By Ben Fritz
Hollywood's big bet on sequels this summer continued to pay off poorly, with "Independence Day: Resurgence" becoming the latest follow-up to fizzle at the box office.
Opening to an estimated $41.6 million in the U.S. and Canada, "Resurgence" grossed less than the original film "Independence Day" did on its first weekend 20 years ago, when ticket prices were nearly 50% lower.
21st Century Fox Inc.'s Twentieth Century Fox spent about $165 million producing the picture, hoping to enjoy some of the success of last summer's "Jurassic World," which revived a 1990s brand at the 21st-century box office in blockbuster fashion.
"Resurgence" adds to a string of recent sequels with disappointing ticket sales, including "X-Men: Apocalypse," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadow," "Alice Through the Looking Glass," "Now You See Me 2" and "Neighbors 2."
It doesn't appear that audiences are growing tired of sequels in general, but rather are raising their ticket-buying standards for them. That reflects a broader trend, in which a handful of movies dominate the box office at the expense of all others.
One of the few sequels this summer to clear the higher bar set by audiences is Walt Disney Co.'s "Finding Dory," which topped the box- office charts for the second weekend in a row, grossing more than the four new movies released nationwide combined. With $73.2 million this weekend, its domestic total is now a very strong $286.6 million.
Overseas, where it is playing in countries that represent about 46% of the total foreign box office, the Pixar Animation Studios production has grossed $110.3 million so far.
The "Independence Day" sequel, meanwhile, opened to $102 million internationally over the weekend from countries representing 72% of the total overseas market. China proved particularly lucrative, generating $37.3 million in ticket sales for the alien-invasion drama.
Fox's financial hopes for the movie rest on continued stronger returns overseas, as well as the possibility of a big second weekend in the U.S., which will include the Independence Day holiday. The studio is particularly hopeful that more young people will see the movie as positive word-of-mouth spreads, said Chris Aronson, Fox's president of domestic distribution.
Just 36% of the opening weekend audience was under 25. But that group gave the film an average grade of A-, according to market- research firm CinemaScore, compared with a B from the overall audience.
The new movie features several newcomers, but not Will Smith, who starred in the original.
Sony Corp.'s Sony Pictures Entertainment's thriller "The Shallows," starring Blake Lively, opened to $16.7 million, a solid debut given its modest budget.
Independent studio STX Entertainment's bid to counter-program summer event films with a smart drama for adults failed to resonate, as "Free State of Jones" opened to a weak $7.8 million. The true Civil War story starring Matthew McConaughey likely suffered from mixed reviews.
Amazon.com Inc's new movie division and partner Broad Green Pictures opened director Nicolas Wending Refn's art house drama "Neon Demon" nationwide, albeit in less than a third as many theaters as any other new film. It barely registered, debuting to just $607,000.