“Alita: Battle Angel,” the oft-delayed adaptation of the manga “Battle Angel Alita” by Yukito Kishiro has finally arrived in theaters. Although the film has opened at number 1 at the box office, the massive cost of bringing the project to the screen and more competition on the way paints an uncertain picture of the film’s overall performance and for prospects of planned sequels.
According to Box Office Mojo, the film has grossed an estimated $34.3 million over President’s Day weekend. This places the film ahead of “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” at $27.3 million as well as “Isn’t it Romantic” at $16.6 million and “What Men Want” at $12.4 million. The top five are rounded out by “Happy Death Day 2U” at $11 million.
While this is somewhat better than many were expecting, it’s still a bit early to celebrate. The film bears a massive $170 million budget before promotion and distribution. According to a report by Deadline, the film will need to make at least $500 million worldwide just to break even. On top of this, not only did the weekend mark a decline from the previous year; it ended up being the lowest-grossing President’s Day weekend in years.
Though defenders of the film are hoping for good word of mouth and strong numbers in China and Japan, there still are plenty of challenges to overcome. More competition will be arriving soon, including “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” on Feb. 22 and “Captain Marvel” on March 8; making the long-term prospects even more uncertain. The film is intended to be the first of a planned trilogy, but that will depend entirely on how much the final gross will be. If all else fails, both James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez have other projects to fall back on. Cameron will return to work on his sequels to the massive 2009 hit “Avatar,” and Rodriguez will likely go back to the lower-budget movies he previously worked on.
While the opening weekend numbers do mark an unexpected improvement over other live-action anime adaptations such as the 2008 “Speed Racer” and the 2017 “Ghost in the Shell” films, what lies ahead for “Alita: Battle Angel” remains uncertain. Though not as dismal as many feared, it remains to be seen how the rest of Yukito Kishiro’s landmark manga will make it to the screen.
Column by Steven Pryor
At a Glance:
Starring Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Mahershala Ali and Keean Johnson
Directed by Robert Rodriguez
(Based on the manga “Battle Angel Alita” by Yukito Kishiro)