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story.lead_photo.caption Sophie Turner (left) and Jessica Chastain star in 20th Century Fox’s Dark Phoenix. The critically panned film came in second at last weekend’s box office and earned an X-Men franchise low of $33 million.

LOS ANGELES -- It's a tale of two sequels in which both underperformed. So maybe it should start like this: It was the most lackluster of times, it was the most lackluster of times.

Universal's The Secret Life of Pets 2 and Dark Phoenix, another X-Men sequel from Fox, led ticket sales at the box office last weekend. But both fell way short of expectations.

Pets 2 took the No. 1 spot, selling roughly $47.1 million in tickets Friday through Sunday. That was enough to make it the best-attended movie in the United States last weekend, but it was well under half the roughly $104.4 million the original Secret Life of Pets made domestically during its first weekend in 2016.

The original movie paired a starry ensemble of voice actors (Kevin Hart and Lake Bell among them) with cute animated animals and a serious marketing push. That worked well for Universal and Illumination, the studio also behind the Despicable Me series, who turned that combination into a winner at the box office.

While Pets 2 wasn't expected to reach those lofty heights, it was expected to get closer to the mid-$50 million range.

"It's a fantastic result," said Jim Orr, Universal's president of domestic theatrical distribution. "We couldn't be more proud to partner with (CEO) Chris Meledandri and everyone at Illumination." He noted that this is the ninth No. 1 opening for Illumination.

In a fairly distant second place was Dark Phoenix, which sold $33 million in tickets domestically last weekend. For some movies, that would be a great figure. But not for an X-Men movie that reportedly cost $200 million to make.

By comparison, X-Men: Apocalypse, with a reported budget of $178 million, opened to $65.8 million in ticket sales in 2016, without adjustment for inflation.

The new movie is led by Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner, who plays the titular superhero opposite Jessica Chastain's alien villain. Critics were not kind to it. Dark Phoenix holds a 22% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the lowest of any X-Men movie.

"It's softer than we hoped," said Cathleen Taff, Disney's president of theatrical distribution. "While the film didn't open the way we wanted, we think the legacy of the X-Men series is important and it's more important than how one film opens. We're trying to keep it in perspective."

Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore noted even with the lackluster North American debut and reception, that internationally Dark Phoenix was No. 1 with $107 million from 53 territories including China. Globally, it has earned $140 million.

"In the international marketplace, it seems like the spectacle and the brand wins out," Dergarabedian said.

Also, the X-Men characters, which had been licensed to Fox, are now expected to be integrated with Disney's stable of characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Then again, critics weren't particularly taken with Disney's new Aladdin, either, but that movie continues to do well at the box office. Now in its third weekend, the remake landed in the No. 3 spot, with $24.5 million in ticket sales, according to Comscore, which compiles box office data. Globally it has earned $604.9 million to date.

Warner Bros.' Godzilla: King of The Monsters had a titan-sized second weekend fall, however, down 67% with $15.5 million.

And the acclaimed Elton John bio-pic Rocketman, from Paramount Pictures, rounded out the top five with $14 million.

While wide releases are having mixed results lately, independent and platform releases are finding healthy audiences. After Booksmart failed to make a major dent going wide out of the gates, Amazon Studios opened its Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson comedy Late Night in four theaters, where it earned a healthy $249,654 last weekend, before expanding nationwide next week.

Employing a similar strategy, A24's The Last Black Man in San Francisco also scored in seven locations with $230,744.

Also, overall the box office is healthy. The weekend is up 37% from last year when Ocean's 8 opened and the year-to-date deficit improved again. The year is now down 5.9%.

"Some movies may have not lived up to expectations but the marketplace is knocking down the year-to-date deficit at a really fast pace," Dergarabedian said.

MovieStyle on 06/14/2019

Print Headline: Moviegoers prefer Pets 2 to dismal Dark Phoenix

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