“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” should unseat “X-Men: Apocalypse” from the top spot on the box office charts this weekend when it debuts to roughly $37 million.
However, the film is the latest sequel to struggle to match the performance of its predecessor. The return of the pizza-munching, martial arts-wielding reptiles is on pace to open to just half of what 2014’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” made during its first weekend in theaters.
Hollywood is fond of the franchise business, believing that sequels are easier to market and carry less risk than original productions. But go back to the trough too many times, and a studio can risk audience fatigue. This summer has been particularly brutal for follow-ups. “Alice Through the Looking Glass” flopped, “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” stumbled, and even the latest “X-Men” fell about 30% short of “Days of Future Past’s” monster opening.
Some analysts think that audiences will continue to cool to this year’s crop of sequels. If true, that would be bad news for the likes of “Star Trek: Beyond,” “Independence Day: Resurgence,” and “Jason Bourne,” all of which are slated to hit theaters over the next three months. “Sequels can work only if they meet or best the standards of the original,” said Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “Many of these films are too interested in repeating the past. After a while, audiences may say, ‘Why bother?'”
“Out of the Shadows” cost $135 million to produce and brings back original stars Megan Fox and Will Arnett, along with series newcomers Laura Linney, looking a long way from “Mystic River,” and “Arrow” favorite Stephen Amell. Paramount believes that the film could prove more durable domestically than the first “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” because it is tracking less like an action film and more like a family adventure. Moviegoers with kids don’t always rush out for opening weekend, the theory goes.
The studio is also banking on overseas business to help lift grosses. “Out of the Shadows” bows in 40 foreign territories this weekend, including such major markets as the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Russia. It’s expected to bow to more than $30 million. The big question will be if “Out of the Shadows” can match the first film’s $62.1 million Chinese gross when it debuts in the People’s Republic on July 2. Paramount has partnered with Alibaba Pictures and Dalian Wanda Group, two local alliances that could help the new “Ninja Turtles” installment attract crowds in the world’s second-largest film market.
In its second weekend, “X-Men: Apocalypse” should pull in more than $25 million, enough to hold off a flurry of new releases. Among the fresh entrants, New Line and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer will try to attract female audiences with “Me Before You,” a romantic drama about a caregiver (Emilia Clarke of “Game of Thrones” fame) who falls in love with a wealthy paralyzed man (Sam Claflin from “Hunger Games”). The adaptation of the best-selling novel cost just more than $20 million to produce and will debut in roughly 2,600 locations. It is eyeing a $14 million launch.
That leaves Universal’s “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping,” looking like the weekend’s big whiff. The comedy from Andy Samberg’s rock parody group, the Lonely Island, will be lucky to eke out $6 million this weekend — an anemic result for a film with a $21 million price tag.