When the Disney/Fox merger was formalized earlier this year, there were already a few movies in the pipeline that Fox would finish up before Disney took over the rights to those franchises. Wrapping up the nearly two decades of X-Men films is this weekend’s release Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants (still in reshoots and post-production). The Dark Phoenix storyline is one of the most beloved storylines from the X-Men comics, so it’s not surprising that studios wanted to adapt it into their film franchise. After X-Men: The Last Stand was panned by diehard fans, it’s not even surprising that Fox tried it again after the soft reboot of the X-Men series which started with X-Men: First Class. What might be surprising is that Fox brought back Simon Kinberg who co-wrote The Last Stand as writer and first-time director for Dark Phoenix. It’s looking like that decision is not panning out the way they had hoped, as Dark Phoenix has opened to far worse ticket sales than even the critically panned X-Men: Apocalypse.
This isn’t the first time that Fox has tried a second pass at a storyline or character that didn’t land well the first time. Ryan Reynolds played a supremely lame version of Deadpool in X-Men: Origins (yes, that unfortunate film also out-performed Dark Phoenix on its opening weekend). Reynolds is a passionate fan of the character of Deadpool, so he spent years trying to convince Fox to let him do justice to the character. One of the aspects of the film that he insisted on for the remake was that the foul-mouthed merc needed to be allowed to express himself in an R-rated film instead of PG-13 like the rest of the X-Films. Understandably, Fox was reluctant. R-rated films, by definition, have a smaller audience base and tend to be less lucrative. However, Fox took the chance and re-did Deadpool R-rated. It was a critical and commercial success, as was 2017’s R-rated film Logan, and 2018’s Deadpool 2.
Unfortunately, it looks like the second attempt at Dark Phoenix is no better than the first. In fact, it’s looking like it’s much, much worse. The Last Stand maintains a 57% Rotten Tomatoes score, but after its opening weekend, Dark Phoenix is ranking in at a stellar…22%. The estimated ticket sales are no better. The opening weekend of X-Men: The Last Stand sold approximately 15.7 million tickets (eventually selling a total of 35.8 million tickets). The audience score for Dark Phoenix manages to beat out The Last Stand by a measly 4 percent (65% over 61%).
Let’s take a look at the performance of Dark Phoenix against the recent R-rated X-Men franchise installments, the most recent X-film (Apocalypse), and The Last Stand.
|Rotten Tomatoes Score||Rotten Tomatoes Audience Ranking||Opening Weekend Estimated Ticket Sales||Total Estimated Ticket Sales|
|Deadpool 2 (2018)||83%||85%||13,380,300||34,031,300|
|X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)||47%||65%||7,533,700||17,814,000|
|X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)||57%||61%||15,687,100||35,780,500|
|Dark Phoenix (2019)||22%||65%||3,662,600||TBD|
This might end up being the final nail in The New Mutants coffin, which has been suffering from setback after setback. If Dark Phoenix had been successful, it seems more likely that The New Mutants would get the resources it needs to finally make it to theaters. As it stands, it seems unlikely that they will want to keep pouring money into The New Mutants, so if it ends up in theaters at all, it might not get all the funding it needed to make it reach its potential. At least Dark Phoenix opened better than Fant4stic? Sadly, this iconic superhero franchise has been lowered so far that vaulting that bar is an achievement.
The other film that opened this weekend is another sequel, The Secret Life of Pets 2. Despite The Secret Life of Pets having a strong opening of 12.6 million estimated ticket sales on the opening weekend (and a total of 43.2 million ticket sales overall), The Secret Life of Pets 2 did not demonstrate the same opening weekend strength. Pets 2 had less than half of those ticket sales, ranking in with an estimated 5.2 million. The sequel also has worse ratings than the original: its Rotten Tomatoes score is 54% while the original scored 73%. However, audiences seem to like Pets 2 more than critics as the audience score ranks in at a whopping 92% (as opposed to the original film, which ranked 62%). While admitting that the film is a perfectly valid way to occupy your kids for a couple of hours, most reviews for Pets 2 suggest that it lacks in any meaningful story. Like many of the early Disney animated sequels, this Universal film seems unlikely to make its way onto the list of classic kids movies. Time will tell if Toy Story 4 (coming to theatres on June 21st) will suffer the same fate as Pets 2, but the Toy Story films have generally avoided the fate of kids movie sequel mediocrity.
Three weeks after its release, John Wick 3 is still going strong with an additional 0.8 million ticket sales. Godzilla: King of the Monsters suffered the worst drop at the box office this week, dropping 67.5% from its opening weekend with only 1.7 million tickets sold this weekend. Ma, which also opened last weekend, also suffered a significant drop in sales (56.8% drop with only 0.87 million tickets). Neither of those films has performed well critically either, with rankings of 40% (Godzilla) and 57% (Ma).
Here are the weekend’s estimated top 12 domestic release titles by the number of tickets sold with new and newly wide titles in bold and totals in parentheses:
- The Secret Life of Pets 2 — 5,228,600 (5,331,300)
- Dark Phoenix — 3,662,600 (3,662,600)
- Aladdin — 2,719,200 (25,792,000)
- Godzilla: King of the Monsters — 1,724,800 (8,723,300)
- Rocketman — 1,553,800 (5,604,700)
- Ma — 867,900 (3,636,900)
- John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum — 821,300 (15,389,900)
- Avengers: Endgame — 532,700 (91,494,600)
- Pokémon: Detective Pikachu — 330,700 (15,249,900)
- Booksmart — 175,100 (1,977,200)
- A Dog’s Journey — 150,900 (2,335,300)
- Brightburn — 62,200 (1,818,700)
All non-forecast box office figures via Box Office Mojo.