It was a harsh month at the North American box office. In total, only two wide releases can be regarded as commercial success stories (and one of those is only a minor victory at best).
Welcome to Winners and Losers: a feature where we look back at the past month to find out which movies proved their worth and which ended up as dead weight. Pass the scalpel, this autopsy is about to begin.
1. How to Train Your Dragon 3 // Universal
Hit of the Month
February’s only genuine box office hit swept in on the last weekend. The third and supposedly final installment in Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon series had the biggest stateside opening of the franchise to date ($55.5 million). The film’s global total is already nearing $300 million and merchandise sales are likely to be an added boost to its profitability.
With all this in mind, you have to wonder whether Dreamworks will reconsider their decision to end the series here. The animation studio hasn’t been known for their box office prowess in recent years, with Home, Trolls and Captain Underpants all posting disappointing numbers. If Dragons is one of their few remaining cash cows, you can bet that head honcho Chris Meledandri will want to keep it around. After all, his decision to bring back Shrek suggests a keen interest in the studio’s older intellectual property.
Note: This is the second win in a row for Universal, meaning the studio is kicking off 2019 in top form. That said, this hot streak is likely to be broken by the arrival of Disney’s Captain Marvel next month.
2. What Men Want // Paramount
This remake of the Mel Gibson rom-com from 2000 has achieved the bare minimum requirements to be considered a box office win. The film opened with an underwhelming $18 million, but enjoyed reasonable holds from week to week. What Men Want now stands at a domestic total of $45 million and still has numerous overseas markets to open in.
If that number doesn’t sound earth-shattering, that’s because it isn’t. What Men Want is certainly a modest win to put it generously, but with a mere $20 million budget and a long run ahead of it in the home video market, it has just enough clout to make it into the winners circle.
3. Miss Bala // Sony
Gina Rodriguez’s latest attempt at making the leap from television to film was an unequivocal miss. Last month, Sony found success releasing their smaller fare on quiet movie-going weekends, but pitching Miss Bala against the Super Bowl proved to be a stretch too far. The film opened with just $6.8 million and was quickly forgotten by audiences, plummeting to number twenty-six in only its fourth weekend.
Fortunately, with a budget of just $15 million, this is hardly a catastrophic loss for Sony or Rodriguez. That said, the latter is assembling a poisonous box office track record, with this being her third big screen flop following Deepwater Horizon and Annihilation.
4. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part // Warner Bros.
Perhaps the most surprising entry in this list, The Lego Movie 2 debuted to a lower-than-expected $34 million on its opening weekend and is currently trailing far behind the first film in the series. Arguably, Warner Bros. should have heeded the warning signs provided by the Lego Batman and Ninjago movies, which both fell victim to diminishing returns in their theatrical runs.
With a budget estimated to be around $100 million and a worldwide gross only marginally higher, this could very well be the end of Lego’s big screen adventures. At the very least, it could lead to Warner delaying the two installments that are currently in pre-production.
5. Alita: Battle Angel // Fox
Flop of the Month
Even with the involvement of James Cameron, one of the highest-grossing filmmakers of all time, it always seemed unlikely that Alita: Battle Angel would be able to gain support from mainstream audiences. Its intimidating cyberpunk production design and lukewarm reception from critics likely did it no favours in that regard.
Additionally, choosing to release in time for Valentine’s Day was probably not the smartest move; while the film certainly has its fans, few would call it appropriate date material. Alita: Battle Angel is on track to lose as much as $200 million for Fox, an upsetting result given that the film has some fantastic moments and is the final release ever for the studio as it prepares to be swallowed by the Walt Disney Company.
In this section, we’ll take a brief look at films that were neither winners nor losers. They simply were.
Happy Death Day 2U made significantly less money than the first film and will have stopped the franchise dead in its tracks. Fortunately, due to its minuscule budget, the film can’t reasonably be classed as a flop and inevitably will turn a profit. Isn’t It Romantic under-performed at the box office, but Netflix probably cushioned some of that loss when it acquired European distribution rights. Cold Pursuit wasn’t particularly successful but nor did it flop, which is a miracle for star Liam Neeson who was embroiled in a racist scandal at the time of its release.
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David Craig is a trainee journalist based in Sheffield. Alongside running Movies & Cool Stuff, he writes for Starburst Magazine, Multiversity Comics and Forge Press. His favourite movie is Aliens (dir. James Cameron, 1986). Follow him on Twitter here.