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Pets tops X-Men in tale of underperforming sequels

The Secret Life of Pets 2 and Dark Phoenix both fall short of expectations at the North American box office

Max the terrier (left), voiced by Patton Oswalt, and Duke the mutt, voiced by Eric Stonestreet, must get used to a toddler in the family in The Secret Life of Pets 2.

Los Angeles

IT WAS a tale of two sequels in which both underperformed at the North American box office over the weekend.

Universal's The Secret Life of Pets 2 and Dark Phoenix, an X-Men sequel from Fox, led ticket sales, but both fell short of expectations.

The Secret Life of Pets 2 took the No. 1 spot, selling roughly US$47.1 million in tickets from last Friday to Sunday.

That was enough to make it the best-attended movie in America this weekend, but it was well under half the roughly US$104.4 million the original Secret Life of Pets raked in during its first weekend in the United States in 2016.

The original movie paired a starry ensemble of voice actors - Kevin Hart and Lake Bell among them - with cute animated animals and a serious marketing push.

That worked well for Universal and Illumination, the studio also behind the Despicable Me series, who turned that combination into a winner at the box office.

While The Secret Life of Pets 2 was not expected to reach those high figures, it was expected to get closer to the mid-US$50 million range.

The sequel brings back many of the characters from the original, including a tabby cat voiced by Bell and a rabbit voiced by Hart.

Patton Oswalt voices the central character, Max, a Jack Russell terrier portrayed in the original by Louis CK, who fell from favour after revelations of sexual misconduct.

Unenthusiastic reviews - the movie holds a 54 per cent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes - and competition in the family-friendly category - particularly from Aladdin - presumably contributed to the disappointing figures.

In a fairly distant second place was Dark Phoenix, which sold US$33 million in tickets in the US over the weekend. For some movies, that would be a great figure. But not for an X-Men movie that reportedly cost a whopping US$200 million to make.

By comparison, X-Men: Apocalypse, with a reported budget of US$178 million, opened to US$65.8 million in ticket sales in 2016, without adjustment for inflation.

The studio says Dark Phoenix brought in an additional US$107 million overseas over the weekend.

The new movie is led by Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner, who plays the titular superhero opposite Jessica Chastain's alien villain. Critics were not kind to it. Dark Phoenix holds a 22 per cent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the lowest of any X-Men movie.

Then again, critics weren't particularly taken with Disney's new Aladdin, either, but it continues to do well at the box office.

Now in its third weekend, the remake landed in the No 3 spot, with US$24.5 million in ticket sales, according to Comscore, which compiles box office data.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters was a big-budget disappointment at the box office last weekend, and its sales fell sharply this weekend: The Legendary Entertainment popcorn movie landed in fourth place with US$15.5 million.

Rounding out the top five was Rocketman, Paramount's well-received Elton John biopic, which sold around US$14 million in tickets during its second weekend in theatres. NYT