Space Ramblings

Tag Archives: Box Office

Bashing Bourne

It’s fashionable to bash some movies and Bourne, which dumped its director and star when they whined too much about their hideously expensive Green Zone vanity project not getting enough support, was ripe for it. But the latest Bourne movie is no box office disaster. Bourne knocked The Dark Knight Rises out of its top spot and had a pretty good ten grand per theater average.

It isn’t in the range of the last Bourne movie, but the Bourne Ultimatum wasn’t up against the Dark Knight. It was up against the Simpsons movie. The real question is how much staying power it will have.

The Spiderman Reboot… it Bombed

I never saw any sense is such a rapid reboot of movies that were doing pretty well, but Sony knew better. Sony was so smart that it cast some Twilight emo kid and decided to make a worse version of the same movie that they made 10 years ago. That was a move intended to capitalize on teenagers who were just learning to walk when the first Spider Man movie was released and who were just trying to make it to puberty when Spider Man 3 was released and can’t be expected to relate to a thirty something Spidey.

the Amazing Spider Man poster

It’s like the Dark Knight… but with more teen angst

But studios forget that they’re not the only audience out there.

The original Spider Man cost half of what the Spider Man reboot did and made more faster. The original Spider Man hit 400 million bucks. The Spider Man reboot got plowed under by The Dark Knight Rises and made 11 million over the weekend bringing its total to 228 million dollars out of a 230 million dollar budget and unknown promotional budget.

That’s not quite a bomb bomb, but even with foreign box office those are bad numbers. Spider Man 3, which had an oversized 258 million dollar budget still had a 336 million total and that was enough to trigger a reboot. Spider Man reboot probably won’t clear its full budget domestically and while its opening weekend is big enough that much of the money doesn’t go to the theaters, this is still bad.

As usual the Spider Man reboot has made more money in the foreign box office than the old domestic one, but the Amazing Spider Man is underperforming internationally too.

Does this mean Andrew Garfield will be sent home, along with Marc Webb who went from directing a few TV episodes and music videos to a summer tentpole? Will Sony give Sam Raimi a call?

Probably not. In their defense a chunk of the problem was releasing this puppy right before Dark Knight Rises and after Avengers without figuring out a way to make the Amazing Spider Man into an event movie.

The original Spider Man was an event movie. The new one would have done better in a barren season, but this summer had actual event comic book movies and it couldn’t compete.

Brave Bombs. Is Pixar Fading?

Brave didn’t “bomb bomb”, as Whoopi Goldberg would say, but it’s in fourth place after four weeks, completely crushed by Ice Age 4. It took in less money than Madagascar 4 and will likely pass Ratatouille, but not Wall-E. And if Brave doesn’t pass Ratatouille, it will be one of Pixar’s worst performing movies.

pixar lamp

Is it fair to call Brave a bomb? The movie is listed as having a 185 million dollar budget and has made 195 million domestic. Counting the movie theater share and promotional expenses, it may have actually bombed. The foreign box office will probably see to it that it doesn’t lose money, but Brave doesn’t seem all that popular overseas either.

Cars 2, released last year, was the worst performing Pixar movie in a while. It ranked so poorly that it was up there with early Pixar movies like A Bug’s Life and Toy Story. Brave looks like it underperformed almost as badly as Cars 2, which didn’t even make back its budget domestically.

The last Pixar movie to make back its budget in the domestic box office was Ratatouille and that was only because it spent only 150 million making the movie, instead of 200 million for Cars 2 and 185 million for Brave.

No original non-sequel Pixar movie has managed to break the 300 million dollar barrier since Finding Nemo. There is some good news. The Incredibles and Up both performed well. Much better than signature movies like Cars and Wall-E. But Cars and Wall-E are easy to merchandise. So is Monsters Inc, which is why Monsters University is getting made.

Pixar has become Disney. It’s looking at movies as vehicles for merchandising. Brave was its try at doing a Disney princess movie, which is a big part of the merchandising cash flow. Pixar has become so Disney that it did a Scottish Mulan. But Pixar is not very good at being Disney. It’s good at making idiosyncratic films Up. It did okay at merchandising with Monsters Inc and Toy Story, but the kind of calculation that resulted in Cars and Brave backfired.

Pixar still has some of its rep, but if it keeps doing merchandising cash-in movies like Cars and Brave, it won’t have it for long.

Prometheus Bombed

It’s not a good summer for bad SciFi. First Men in Black III went down, making this one of the few times that Will Smith wearing Prometheus film posterdark glasses and quipping couldn’t salvage an expensive blockbuster. Then Prometheus bombed.

Prometheus didn’t bomb as hard as it could have. It hit 110 million, which is pretty good, if your movie’s budget plus promotionals weren’t a lot higher than that. Foreign box office, as with most bad movies, is better than domestic, but less money from the foreign box office comes home. No one will invest this kind of money just for it to make 120 million or so at home and another 160-170 million abroad. It doesn’t pay.

FOX has to be pretty relieved that they didn’t give Ridley Scott the 260 million dollar budget he wanted. That would have racked up nearly as big a disaster as Warner Bros took with Scott’s Body of Lies. If Prometheus had bombed as completely as Body of Lies, Scott’s career would be in real trouble.

Most of the blame for Prometheus should go to Damon Lindelof, who has scripted two big budget movies and seen them both bomb. And there’s no question that Prometheus’ problem was script. No wonder Lindelof has been talking about going back to TV. He probably saw this coming with preview audiences.

Still there are other factors to blame for Prometheus’ failure. It wasn’t really a big budget summer movie and wasn’t positioned to compete in that element. No matter what the studio thought, Prometheus was better placed for a fall release where it could have hung around for a while.

Nobody Actually Wanted Men In Black III

Men-in-Black-3 movie poster

So, in a surprising turn of events, moviegoers didn’t actually want a sequel to Men in Black II, a sequel that they didn’t want either, which was a sequel to the original Men In Black, a movie made in 1997. Making a sequel to a movie that was popular a terrifying 15 years ago is not a smart business move.

Scream 4 had the same problem as Men in Black III. It was a sequel to an old movie and the last sequel in the franchise wasn’t too popular. (Not that it’s preventing another Scream movie from being made anyway. It’s in the works.)

Men in Black 2 was released ten years ago in 2002 and it performed okay. 190 million domestic and 251 million foreign.  Not great, but not expensive franchise sequel with megastar numbers. Compare that to the original movie which took in 250 million domestic and 338 million foreign. You can see why Sony didn’t rush in to make MIB 3.

Men in Black III has taken in only 135 million domestic and it’s sitting in the fourth spot. Over the next few weeks, it might take in another 10-15 million total, but not much more than that. So MIB 3 won’t even hit the MIB 2 mark. Its odds of reaching 190 million are poor.

The good news for bad movies is that American box office bombs still make some money internationally and MIB 3 has done that. Its foreign box office is at 352 million. That already tops the MIB 2 numbers, though you have to adjust for inflation. It also means that MIB 4 can’t be ruled out.

All the MIB movies had roughly similar opening weekends. What the original Men in Black had going for it was audiences that kept coming back for more. MIB 3 doesn’t really have that and it would be hard to have it when it’s sandwiched between The Avengers, Prometheus and a bunch of heavily promoted releases. MIB 3 is not a must see event and most of them are to at least some audience.

If an Men In Black 4 movie happens, who gets the blame\credit? China. MIB 3 took in almost 50 million dollars in China, despite the country’s ban on time travel movies. And another 40 million from Japan and South Korea. 10 million from Hong Kong and Singapore. That’s a 100 million from the Asian markets.

Why did Men in Black 3 do so well in Asia? Who knows. The concept might have been appealing. But it makes MIB 4 more likely because MIB 3 cracked a tricky market.

Sacha Baron Cohen Go Home

As May crawls to June, The Avengers conclusively dominates the box office crushing everything else. Battleship got around it with a contingency plan by opening in Europe first. It should probably have opened everywhere first. The movie won’t have a completely disastrous image like John Carter, but it isn’t going to be another Transformers either.

The stupidest move was tossing The Dictator into the Avengers shredder. Sure a chunk of its target audience probably saw Avengers already, but the overlap was too big. Dark Shadows and What To Expect were at least targeting a female audience which was less likely to get distracted by exploding CG action movies. The Dictator had to be counting on getting some chunk of the female audience. Had to be.

The results at the box office don’t look that bad at first until you notice that The Dictator had a much bigger budget and can you imagine the marketing budget on all that? The Dictator marketing looked guerrilla, but you can bet all of it was expensive. Actual cost may top 100 million. And the movie won’t be making that back.

More devastating is that The Dictator is waking people up to the not so secret fact that Sacha Baron Cohen sucks. He’s okay enough playing a wacky character in a movie, but he’s not a star, his one trick comedy routine is to create an offensive character and then offend people and film the results. The Dictator can’t do that so it fails.

Borat and Bruno were Jackass with fewer stunts. Bruno was already flailing. The Dictator’s failure is going to mean much less backing for another project. If Borat 2 underwhelms, it’s game over.

Success and Failure at the Box Office

As we all know Mission Impossible 4 or MI Ghost Protocol or MIGP was a huge hit. Sherlock Holmes 2 or SHGOS was a bomb. Fast forward a bit and MI4 has just barely cleared 200 million dollars domestic and Sherlock Holmes 2 made 20 million less than it. Since Holmes 2 or SH2GOS had a 20 million dollar budget, the performance is close enough to say that both movies performed sub par, with MI4 or MI4GP getting the worst of it since it had the bigger star and the bigger splashdown. But the US take doesn’t really matter anymore. Over 60 percent of the revenues for both movies came from the foreign box office. 287 mil for Holmes, 369 mil for MI. Internationally MI4 is the decisive winner, but Holmes pulled in enough that it was worth it.

That brings us to Underworld Awakening, the fourth unwanted movie in a series which only took off because its commercials featured a woman shooting her way through a floor in the first movie, that managed to score 50 million and another 40 million overseas, making this crap that Americans like better than people outside the country. It also means Len Wiseman is still in the game. Who besides us wanted to see a fourth movie of this? The Russians where Underworld picked up a quarter of its foreign take.

Red Tails, Lucas’ vanity project, has slipped badly, but when was the last time an aircraft movie, especially a retro one did well? Can anyone remember Flyboys? Or Stealth? Or Wing Commander? I’m not too sure it’s been done since Top Gun. That’s too bad because I wouldn’t mind an American version of Les Chevaliers du ciel, but even Lucas’ own Star Wars prequels took it light on the fighter action.

Isn’t the Foreign Box Office Great?

It used to be that Americans were held responsible for watching bad movies. But it’s not even Americans anymore. You would think that a bad movie that deservedly bombs locally would just disappear. But no.

Puss in Boots seemed like a dud, but internationally it’s on track to cross 200 million and it’s tops in a bunch of markets. The character was always aimed at international audiences anyway. Which means a sequel is likely.

Real Steel, you know that dumb bastardization of one of the darker stories, into something that reminds you of Stallone’s Over the Top, did poorly at home, but overseas it’s approaching 200 million. That’s right. 200 million. Americans might have hated it, but South Koreans loved it. It scored 23 million in a country which has around twice that many people. It was almost as popular in Hong Kong. Does that mean there’s going to be a Real Steel 2? Probably not. But it means the people who made it don’t look as dumb as they should.

In Time bombed here. It’s a 100 million dollar movie internationally.

Movie Box Office vs Video Game Sales

These comparisons started with the Call of Duty series and its blockbuster sales. Take this from the Economist

“Black Ops” is not a film or a book: it is a video game. For comparison, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”, the current record-holder for the fastest-selling film at the box office, clocked up just $169m of ticket sales on its first weekend. “Black Ops” stole the crown from its predecessor in 2009, “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2”. The latest instalment, “Modern Warfare 3”, released on November 8th, set a record of its own with $750m in its first five days.

Money is money, but in the number of customers, Harry Potter Whatever beat Call of Duty Whatever. Movie tickets these days are still mostly under 15 dollars (or maybe I’m wrong) and the price for something like COD MW 3 is probably going to be around 50-60 dollars. There are still theaters where you can see movies for 10 bucks or so. So Harry Potter scored several times MW3’s audience, MW3 just made money off a smaller group of people.

But box office sales count ticket sales no the total money spent, which with snacks is probably going to be double that, at least. Movie theaters make their money from snack sales. Studios make a sizable chunk of change from later DVD and Blu Ray sales. None of this shows up front. Games do have DLC sales but they’re still a fraction of the total. So the picture isn’t as unbalanced as it seems.

Games still cost less than movies to make and turn a larger profit. Especially with growing direct sales to customers and no need to split the profits with a theater chain. MW2 cost around 40-50 million but had a launch budget of around 200 million dollars. MW3 probably had an even bigger launch budget.

That 250 million for MW2 is Harry Potter and the DH2’s film budget (though not its promotional budget) which helps put things into proportion. Its total worldwide take was over 1.3 billion, most of that foreign. MW2 had over a billion in sales, but took in most of its sales in the US.

MW2 has the lead because it extracted more money from individual customers, but it has fewer of those and they are more localized. It probably has the lead in revenues since movie studios don’t make nearly as much from box office, especially foreign box office, but it also has to spend something like the budget for making a Potter film just to get those customers.

Summer of Blockbuster Failures

Four underperforming comic book movies. A Conan reboot that bombed. And a whole lot of other underformers made this the summer of blockbuster failures.

Now most of these movies haven’t really lost money or not as much it seems, but they’re still failures. Cowboys and Aliens was a major failure, but it could have been worse. At least it wasn’t Conan. Captain America pulled in a hefty enough international box office that its mediocre domestic performance didn’t hurt too badly… but it wasn’t much good either. X-Men First Class didn’t even make it that far and took in most of its money from foreign box office. Green Lantern barely passed a 100 mil. Even Thor which was supposed to be a winner didn’t pass 200 mil and that puts it right up there with Wolverine.

There were some winners. The awful Apes kept its budget low and profited big even though its box office total isn’t that fantastic. Harry Potter minted money for its last film. But the Smurfs were so-so in America taking in its cash internationally (not a surprise, Tintin will do the same.) Transformers 3 made plenty of money but didn’t match Transformers 2. Not a good trajectory.

The sequels? Final Destination 5, Spy Kids Whatever didn’t live up to franchise box office total. The Hangover II scored plenty of cash despite or maybe because it was the same movie.

Pirates of the Caribbean 4 underperformed in the US but took insane amounts of money internationally. And I mean insane. We’re talking over a 100 million in Japan. That’s half of what the movie made in the US. 63 million in Russia. 54 million in the UK. 70 million in China. So this franchise isn’t going anywhere no matter how Americans neglect it.

But the American box office is weakening and the business models will have to change. Throwing a ton of cash at a tentpole has become a better strategy internationally than at home.

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