By Seth Kelley
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - As this weekend approached, the question lingered if "Alien: Covenant" would be able to unseat "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" from the top spot at the domestic box office.
Now, we have an answer. As of Sunday morning, "Covenant," from 20th Century Fox and Scott Free Productions, looks to be the winner with a three-day estimate of $36 million (27.6 million pounds) from 3,761 locations. That's just above Disney's "Guardians" sequel which is raking in an additional $35.3 million from 4,347 spots. The super sequel is seeing only a 46% drop from last weekend, and its total domestic earnings now exceed $300 million.
While "Alien" may have won, the film's price tag in the $100 million range and marketing costs detract from the victory. The sixth installment in the Alien franchise (not counting the two Alien vs. Predator films) was directed by Ridley Scott and stars Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, and Danny McBride. It holds a 73% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is in line with 2012's "Prometheus." Although it came in already having made $42 million overseas and $36 million was enough to land in the top slot, "Alien" grossed less during its first weekend in the U.S. than "Prometheus" did in 2012 ($51 million). Its final domestic earnings also came in below earlier projections, which pegged the horror flick at least $40 million.
Fox's president of domestic distribution Chris Aronson chalked the lower totals compared with "Prometheus" to the "normal course of business." He added that "Alien: Covenant" gives fans of the franchise since the 1979 original the chance to share with the younger generation (60% of the opening weekend audience was in the 18-34 demo). "Teenagers likely haven't seen 'Alien,'" he said, "This movie creates a generational bond."
While the "Alien" franchise is still able to generate decent interest, the same cannot be said for Fox's other release this weekend, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul." The fourth live-action movie based on Jeff Kinney's middle school-centric book series opened to $7.2 million from 3,157 locations. David Bowers, who directed movies two and three, returned to the helm nearly five years after the last iteration, and anointed a new titular wimp in Jason Drucker.
The only other major release of the weekend was "Everything, Everything," from Warner Bros. and MGM. The sick-lit adaptation will earn $12 million by the end of the weekend from 2,801 locations. That's enough to land in the top three. "Hunger Games" standout Amandla Stenberg stars as a girl with an autoimmune disease that keeps her locked up indoors. Nick Robinson plays her love interest named Olly. "Everything, Everything" earned the highest CinemaScore of the new released (an A- overall). 82% of its audience was female, and 74% were under 25 years old.
"Along with our partners, MGM, we're thrilled that we hit our key demo," commented Jeff Goldstein, domestic distribution chief at Warner Bros.
Amy Schumer's "Snatched," also from Fox, will see an additional $7.6 million in earnings from 3,511 theaters, putting it in the fourth slot, ahead of "Wimpy Kid." Also in its second weekend, "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" continues to flop miserably with a weekend total of less than $7 million.
With Memorial Day weekend on the horizon, the overall domestic summer box office is ten percentage points lower than it was at this time last year. That means all eyes are fixed on a duo of splashy summer releases -- Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" and Paramount's "Baywatch" -- to hopefully make up some ground.
"The dominance at this point by Disney and Marvel's early summer entry "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" is impressive having earned more than all the other films combined," said Paul Degarabedian, senior media analyst at ComScore, who noted that "Captain America: Civil War" accounted for more than half of the summer take at this point last year. "However, a slow start does not portend a slow overall summer as many have predicted," he added, "though if the ebb and flow of this season's fortunes thus far is any indication we may have to buckle up for a pretty bumpy ride."