Even considering the circumstances, a poorly-reviewed X-Men spin-off opening with $3.1 million on Friday is not a promising result.
We won’t have official overseas Tenet grosses until tomorrow, so by default the big Friday box office news (outside of China) is the nationwide theatrical debut of Disney DIS’s much-delayed The New Mutants. The Josh Boone-directed X-Men spin-off was supposed to open in April of 2018. Alas, plans for horror-specific reshoots (that never happened), various complications concerning Disney buying Fox in mid-2019 and yet more delays to the coronavirus pandemic led to its current theatrical fate. The film, starring Blu Hunt, Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Henry Zaga and Alice Braga, opened yesterday sans press screenings (or screeners) to miserable reviews and a meager $3.1 million opening day. Even considering current circumstances, such as the film only playing in 62% of the country (so 100%would be around $5 million), that’s a miserable number.
Truth be told, you can argue that the only reason Disney released this in theaters at all is due to contractual obligations related to the Fox purchase. HBO (owned by Time Warner) still has first-dibs on post-theatrical, so Disney couldn’t just toss the film onto Disney+ or Hulu. That’s why, even if Mulan makes “all the money” on PVOD next week, the likes of Death on the Nile (slated for October 23) and The Kings Man (which just moved to February 26, 2021) will still be global theatrical releases. That The Kings Man moved out of September implies that Disney actually gives a damn about the Matthew Vaughn-directed prequel, which makes sense since the first two Kingsman movies earned $825.2 million worldwide on a combined $185 million budget.
The New Mutants is the final installment of Fox’s 20-year X-Men series, a franchise which (especially after Dark Phoenix bombed last summer) is already dead with the presumption that it’ll be rebooted within Disney’s ongoing Marvel Cinematic Universe. To say that The New Mutants wasn’t a high priority on Disney’s release slate is a comical understatement. That Josh Boone was forced to do any press at all was frankly cruel, especially as he was put in an impossible position of having to justify folks seeing his movie in a movie theater (which is the point of a film-specific press tour). Oh well, The Fault in Our Stars is a modern classic and if his CBS All-Access adaptation of The Stand is good then New Mutants will just be a grim trivia question.
Nonetheless, a $3.1 million Friday gross and a likely $7-$8 million opening weekend for The New Mutants is a whiff, no matter the circumstances. This wasn’t a cheap movie (allegedly $80 million), and there’s little reason to presume that the poorly-reviewed (23% fresh with a 4.6/10 average rating on Rotten Tomatoes) will leg out to any useful extent over the next month. Even in the best of circumstances, X-Men movies have been famously frontloaded (Dark Phoenix barely doubled its $32.8 million Fri-Sun debut), with an average multiplier of around 2.5x. Even doubling that in light of moviegoers being less willing to race out on opening weekend and key states (including California and New York) not yet open for business give you a 5x multiplier and a $40 million domestic finish.
The New Mutants damn well could have opened in theaters on April 13, 2018 had A) Fox let Josh Boone make the horror-centric movie he wanted to make in the first place or B) Fox had not changed their mind and requested scarier reshoots after It earned $700 million worldwide. The cruel irony is that, yes, the X-Men spin-off is going to have the biggest domestic debut of the summer and the first $5 million-plus opening weekend since Bloodshot ($9 million), I Still Believe ($9 million) and The Hunt ($5 million) in mid-March just before theaters shut down. It’s going to be, give or take whether you choose to count Tenet as a summer release, the season’s biggest grosser in North America even if it drops dead after Sunday.
Come what may, this is little more than a much-delayed (and internally disliked) movie being thrown out to the sharks as a glorified tax write-off. While Chris Nolan’s Tenet has been (hyperbolically) championed as the movie that was going to save theaters, The New Mutants’ destiny was always to die for them. The X-Men franchise arguably deserved a better end, but maybe they should have quit, at least in terms of team movies, while they were ahead with X-Men: Days of Future Past. That 2014 release earned strong reviews, nabbed a franchise-high $742 million worldwide (higher than any non-Iron Man MCU movie at that moment) and gave both the First Class cast and the original franchise continuity a happy ending. Save for Deadpool and Logan, it’s all been downhill from there.