"A United Kingdom"
“A United Kingdom”

This weekend caught a bad case of sequelitis with the three major releases that are sequels, and each of them aimed at specific certain audiences – men, women and children. But which one would come out on top?

No surprise that it was the animated family film that won the weekend with Warner Bros.’ “The LEGO Batman Movie” taking the No. 1 slot with $55 million, which is less than the $69 million that 2014’s “The Lego Movie” opened with (it grossed over $257 million in the U.S. alone). But “Lego Batman” is sure to do very well. A third LEGO movie is coming out this fall – “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” proving yet again that you can always count on Hollywood to milk a successful formula to death.

In second place, with just under $46.8 million, is “Fifty Shades Darker”, the terrible sequel to the terrible “Fifty Shades of Grey”, which was the 2015 film version of the equally terrible, inexplicably popular book millions read. But “Grey” opened in 2015 with an astonishing $85 million; however, it saw one of the biggest second week box office drop-offs in recent memory, meaning that audiences rushed out to see it, saw how awful it was, and told all their friends to stay away. Despite that, “Grey” went on to gross over $571 million worldwide. Therefore a sequel was inevitable (and a third installment is being planned already).

Not surprisingly, “Darker” has gotten terrible reviews, with some critics wondering why this Grey character, who is supposed to be so sophisticated, dangerous and worldly, has a “Chronicles of Riddick” poster in his apartment.

But for the guys seeking entertainment at movie houses this weekend, there was “John Wick: Chapter 2” – the sequel to the 2014 Keanu Reeves action thriller. Although the first film was a very modest hit, grossing $43 million domestically and $87 million worldwide, for a $20 million film, “Wick” did something that very few films try to, but rarely achieve. It became a genuine cult classic.

While it was dismissed at first as just another been-there-seen-that action film, it was discovered later by millions on cable and DVD that “Wick” was something even more. It was a crazy, kinetic, very stylish action thriller that was clearly heavily influenced by 90’s Hong Kong action movies, in which the action sequences are shot in long takes, in long or medium shots, with the over 50-year-old Reeves doing his own stunts; essentially the way action films were made previously, before the whole “shaky cam” thing and the over editing/ADD technique that makes it difficult to tell what the hell is going on in action films like the “Bourne” or “Taken” movies. In some cases, this was likely because the lead actor in the fight sequences weren’t convincing enough as real fighters, and so all sorts of shooting and editing tricks had to be employed to cover that fact, and make the actor look better.

As a result, “Wick” fans practically demanded a sequel and got their wish with “Chapter 2”, which is longer, more violent and more dazzlingly insane than the first one, with Reeves pulling off even more impressive stunts and martial arts action.

The film came in third place this weekend, with $30 million, which is twice what the first “Wick” film earned on its opening weekend; it’s also made another $10 million overseas to date. And with that, as you might expect, talk of a third “Wick” film is in the air.

As for limited release titles, Amma Asnate’s “An United Kingdom”, which opened on just 4 screens in N.Y. and L.A., had the 2nd highest per screen average of any film in theaters this weekend, with $17,000 per screen. Although I must admit that I would love to see the demographic breakdown for who went to see the film. I ask that because that scene in which David Oyelowo breaks down crying when he expresses his love for his wife – who is white, played by Rosamund Pike – practically guarantees that black women will not be rushing to see the film. And you know I’m right; although it is based on a true story.

Meanwhile, Raoul Peck’s James Baldwin documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” continues to perform well, expanding to 72 more screens this weekend, for a total of 115 screens and moving up from 24th place to 15th place, with $830,000 for the weekend, and a total so far of just under $1.9 million. Also “Moonlight” has now crossed the $20 million mark, with a total to date of $20,426,600.

And “Hidden Figures” not only continues to go strong at the box office, with $131 million and another $9 million overseas so far (with big numbers in Spain, New Zealand, Taiwan and Germany), there now seems to be a more support for the film when it come to the Best Picture Oscar race. Though “La La Land” is still considered the favorite to win, it’s not so certain anymore. The backlash against the film has been growing over the past few weeks (many calling it overrated, overhyped and more). And “Figures” is now the highest grossing Oscar nominated film this year; it’s also a film that everyone loves and feels passionate about, which makes it a growing serious contender for Best Picture. Also, what better statement could Oscar voters make in response to the current occupant of the White House about the diversity and richness of America, and the major contributions that black people have made and are still making to this country, by giving the Best Picture trophy to a film that tells the mostly ignored untold story of the black women who made significant contributions to science, serving as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit – a stunning achievement that restored the nation’s confidence and turned around the Space Race.

What do you say?

This weekend’s top 12 box office earners follow below:

1) The LEGO Batman Movie WB $55,635,000
2) Fifty Shades Darker Uni. $46,797,825
3) John Wick: Chapter Two LG/S $30,015,000
4) Split Uni. $9,321,110 Total: $112,293,380
5) Hidden Figures Fox $8,000,000 Total: $131,452,250
6) A Dog’s Purpose Uni. $7,365,335 Total: $42,595,010
7) Rings Par. $5,820,000 Total: $21,492,286
8) La La Land LG/S $5,000,000 Total: $126,010,345
9) Lion Wein. $4,083,000 Total: $30,368,722
10) The Space Between Total: $6,595,158
12) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story BV $1,516,000 Total: $527,182,968