Costumed avengers, a billionaire with a kinky side, and a brutally efficient hit man proved to be just the tonic for an ailing domestic box office.
”The Lego Batman Movie” bested “Fifty Shades Darker” at the multiplexes over the weekend, earning a robust $55.6 million to capture first place. “Fifty Shades Darker,” the sequel to 2015’s “Fifty Shades of Grey,” couldn’t quite match its predecessor’s $85.2 million launch. It had to settle for a still sizable $46.8 million debut and second place on the box office chart.
Not to be outdone, Lionsgate’s “John Wick: Chapter 2,” a followup to 2015’s “John Wick,” picked up a smashing $30 million. That’s more than double what the first film racked up during its debut. The headlines will inevitably be about “Fifty Shades Darker” and “The Lego Batman Movie,” but the “John Wick” follow-up’s numbers are more impressive. It grew its audience substantially, adding more female viewers to the mix. Like “Pitch Perfect” and “Austin Powers,” both of which saw a major increase in ticket sales between their first and second installment, “John Wick” has now made a case for itself as a certifiable franchise.
“The interest in it will spread out more,” predicted Carpou. “With next weekend being a holiday, it gives us a chance to have repeat business.”
Universal’s “Split” surrendered the first place it had occupied for three consecutive weekends to the barrage of newcomers. The hit thriller took in $9.3 million to capture fourth place on the chart, while pushing its domestic haul to $112.3 million.
Fox’s “Hidden Figures” rounded out the top five, earning $8 million. The Oscar-nominated drama about African-American NASA employees fighting racial prejudice in the early days of the space program has made $131.4 million stateside.
In milestone news, Universal and Illumination’s “Sing” topped $500 million globally. The animated film about a talent competition has launched a new animated franchise for the studios.
On the indie front, Fox Searchlight’s “A United Kingdom” opened in four theaters, grossing $70,000 for a per-screen average of $17,500. The drama chronicles a love affair between the King Seretse Khama of Botswana (David Oyelowo) and Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a white woman from London, and the controversy it sparked.
The Weinstein Company’s “Lion” continued to chug along in its twelfth weekend, seeing its numbers rise even as it lost 68 screens. The drama about a man who uses Google Earth to find his long lost family in India grossed $4.1 million to push its domestic returns above $30 million. David Glasser, the company’s COO, argued that the story, which touches on immigration, has struck a nerve in a political climate dominated by talk of travel bans from certain countries. India is not one of the country’s targeted by the Trump administration, but “Lion” star Sunny Pawar, a native of the country, did have trouble getting permission to enter the U.S. for the film’s premiere.
“This is a zeitgeist movie,” he said. “As people discover it, you wouldn’t believe the emails that are pouring in. Every day we wake up to notes from politicians, tennis players, even a woman I know from Middle America all saying this couldn’t be more timely.”
Overall ticket sales did slide, and were unable to match the year-ago period, a weekend that saw the $132.4 million debut of “Deadpool.” Still, analysts note that weekend was President’s Day, a holiday that’s been pushed back by a week in 2017, making comparisons difficult. Some box office sages predicted that this will be the start of a torrid run at the multiplexes, one that will ultimately eclipse the high-water mark established last year.
”This is the true kickoff of what could be the biggest year ever,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at ComScore. “This weekend is the star of our record run.”