This weekend features two new wide releases, each in established and long-running franchises with name actors in starring roles. On the surface, that might seem like a strong recipe for a solid weekend at the summer box office, but that may not be what we are headed for. On the contrary, it does not look like it’s going to be a particularly impressive weekend at the movies.
Opening this weekend are Men in Black International and Shaft, and neither is expected to take the box office by storm. In fact, Men in Black International, the spinoff/sequel to the franchise that began with the 1997 Will Smith movie, might not even take the top spot, despite being the unequivocal biggest new release.
Men in Black International has been tracking to open around $30 million, which is on the low end of the long-range $30-$50 million from a few months back. Even that $30 million, which is what the studio is also expecting, may prove too high. The film is entering the weekend to miserable reviews and a hope to be saved with success internationally.
The F. Gary Gray film will benefit domestically from a high theater count, with 4,224 locations, but Box Office Mojo anticipates it could come in just under the $30 million mark with $28 million. But this has been a summer of underperformers, so don’t be surprised if it falls into the mid-$20 million range.
An opening below $30 million could put Men in Black International into direct contention with The Secret Life of Pets 2 for the Number 1 spot at the box office. Although that will depend on what sort of legs and word of mouth the latter film has after a disappointing $46.6 million debut. For now, Pets 2 is looking at around $25 million in its second weekend so depending on how things shake out it could be a tight race for the Number 1 spot.
So far Men in Black International has made $3.1 million from preview screenings last night. Also opening last night was this weekend’s other new wide release Shaft, starring Samuel L. Jackson. The R-rated crime comedy from director Tim Story made roughly $600,000 in previews and is looking at a fourth place opening of around $14 million, with the studio expecting a little higher at $15 million. Like MIB, it too will get no boost from positive reviews.
With Shaft looking at fourth and MIB: International and Pets 2 eyeing Number 1, Aladdin should take third place with $15-16 million in its fourth weekend in release. Rounding out the top five should be the much-written about Dark Phoenix, with $13 million. Amazon Studios’ Late Night is also expanding into 2,218 locations this weekend and although it’s one of the only well-reviewed movies in theaters right now, it should pull in a modest $5-$6 million.
Since the release of Aladdin, the domestic box office has been full of underperformers and disappointments, from Godzilla: King of the Monsters debuting to less than monstrous numbers to Dark Phoenix flaming out and The Secret Life of Pets 2 debuting well below its predecessor. The sequels are slacking this summer, but it’s not all bad.
The box office is up 12.6% compared to 2018, but it has in some ways been a feast or famine affair. The record-breaking performance of Avengers: Endgame has done a lot while some other franchise fare has floundered. There is hope on the horizon though for sequel success. Toy Story 4 should be massive next weekend, and not long after that the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man arrives to save the day.
But for now, we’re looking at another dull weekend at the box office. If you aren’t interested in any of the new releases, maybe check out some of the acclaimed movies still in theaters like Rocketman or Booksmart. And if you are seeing Men in Black International, make sure you buy the right ticket.