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“MiB International” and “Shaft” Continue Summer Sequel Slump

While it has been a busy summer for Hollywood I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a really successful movie season even though last weekend presented the fifth different box office chart-topper in a row. While one could see different films earning the number one spot each week as a sign of success the fact that few sequels have been able to hold water since “Avengers: Endgame” might speak to the public’s longing for something new and unique. After all, every film in this growing line of box office winners has been either a sequel or remake. While this past weekend did offer a few unique options, once again it was a pair of sequels that earned the most attention albeit with drastically low numbers compared to their expectations. “Men in Black International” and “Shaft” both attempted to reverse the sequel slump of the 2019 summer movie season while holdovers attempted to grab whatever attention they could with the release of “Toy Story 4” on the way. Did either of the new big releases provide enough to continue the streak of different number one films? Let’s find out in this week’s Box Office Breakdown.

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Sony ended up taking home the gold with the release of its spin-off/sequel/reboot of the “Men in Black” franchise, “Men in Black International”. It’s the sixth different number one film in a row at the domestic box office matching 2017’s longest streak of different consecutive chart-toppers. Despite the win, Sony is likely not popping any champagne as “Men in Black International” failed to drum up critic or fan interest becoming the worst opening film in the franchise to date at $28.5 million domestically and the only installment in the franchise to open below $51 million. It’s also the most critically panned film in the series. Sony appeared to have low expectations for the $110 million budgeted film going into the weekend lowering their estimates to around $30 million, but the sequel couldn’t even match that mark. It did earn $73.7 million internationally giving it a $102 million global debut. This is the second week in a row that a comic book inspired franchise sequel failed to shine after “Dark Phoenix” became a similar flop last week. You can read my review of “Men in Black International” by clicking here.

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The remaining top five were holdovers. “The Secret Life of Pets 2” followed up its relatively disappointing debut weekend with $23.8 million bringing its domestic numbers to $92 million and its global total to around $155 million. It’s still nowhere near the record numbers of its predecessor, however. You can read my review of “The Secret Life of Pets 2” here. Disney’s “Aladdin” continued to shine in its fourth weekend with a $16.7 million take and a third-place finish. Domestically the film has topped $264 million and earned over $725 million worldwide making it another smash success in Disney’s growing line of live-action remakes. Disney also held the fourth spot, albeit with a Fox joint release, as “Dark Phoenix” felt the sting of disinterest once again dropping a massive 72.6% from last week’s debut and earning only $9 million in its sophomore weekend. That marks an unfortunate record as the second largest second-weekend drop for a film playing in over 3,500. “Fifty Shades of Grey” holds the top honor in that category. Rounding out the top five with impressive staying power is “Rocketman”. The critically acclaimed Elton John biopic dropped only 36% in its third weekend and earned $8.8 million to bring its domestic numbers to over $66 million and its worldwide total to $133 million. With an estimated $40 million production budget, the feature is well on its way to becoming a big success.

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You have to drop to the back half of the top ten to find the next new entry on the chart. Another failed sequel, “Shaft” (the third movie in the franchise all simply named “Shaft”) was dead on arrival missing the $15 million expectations for its debut by earning only $8.3 million domestically. Despite its low turnout “Shaft” earned respect from fans while critics gave it middling reviews. I did not review this film nor will I simply because I’m not as familiar with the “Shaft” franchise as others and it’s not a series that has ever interested me to embrace beyond the first movie. Falling out of the top five into the seventh position was “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” while another former chart-topper, “John Wick: Chapter 3”, fell to eighth. In ninth we have a new entry into the top ten as the female-led comedy “Late Night” jumped from seventeenth, where it landed in limited release, to ninth. Written by Mindy Kaling and starring Kaling alongside Emma Thompson and directed by actress Nisha Ganatra, “Late Night” is only the latest example of audiences seemingly refusing to embrace female-led projects despite a push for more gender diversity in the medium. Great reviews weren’t enough to overpower more heavily advertised works delivering the comedy a $5.1 million weekend. Considering that Amazon purchased the film for a record $13 million after it showed at the Sundance Film Festival, they were certainly hoping for much more in return. My opinion is to speak with your wallets people. This is the second time in as many months that a female-driven and led comedy has failed to garner box office attention despite critical acclaim. I did take the time to see the film and you can look for my review coming very soon. Rounding out the top ten was the Octavia Spencer-led horror thriller “Ma”. A few notes outside of the top ten, the star-studded zombie comedy “The Dead Don’t Die” debuted at number twelve while “Avengers: Endgame” fell out of the top ten for the first time.

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You have to go back to 2015 to find a string of seven consecutive different box office chart toppers and 2019 will almost certainly match that record thanks to Pixar’s upcoming release of “Toy Story 4”. Already receiving rave reviews, “Toy Story 4” is a certainty to be this coming weekend’s top film even if it underperforms seeing as no holdover is projected to make even $25 million let alone anywhere near the $29 million opening of the first “Toy Story” in the 90s. The third film, released in 2010, earned a massive $110.3 million opening. So, look for “Toy Story 4” to be the talk of the town and you can read my review this coming weekend. Funny enough there are actually two toy-themed movies coming out this weekend. The remake of “Child’s Play” will also debut to compete against Pixar capping off a fun marketing campaign utilized by United Artists Pictures that featured posters of Chucky killing off popular “Toy Story” characters. “Child’s Play” should provide some fun alternative viewing for those who decide to skip Pixar’s latest sequel.  Also debuting will be another assassin action flick similar to “Atomic Blonde” and “John Wick” called “Anna”. We’ll take a look next week at how everything pans out.

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