'Ninja Turtles' Sequel Disappoints

‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows’ opened to an estimated $  35.3 million in the U.S. and Canada. ENLARGE
‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows’ opened to an estimated $ 35.3 million in the U.S. and Canada. Photo: Lula Carvalho/Paramount Pictures/Associated Press

Hollywood is betting big on sequels this summer, but so far moviegoing audiences are proving more discriminating about which ones they see.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” this weekend continued a string of recent sequels that significantly underperformed their predecessors, including “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” “X-Men: Apocalypse” and “Neighbors 2.” The only sequel to buck that trend in Hollywood’s summer season, which starts the first weekend of May, has been “Captain America: Civil War.”

“Out of the Shadows,” from Viacom Inc. VIA -0.08 % ’s Paramount Pictures, opened to an estimated $ 35.3 million in the U.S. and Canada, barely half as much as the studio’s first “Ninja Turtles” film, which made its debut with $ 65.6 million two years ago.

The sequel, which cost about $ 135 million to produce, did sell more tickets on Saturday in comparison to Friday than the 2014 release, indicating it appealed to more of a family audience. “Out of the Shadows” drew more children than the last movie but not as many young adults who were fans of the 1990s “Ninja Turtles” cartoon, said Megan Colligan, Paramount’s president of marketing and distribution.

Family movies tend to perform better after their openings than ones that appeal to young adults, giving Paramount some hope the movie will recover from its soft start, said Ms. Colligan. Its average grade of A-, according to market research firm CinemaScore, is also a good sign for box office longevity.

The new film performed better overseas. Its $ 34 million start was only 8% behind the original, a surprise hit that ultimately grossed $ 493 million world-wide.

A flop would add to troubles for Paramount, which has already had a weak year at the box office, with disappointments including “Zoolander 2” and “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” outweighing the solid performer “10 Cloverfield Lane.” Viacom’s controlling shareholder, Sumner Redstone, is feuding with the conglomerate’s management and seeking to halt their plans to sell a minority stake in the studio.

Paramount’s other big bets for the summer are sequel “Star Trek Beyond” and a remake of “Ben-Hur.”

Also new in theaters this weekend was the teen tear-jerker “Me Before You,” based on the best-selling novel. Released by the New Line Cinema unit of Time Warner Inc. TWX -1.19 % ’s Warner Bros. and co-produced by Metro-Goldwn-Mayer Inc., the film opened to a decent $ 18.3 million.

With a CinemaScore of A, an overwhelmingly female audience seems poised to spread good word-of-mouth.

A third new movie, the comedy “Popstar: Never Stop Popping,” from Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures, barely registered, opening to a dismal $ 4.6 million. Universal used a targeted, mostly digital ad campaign for the movie and executives there hope it will find more life in its home-entertainment release later this year.

The superhero sequel “X-Men: Apocalypse,” from 21st Century Fox Inc. FOX -0.87 % ’s 20th Century Fox, which opened in the U.S. on May 27, had a strong start in China over the weekend, collecting $ 59 million. That is more than twice as much as the last “X-Men” film or “Batman v Superman.”

Write to Ben Fritz at [email protected]

WSJ.com: US Business

About The Author