“Dark Phoenix,” the X-Men sequel from Disney and Fox, has earned $5 million in its Thursday box office previews, while “The Secret Life of Pets 2,” which is projected similarly this weekend, earned $2.3 million in its previews from 3,250 screens with showings beginning at 6 p.m.
“Dark Phoenix” is Disney’s first major tentpole release following the acquisition of the Fox slate, and it’s the final film with the current cast of X-Men characters before becoming part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The studio is projecting an opening between $40-50 million for “Dark Phoenix,” with independent trackers saying it could go as high as $55 million in what is expected to be a close race for the top spot against “Secret Life of Pets 2.”
A $55 million opening for “Dark Phoenix” would be just above the series low opening of the previous installment, 2016’s “X-Men: Apocalypse.” That film made $53 million in its opening weekend and grossed $8.2 million in its Thursday night previews, which actually just barely improved upon the $8.1 million preview for “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” despite that film making $110.6 million in its opening. Other comps include “War for the Planet of the Apes,” which made $5 million from previews and grossed $56 million in its opening, and “Shazam!” which made $5.9 million from previews before jumping to a $54 million opening.
Even if “Dark Phoenix” disappoints, however, it’s a blow Disney is more than capable of enduring, as they are hoping that the added slate of Fox films could push their overall gross for the year to the $4 billion mark.
Sophie Turner stars in “Dark Phoenix” as the telekinetic mutant Jean Grey who develops enhanced powers and an evil alter ego known as the Dark Phoenix that threatens to destroy the X-Men and humanity. Simon Kinberg wrote and directed the film that also stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Evan Peters and Jessica Chastain.
Universal and Illumination Entertainment’s animated sequel to the 2016 “The Secret Life of Pets” is expected to finish well behind the massive opening of the original film, which made $104.3 million after just a $5.3 million Thursday night. In fact, the original “Secret Life of Pets” places in the top 50 for all time openings at the box office, and it’s incredibly still the record holder for the largest opening of any film that’s not a sequel or based on existing material. And worldwide the first “Pets” film is second only to “Shrek 2” in terms of non-Disney films, grossing $875 million worldwide.
But it’s a solid start all the same for “Pets 2.” Illumination’s last film “Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch” opened to $67.5 million after earning $2.2 million Thursday. And Universal’s “How to Train Your Dragon 3” opened to $55 million after firing up $3 million in its previews. The studio is predicting “Pets 2” to open between $50-60 million, a respectable opening for a film with an $80 million budget. And an opening above $56.4 million would actually put it ahead of the original “Despicable Me” film from 2010.
Patton Oswalt replaces Louis C.K. in the lead role as the dog Max, who now faces a major lifestyle change after his owner gets married and has a child. Harrison Ford and Tiffany Haddish are among the new additions to the voice cast that’s rounded out by Kevin Hart, Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey, Bobby Moynihan, Hannibal Buress, Chris Renaud, Ellie Kemper, Pete Holmes and Nick Kroll. Chris Renaud and Jonathan del Val are the directors.