“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” debuted to a disappointing $35.3 million over the weekend, becoming the latest sequel this year to fall short of expectations. The pizza-munching reptiles’ opening weekend was roughly half of the $65.6 million that its predecessor, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” kicked off to in 2014, illustrating that not all franchises are created equal.
“I don’t think we’ve ever seen a sequel slump of this caliber,” said Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “These films aren’t as good as the first ones, and they’re suffering at the box office.”
Indeed, several film series have struggled to attract crowds in recent months, with “Alice Through the Looking Glass” and “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” losing millions, and other sequels and spinoffs, such as “Kung Fu Panda 3” and “X-Men: Apocalypse,” failing to match the grosses of previous installments. “Captain America: Civil War,” which plays more like an “Avengers” chapter given the presence of Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man than a star-spangled follow-up, did beat the slump, going on to earn over $1.1 billion globally.
Paramount spent $135 million on the latest “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” and released the picture across 4,071 locations. It will look to foreign audiences to try to bolster the underwhelming domestic returns. So far, the situation overseas is more promising. The film opened in 40 international markets, including Russia, Mexico and the United Kingdom, earning $34 million. There are still several major territories left to open, the biggest being China on July 2.
Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore acknowledged that the studio hoped the domestic launch would be bigger, but said that the film could make up ground in the coming weeks. The second “Ninja Turtles” played younger, with 51% of the opening weekend crowd coming in under 25 years old as opposed to 45% for the first picture.
“The good news is younger movies tend to play at better multiples,” said Moore, predicting that, “the gap [between the films] will narrow as we play out.”
The return of the turtles was enough to knock “X-Men: Apocalypse” from the top spot on the stateside charts. The superhero sequel slid more than 65% in its second weekend to earn $22.3 million for a second place finish. The latest “X-Men” has earned $116.5 million since debuting over Memorial Day.
In third place, New Line and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer scored with the modestly budgeted “Me Before You.” The story of a caregiver (Emilia Clarke from “Game of Thrones”) who falls in love with a paralyzed millionaire (Sam Claflin) opened to a solid $18.3 million. Shot for just over $20 million and based on Jojo Moyes’ best-seller of the same name, “Me Before You” appealed heavily to women. Females comprised more than 80% of the opening weekend audience.
“This is typically a time of year filled with big summer, male-dominated action movies,” said Jeff Goldstein, a distribution executive vice president at New Line’s parent studio, Warner Bros. “We felt there was an opportunity to go after our core audience. There isn’t another female-skewing movie for weeks.”
The weekend’s other new release, the music parody “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping,” collapsed at the box office, scraping together $4.6 million from 2,311 locations. Universal spent $21 million on the mockumentary, which stars Andy Samberg as a Justin Bieber-like music prodigy and reunites the comedian with his Lonely Island partners. The musicians are best known for their work on “Saturday Night Live,” where they composed such viral favorites as “Dick in a Box” and “I’m on a Boat.” The studio believes that “Popstar” could develop a cult following on home entertainment platforms, much as “This Is Spinal Tap” was embraced on video, in its day.
“Films like this can have a long tail through the revenue chains,” said Nick Carpou, Universal’s domestic distribution head. “The story’s not been told on ‘Popstar.'”
Rounding out the top five were Disney’s “Alice Through the Looking Glass” with $10.7 million and Sony’s “The Angry Birds Movie” with $9.8 million, pushing the family films’ grosses to $50.8 million and $86.7 million, respectively.
In milestone news, “Zootopia” became the second film this year to top $1 billion globally. The Disney animated hit is now the year’s second highest-grossing film, behind “Captain America: Civil War,” which the studio also released.