By Associated Press
/Sony/Columbia Pictures via Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — Brand familiarity isn’t everything when it comes to attracting audiences to the multiplex, and Hollywood is learning that lesson the hard way this summer with a slew of underperforming sequels and reboots. That so-called franchise fatigue came to a head this weekend with the releases of “Men in Black: International” and “Shaft.”
The writing may have been on the wall after neither an X-Men movie (”Dark Phoenix”) nor a Godzilla movie (”Godzilla: King of the Monsters”) could get moviegoers enthusiastic enough to turn out. But this weekend, down over 50% from last year, is the worst yet.
“This was a rough weekend,” said Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “We’ve had some big franchises that are not resonating with audiences or critics.”
And there’s a common denominator between all the recent disappointments: Poor reviews. All four have been certified “rotten” on Rotten Tomatoes.
“Men in Black: International” took the No. 1 spot in North America, but it’s a dubious distinction for the Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth-led reboot which isn’t exactly the franchise-revitalizer it hoped to be. Sony Corp.’s /zigman2/quotes/208567357/composite SNE -1.38% Sony Pictures on Sunday estimates the F. Gary Gray-directed film earned only $28.5 million over the weekend against a reported $110 million production budget. The three previous “Men in Black” films all opened to over $50 million not accounting for inflation.
However, international audiences are helping the bottom line with the film earning $73.7 million from 36 markets, bringing its global total to $102.2 million.
The weekend’s other big new release, “Shaft,” which introduces another generation to the franchise, couldn’t even manage to carve out a place in the top five, which instead was populated mostly by holdovers.
“The Secret Life of Pets 2” got the No. 2 spot in its second weekend with $23.8 million. Disney’s /zigman2/quotes/203410047/composite DIS -1.12% “Aladdin,” now in weekend four, took third with $16.7 million. “Dark Phoenix” placed fourth with $9 million and “Rocketman” coasted to fifth with $8.8 million.
“Shaft,” from AT&T’s /zigman2/quotes/203165245/composite T +1.75% Warner Bros., placed sixth on the charts, with a disappointing $8.3 million.
Directed by Tim Story, “Shaft” features Samuel L. Jackson reprising his role from almost 20 years ago — which itself was a reboot of the 1970s movies — and Jessie T. Usher as his son. It was made for around $30 million.
Even some originals had a tough time this weekend. Amazon.com Inc.’s /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN -1.68% Amazon Studios expanded its Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson comedy “Late Night,” which it acquired the North American rights to for a Sundance record of $13 million , to 2,220 theaters where it earned $5.1 million.
“The real bright spots have been the smaller indies,” Dergarabedian said. “We think of summer as blockbuster season, but it’s turned into indie film season.”
Jim Jarmusch’s star-studded zombie comedy “The Dead Don’t Die” mostly survived its mixed reviews and opened to $2.35 million from 613 locations.
Documentaries like “Echo in the Canyon” and “Pavarotti” have been making a modest mark in limited release, and the acclaimed drama “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” expanded to 36 locations and earned $361,120. It expands further next weekend.
But the marketplace is hurting and it’s not a problem with the weekend, which last year saw “Incredibles 2” open to over $182 million, but with the major movies themselves.