Box Office: ‘How to Train Your Dragon 3’ Soars to Series-Best $55.5 Million Debut

Rebecca Rubin

As the North American box office has struggles to match 2018’s record year, Universal and DreamWorks’ “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is finally breathing some life into the business.

The final chapter in the animated trilogy generated $55.5 million when it launched in 4,259 theaters, a franchise-best debut. It now also holds the distinction as the biggest opening weekend of the year to date, surpassing the record previously set by Universal’s “Glass” ($40 million).

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“We’ve been eagerly awaiting our first DreamWorks Animation release, and it’s great to celebrate this milestone with a No. 1 opening,” said Jim Orr, Universal’s head of domestic distribution. “[Director] Dean DeBlois has delivered a stunning film for a franchise that’s truly beloved.”

Along with early Fandango screenings, the threequel has brought in $58 million at the domestic box office. The animated adventure isn’t just soaring in North America. Propelled by glowing word of mouth, “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” has dominated the international box office, swooping up $216 million since beginning its international rollout in January. It launches in China on March 1.

Directed by Dean DeBlois and starring Jay Baruchel and America Ferrera, “How to Train Your Dragon 3” is the first installment to be released by Universal since its parent company purchased DreamWorks Animation. The first film, “How to Train Your Dragon” (distributed by Paramount) opened at the domestic box office with $43.7 million, while its sequel “How to Train Your Dragon 2” (released by Fox) debuted with $49.4 million. Together, the two grossed over $1 billion globally.

For the most part, studios largely sat out the Oscar weekend as Hollywood geared up for the entertainment industry’s biggest night. In lands away from a dragon utopia, a number of holdovers rounded out domestic box office charts.

Last weekend’s champion, Fox’s “Alita: Battle Angel” dropped to second place, adding another $12 million for a domestic haul of $60 million. That marks a steep 58% decline for the cyberpunk fantasy adventure, which carries an expensive $170 million price tag. Though the cyborg heroine is struggling at the North American box office, “Alita: Battle Angel” seems to be resonating overseas. It launched in China with a solid $62.3 million, taking its tally past $200 million worldwide. Executives at rival studios estimate that “Alita: Battle Angel” will need to gross roughly $500 million to achieve profitability, so CGI-spectacular is banking on a long life in theaters to get out of the red. Insiders at Fox dispute the break-even number, saying it is closer to $350 million.

Third place went to Warner Bros.’ “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part.” The animated sequel pocketed $10 million in its third weekend of release, taking its North American tally to $83 million. Despite positive reviews, “The Lego Movie 2” is struggling to click with moviegoers. The family friendly flick is pacing well behind its predecessors with $136 million in ticket sales to date.

Dwayne Johnson’s WWE drama “Fighting With My Family” nabbed the No. 4 slot when it expanded to 2,500 screens, earning $8 million. It opened in limited release last weekend, where it amassed $196,000.

Rounding out the top five is Warner Bros.’ “Isn’t It Romantic.” The satirical rom-com picked up $7.5 million, bringing its Stateside bounty to $33.7 million.

At the specialty box office, Tim Tebow’s “Run the Race” launched at No. 10, posting $2.3 million when it opened in 853 theaters.

Even with “How to Train Your Dragon 3” outpacing expectations, the domestic box office is still pacing 25% behind last year, according to Comscore. Multiplexes likely won’t see much more of a boost until Disney-Marvel’s “Captain Marvel,” the studio’s empire’s first female-fronted superhero film, hits theaters on March 8. It’s expected to deliver the first the first $100 million-plus opening of the year.

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