Weekend Box Office: 'Lego Batman' Wins With $55.6M; 'Fifty Shades Darker' Disrobes to $46.8M
The gap is narrower than expected between the two films, while 'John Wick: Chapter 2' wins over males with a $30 million debut.
Warner Bros.' The Lego Batman Movie won the Valentine's Day weekend box-office race with $55.6 million from 4,088 theaters — the top opening of the year to date, even though it had been expected to clear $60 million to $70 million.
Conversely, the erotic, S&M-laced Fifty Shades Darker came in ahead of projections with $46.8 million from 3,710 theaters (tracking had suggested it might not even get to $40 million). Internationally, the sequel seduced audiences with a $100.1 million debut from 57 markets for a global bow of $146.9 million.
In the U.S., both films lagged when compared to the previous installments in their respective franchises.
The female-fueled Fifty Shades Darker came in 44 percent behind the record-breaking $85 million bow of Fifty Shades of Grey on the same weekend two years ago. Lego Batman paced 20 percent behind The Lego Movie, which opened to $69 million in early February 2014.
Bad weather on the East Coast might have impacted Lego Batman in particular. The spinoff, directed by Chris McKay, features Will Arnett voicing the role of the tiny Caped Crusader as the superhero tries to find himself and save Gotham City from a hostile takeover by The Joker (Zach Galifianakis). The voice cast also includes Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson and Ralph Fiennes. The critically acclaimed movie received an A- from audiences.
"The weather brought us in lower. We saw it throughout the weekend," said Warners distribution chief Jeff Goldstein. "Still, this is a tremendous result for a spinoff movie in the Lego franchise universe.
Domestically, the movie skewed slightly female (52 percent), while 38 percent of ticket buyers were under the age of 18. Overseas, Lego Batman bowed to $37 million from 60 markets, led by the U.K. with $9.3 million. The film's global bow was $92.6 million, including $6 million from Imax theaters. Dan Lin's Lin Pictures produced alongside Lego Movie directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.
Fifty Shades Darker reunites Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as the characters Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, respectively. The R-rated film drew a B+ CinemaScore, compared to a C+ for Fifty Shades of Grey (some complained the first film wasn't edgy enough).
"This series still has a lot of juice. It bodes well for what comes next. And we absolutely are playing in the heartland," says Nick Carpou, Universal's domestic distribution president. "And we will see a big bump on Tuesday, which is Valentine's Day."
Females made up 70 percent of the audience, while 56 percent were under the age of 30.
At the time of Fifty Shades of Grey, E.L. James' book trilogy — dubbed "mommy porn" — was a global sensation, with groups of women going to the theater together. The first film had the advantage of Valentine's Day landing on a Saturday night, as well as launching over the long Presidents' Day weekend, which falls a week later this year. James Foley directed this time out.
After Fifty Shades Darker, the other big player overseas was Paramount's xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, which scored a mammoth $61.3 million debut in China for a global total of $229.6 million.
John Wick: Chapter 2, the weekend's third new entry, came in well ahead of expectations for Lionsgate with $30 million from 3,113 theaters — more than double the $14.4 million debut of John Wick in February 2014. Keanu Reeves reprises his role as a former hitman coming out of retirement in the testosterone-driven action film, which nabbed an A- CinemaScore and placed No. 3 behind Lego Batman and Fifty Shades. Males made up 64 percent of the audience.
Directed by Chad Stahelski, John Wick 2 also stars Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, John Leguizamo and Ian McShane. The film took in $10.6 million from 41 overseas markets for a global debut of $40.6 million.
"We knew the movie delivered to its core audience," said Lionsgate distribution chief David Spitz. "The critical response helped the cause as well."
Lego Batman and John Wick 2 currently boast the same strong rating on Rotten Tomatoes — 91 percent fresh — while Fifty Shades boasts a rotten 10 percent.
Split and Hidden Figures rounded out the top five at the North American box office with $9.3 million and $8 million, respectively. Split's domestic total stands at $112 million for a global cume of $169.4 million, while Hidden Figures has earned a glowing $131.5 million domestically, the most of any film vying in the best picture Oscar race. Hidden Figures has also stayed in the top five for six consecutive weekends.
Among other best picture Oscar nominees, Lionsgate's La La Land has earned $126 million domestically and $294.3 million worldwide (it fell to No. 8 over the weekend). Lion also continues to make impressive strides for The Weinstein Co., placing No. 9 with $4 million from 1,327 locations for a $30.4 million cume.
New offerings at the specialty box office included Amma Asante's A United Kingdom, starring David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike. The drama, based on the real-life story of the forbidden love between the king of Botswana and a white woman from London, earned $70,000 from four theaters in New York and Los Angeles for a screen average of $17,500.