James Cameron’s “Alita: Battle Angel” has a slight edge over “The Lego Movie 2” in a tight race for domestic box office supremacy during Presidents Day weekend.

Both are aiming for about $27 million, early estimates showed on Friday.

The two titles are the only current bright spots as overall moviegoing for 2019 trails far behind 2018 — and could lag by more than 20% by weekend’s end. That’s mostly due to Marvel-Disney’s mega-hit “Black Panther” having launched during the same holiday frame a year ago, with $242 million over the four days.

“‘Black Panther’ was a box office juggernaut and a cultural phenomenon the likes of which the box office had never seen, and for the month of February posted numbers that were monumental and record breaking,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with Comscore. “As expected, this weekend will lag far behind last year’s comparable Presidents weekend and the year-to-date deficit will unfortunately increase.”
Marvel-Disney’s “Captain Marvel” and “Avengers: Endgame” may help narrow the gap in the coming months, but it’s already uncertain if the 2019 North American box office will wind up topping 2018’s record of $11.9 billion.
Mid-day Friday estimates placed “Alita: Battle Angel” at about $400,000 ahead of “Lego Movie 2.” Rebel Wilson’s “Isn’t It Romantic” appeared to be edging Taraji P. Henson’s “What Men Want” for third at approximately $11 million over the four days. Universal-Blumhouse’s slasher sequel “Happy Death Day 2U” was pegged to finish fifth in the $7 million to $8 million range.
“Alita” dominated North American moviegoing on Valentine’s Day with a first-day launch of $8.7 million at 3,790 locations, including previews. Fox’s science-fiction actioner, directed by Robert Rodriguez, should end up in the $36 million range during its first five days of release through Presidents Day on Monday — above recent forecasts, which had pegged “Alita” for a $30 million debut. “Alita: Battle Angel” is a costly bet for Fox, given its $170 million production budget.

Warner Bros.’ “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” finished fifth on Valentine’s Day with $2.2 million at 4,303 screens, giving the animated comedy $40.9 million for its first week. It should close the holiday weekend with about $68 million in its first 11 days.

New Line’s “Isn’t It Romantic” pulled in $4.4 million on Valentine’s Day for a two-day total of $6.2 million at 3,444 sites. The satirical comedy, which opened on Wednesday, should end up with around $18 million by the end of the holiday frame.

“What Men Want” took in $3.2 million at 2,912 venues on Valentine’s for a first-week haul of $25.2 million. “Happy Death Day 2U,” starring Jessica Rothe as a young woman who once again finds herself living the same day over and over again, is heading for a modest six-day tally of $11 million by the end of Presidents Day.

“Happy Death Day 2U” is a low-risk project, with a $9 million price tag. The 2017 original was highly profitable, earning $125 million at the worldwide box office.

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