By Rebecca Rubin
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Fox's sci-fi adventure "Alita: Battle Angel" dominated in North America, but its opening weekend win isn't leaving the box office with much to celebrate. Tracking services estimate that this will be one of the lowest grossing Presidents Day weekends in years.
"Alita," the cyberpunk CGI spectacle, earned $27 million (£21 million) when it debuted in 3,790 locations and $33 million over the four-day frame. Since opening on Thursday, the movie has generated $41 million at the domestic market. It came in slightly ahead of expectations heading into the weekend, but "Alita: Battle Angel" still has a lengthy uphill battle to become profitable. Directed by Robert Rodriguez and produced by James Cameron, the Japanese manga adaptation cost over $170 million to produce -- and that's not including the tens of millions spent in marketing.
With that said, it looks like the studio made the right decision pushing back "Alita's" release date. Fox originally intended to drop the movie in December, where it would have competed with a lineup that included "Aquaman," "Mary Poppins Returns," and "Bumblebee." By doing so, "Alita" avoided getting steamrolled a la "Mortal Engines," Universal's sci-fi epic that flopped in spectacular fashion when it debuted right around that time. In its first weekend, "Alita" has already passed the entire domestic haul of "Mortal Engines," the $100 million movie that stalled out with $15 million in North America.
Another promising sign? Unlike critics, audiences seem to be enjoying "Alita: Battle Angel." Moviegoers branded the blockbuster with a promising A- CinemaScore, suggesting that positive word of mouth could lead Rosa Salazar's cyborg heroine to a long life in theatres.
"Alita" certainly didn't set any new President's Day weekend records, but it did benefit from its new release date that saw most kids out of school over the holiday. The movie will now bank on international markets to get "Alita" out of the red. The movie is resonating overseas, where it pulled in $56 million this weekend when it opened in most major foreign markets. That takes its international bounty to $94 million. It opens in China and Japan on Feb. 22.
"Alita: Battle Angel" just barely fended off Warner Bros.' "The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part." Last weekend's champ dropped to the No. 2 spot, adding another $21.2 million for a domestic haul of $62.6 million. The animated sequel based on the popular kids toys has hefty competition on the horizon. Next weekend sees the release of "How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World" and Disney's "Captain Marvel" not far behind. All three titles are targeting younger audiences.
In third place is Warner Bros. and New Line's "Isn't It Romantic." The satirical take on a romantic comedy benefited from opening ahead of Valentine's Day, with $14.2 million during its first four days of release. Rebel Wilson and Liam Hemsworth star in the flick about a woman whose life begins to play out like a PG-13 romantic comedy (the horror!) after getting hit on the head.
Fellow new release "Happy Death Day 2U" didn't fare as well from the holiday. Universal and Blumhouse's slasher sequel launched in fifth place with $9.8 million over the weekend. Its $11.4 million bounty since opening on Wednesday is almost half of what tracking services estimated heading into the weekend. It's also a steep decline from the opening weekend of its predecessor, "Happy Death Day," which bowed with $26 million. The good news, at least, is the movie only cost $9 million so it won't take much for "Happy Death Day 2U" to end up in the black.
Paramount's gender-bending remake, "What Men Want" came in fourth place, bringing in $10.8 million during its second outing.
On the indie front, MGM's "Fighting With My Family" brought in $131,625 over the three-day frame and is expected to make $163,584 through Monday. It generated the best screen average of the weekend with $40,896 per location. The Dwayne Johnson-produced WWE drama expands nationwide next weekend.
To nobody's surprise, ticket sales are down almost 60 percent from last year when "Black Panther" delivered a record-breaking $202 million debut. The rest of February will make for tough comparisons since Marvel's more inclusive take on the superhero genre generated a massive $700 million during its long run in multiplexes.