Hollywood seems to be coming down with a contagious case of franchise fatigue this summer, as Men in Black: International and Shaft become the latest sequels largely dismissed by moviegoers in North America.
Sony's Men in Black: International led ticket sales at the box office this weekend with US$28.5 million (S$39 million), but still fell short of expectations. Those receipts represent roughly half of what the previous installments in the sci-fi series earned during their first weekend in theatres.
The latest entry, toplined by Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth, wasn't expected to reach the same heights as the original films starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, but analysts anticipated a start above US$30 million. Directed by F Gary Gray, the sequel sees Thompson and Hemsworth team up as black-suited agents protecting the Earth from a series of alien attacks. Men in Black: International is now banking on moviegoers overseas to make the action adventure a hit. Sony co-financed the movie with Hemisphere and Tencent, spending US$110 million to produce the film, roughly half of what it cost to make MIB 3.
Critics praised the chemistry between Hemsworth and Thompson, who first shared the screen in Thor: Ragnarok, but reviews were otherwise uninspired for the follow-up, which comes seven years after the latest installment and 25 years after the first film. It carries a 24 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences were equally unenthusiastic, giving MIB: International a B CinemaScore.
Men in Black: International wasn't the only sequel this weekend that got the cold shoulder from ticket buyers. Warner Bros and New Line's Shaft, starring Samuel L Jackson, flopped with a dismal US$8.3 million in sales from 2,952 locations. That's less than half of what box office watchers predicted the follow-up would make in its first three days of release. By comparison, 2000's Shaft debuted with US$21.7 million. The latest remake reunites three generation of Shaft men, played by Jackson, Jessie Usher, and Richard Roundtree, who starred in the original 1971 movie. It carries a US$30 million price tag.
Positive reviews didn't salvage this weekend's other new nationwide offering, Amazon's Late Night. The comedy, written by Mindy Kaling and co-starring Kaling and Emma Thompson, finished in ninth place with US$5.1 million after the studio expanded the comedy to 2,220 venues. It debuted in limited release last weekend, collecting a solid US$249,654, which brings ticket sales to US$5.4 million. Late Night, about a TV host who makes a diverse hire to save her talk show from becoming a ratings disaster, was well-received after premiering at Sundance, where Amazon shelled out US$14 million for distribution rights in one of the biggest sales of the festival.
The final newcomer this weekend was The Dead Don't Die, Jim Jarmusch's zombie comedy starring Adam Driver, Billy Murray, Selena Gomez, and Chloe Sevigny. The film, which debuted to mixed reviews at Cannes, opened at No 12 with US$2.35 million from 613 theatres. According to Focus Features, the studio distributing the movie, that figure marks the largest opening weekend of Jarmusch's career. Males accounted for 58 per cent of tickets sold, while 64 per cent of audiences were over the age of 35.
"We're thrilled to see Jim's biggest opening and his top grossing weekend ever with this film," said Lisa Bunnell, Focus Features' president of distribution. "His unique take on the zombie genre delivers his signature brand of humor, style and substance for moviegoers."
In a not-so-distant second place, Universal and Illumination's The Secret Life of Pets 2 brought in US$23 million during its sophomore weekend of release, marking a 49 per cent decline from its inaugural outing. The animated sequel has now earned US$92 million in North America.
Disney's Aladdin, a live-action remake of the Arabian musical cartoon, nabbed the No 3 spot during its fourth weekend in theatres. It collected another US$17 million, boosting its domestic haul to US$264 million.
Another Disney title, X-Men entry Dark Phoenix, was a big-budget misstep last weekend. It dropped to fourth place, adding US$9 million, a massive 73 per cent downturn in ticket sales compared to its first weekend in theatres.
Rounding out the top five is Paramount's Rocketman. The fantasy biopic, which sees an inspired Taron Egerton dramatise the life and times of Sir Elton John, picked up US$8.8 million in its third outing for a total of US$66 million in North America.
Overall, ticket sales at the domestic box office are down just over 7 per cent compared to last year, according to Comscore. A number of upcoming blockbuster-hopefuls, including Disney's Toy Story 4 and Sony's Spider-Man: Far From Home, are expecting to breathe some life into an otherwise lackluster summer movie-going season.