Twenty-First Century Fox (FOX, FOXA) may have won the four-day weekend box office battle with its latest super-hero offering, X-Men: Apocalypse, but it is losing the war thanks to the film's softer-than-expected $80 million opening weekend gross.
While Apocalypse -- the ninth X-Men film Fox has produced -- was able to match the studio's expectations for the weekend, the four-day total was well below the $90 million the film's previous iteration, Days of Future Past, was able to bring in in just three days in 2014.
However, the film was able to top Disney's (DIS) second place Alice Through the Looking Glass, which brought in slightly more than $34 million during its opening weekend. Alice grossed $103 million worldwide, vs. its $170 million production budget.
Accounting for just the first three days of this holiday weekend, Apocalypse's gross ranks sixth in the movie series. Apocalypse had the benefit of an extra day this weekend thanks to the Memorial Day holiday.
Apocalypse is the latest in the X-Men film series since the first movie in the comic book series restarted the super-hero movie craze back in 2000. However, the film not only seemed to miss with fans of the franchise, but its 49% Rotten Tomatoes aggregated critic score makes it the second-worst reviewed film in the franchise behind 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Fellow critic review aggregation site Metacritic gave the film a middling score of 52 out of 100.
Fox's super-hero offerings have had an up-and-down 2016. Though the film is certainly not a flop -- its $266 million global box office has been able to recoup the film's reported $178 million production budget -- Apocalypse is nowhere near as successful as the studio's February sleeper hit, Deadpool.
Deadpool, another Marvel franchise owned by Fox and not Disney, was able to gross $763 million worldwide during its theater run, including nearly $363 million domestically. The film was also able to recoup its studio-friendly $58 million budget many times over thanks to rabid fan anticipation mixed with strong critic reviews of the film.
Still, combined with the disappointing box office performance of last year's Fantastic 4, X-Men: Apocalypse may be the latest sign that Marvel characters are best left in the hands of Disney.
Marvel began selling the rights to its comic book characters in the 1990s, with Fox and Sony (SNE) purchasing the rights to several iconic characters including the X-Men and Spider-Man, respectively. However, following the success of the original X-Men movie in 2000, and the subsequent success of super-hero films that followed, the value of Marvel's characters skyrocketed.
While Disney -- a key holding in the Trifecta Stocks portfolio -- owns the rights to the majority of Marvel's cinematic universe thanks to the $4 billion it paid for Marvel in 2009, Fox's deal with Marvel gives it the rights to the intellectual property it purchased for up to seven years after the characters are last used in a Fox-produced film.
This year's release gives Fox the rights to the X-Men until at least 2023, but there are reports that there is already another Wolverine movie in the works. Disney's Marvel cinematic universe has done fine without the X-Men -- just the top-seven grossing films have brought in over $3 billion -- but Fox has some work to do to prove that it knows how to best bring the fan-favorite super-hero team to life on the big screen.
Fox shares were down about 0.3% midday Tuesday on weak volume.