found himself having to explain why he isn’t racist after his confession in an interview with The Independent that he once considered a “revenge” attack against a random black person.
The Hans Petter Moland-directed Cold Pursuit is an English-language remake of the filmmaker’s 2014 Norwegian vigilante film In Order of Disappearance. In the new movie, Neeson stars as a snowplow driver in a glitzy Colorado resort town who seeks revenge when his son dies of an overdose. Laura Dern, Emmy Rossum, William Forsythe and Tom Bateman co-star.
Caucasians made up 61 percent of Cold Pursuit‘s male-skewing audience, followed by Hispanics (16 percent), Asian/Other (13 percent) and African-Americans (10 percent).
Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston’s sleeper hit The Upside, from STXfilms and Lantern Entertainment, followed in fourth place with another $7.2 million for a domestic total of $85.8 million.
M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass rounded out the top five with another $6.4 million for a domestic tally of $98.5 million and $221.5 million globally for partners Universal and Disney.
The weekend’s fourth new nationwide offering was The Prodigy, a horror-thriller starring Taylor Schilling and Jackson Robert Scott. From MGM’s Orion Pictures, the pic came in at No. 6 with $6 million from 2,530 locations. The story follows a disturbed young child who may be possessed by supernatural forces.
At the specialty box office, the Chinese sci-fi epic The Wandering Earth impressed with an estimated $1.6 million from 65 theaters in 39 markets. Timed to Chinese New Year celebrations, the movie posted a location average of nearly $25,000, the best of the weekend.
Asghar Farhadi’s Spanish-language psychological thriller Everybody Knows, starring Penelope Cruz and Javiar Bardem, opened in four cinemas in New York and Los Angeles for a location average of $18,743. Focus Features is debuting the film months after it opened the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.
Magnolia’s screening of the 2019 Oscar-nominated short films earned $912,000 from 265 theaters for a location average of $3,442.
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