Thursday, April 12, 2012

"Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" Crosses $200 Million at the Domestic Box Office

Yesterday, Universal/Illumination's Dr. Seuss' The Lorax crossed $200 million at the domestic box office, the first animated film to do so since Disney's Tangled in spring 2011. It currently stands at $200.7 million, as well being the second highest grossing animated film released in March behind DreamWorks' How to Train Your Dragon. (It's possible that this will outgross it by a hair) To me, this is both a good thing and a bit of a bad thing for animation at the domestic box office. While I didn't think The Lorax was mediocre, it surely wasn't great either. Parts of it were entertaining and enjoyable, and most of the characters were likable. On the other hand, it was filled with some of the sugary things that tend to make animation look like a kid's thing. I'm all for animated comedies, and when they are pulled off well, they are good. The Lorax somewhat succeeds in doing this, but what doesn't soar is close to mediocre and at times cringe-worthy. All in all, it was a romp that was pretty much Despicable Me meets Dr. Seuss, but this time around, there isn't as much charm. It does feel very conventional and audience-friendly, and at times it panders to the younger set. It's an average animated film at best that's got its fair share of entertaining moments. However, you may disagree, and that's fine. What did you think of the film? Did you like it? Did you hate it? Was it just "meh" to you? I'm all ears.

Anyways, the fact that this was a success while films like RangoArthur Christmas and The Adventures of Tintin struggled at the box office somewhat annoys me. Again, I enjoyed The Lorax and thought it was a pleasant little diversion, but nothing more than that. Let's go back to March 2011, when Paramount's Rango hit theaters. This groundbreaking collaboration between ILM, Blind Wink and GK Films was surreal, off the wall and unlike anything else while still being conventional enough to entertain audiences. Yet this film was a moderate success at best, grossing $123 million domestically and getting mixed reactions from audiences. Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, with its candy-coated visuals and tone, was more family friendly and ultimately outgrossed every animated film that was released in 2011. Arthur Christmas was another one, it was coming from a studio who only scored one hit in the states, and it was lost in the shuffle. The Adventures of Tintin might've been directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Peter Jackson, but it seems like Americans weren't too familiar with the source material. Both films had good legs, but they both missed $100 million domestically.

This is somewhat telling, that the domestic market (remember domestic doesn't just refer to the US) might only like derivative comedies, but if that is so, why did the recent Alvin and the Chipmunks movie underperform? While its legs were strong, it still wasn't the smash hit that the first two were. The Lorax got to where it got because of that opening weekend. I don't think anybody expected $70 million for this film. I thought my $45 million opening weekend prediction was a little too high. Anyways, The Lorax will probably finish with less than $220 million. If it does, it'll indicate that it certainly wasn't a huge hit with audiences after its opening. (You got to remember the aggressive marketing behind this thing, and the fact that it's based on a Dr. Seuss book) This means that the film will probably score a 3x multiplier at best, which is lower than the multiplier Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! pulled back in 2008, without 3D. Also consider that this isn't a summer release, and family films do better during the summer since kids are out of school. If The Lorax was released around the time Despicable Me hit in 2010, $250 million would've been in play. Maybe, but this was clearly an audience-friendly animated film outside of Pixar and DreamWorks' films.

I'm perfectly fine with Pixar's films grossing $200 million every year, since they don't pander to any specific audience, ditto some of DreamWorks' recent efforts. Disney's films don't do so well because they are crippled by awful marketing campaigns. (I already voiced my frustrations about that on the last post) Then you've got your Blue Sky and Sony films that do reasonably well. Then you have your Rangos and Tintins that just don't catch on. How come films like these are ignored? Why can't they catch on? How come they aren't appealing to audiences? Here's some theories as to why they didn't do so well. Rango could've been a huge success, but it wasn't. Why? Too weird for family audiences, maybe? The problem is, there's still tons of adults and teens who won't attend an animated film or will regard it as a "kids only" flick (I always to have to point that out), and without family audiences, an animated film just seems to crumble. This is why anything animated that has a PG-13 or R rating won't come anywhere near $100 million at the domestic box office, unless it's based on something everyone knows that has been loved over the years. (The Simpsons Movie) Okay, maybe Rango was a little unconventional with its character designs and surreal tone, but certainly something like Arthur Christmas could catch on right? It's got appealing characters, funny elves and it's a warm sentimental Christmas story. Sounds like box office gold... It didn't even reach $50 million! Maybe it's because it was crammed between other family films that also disappointed at the box office (remember, The Muppets didn't really take off after its solid opening). The Adventures of Tintin was arguably more conventional than Rango, and that too missed $100 million. Okay, maybe American audiences aren't familiar with the source material, but even if they weren't, they would still see a classic action-adventure film regardless of what it's based on, right? The marketing didn't really establish who Tintin is, the trailers and commercials didn't really clue American audiences in on the original comics, and it wasn't an easy sell to begin with. It just looked like a generic action film to those who don't know about the original comics. Paramount probably assumed that audiences would go see a Raiders of the Lost Ark-style Spielberg film regardless of what it was based on and kids would beg their parents to take them because it has a comical dog in it. It was released amidst heavy competition and had to rely on legs to get it up to $77 million. Thankfully, it was a bigger success worldwide.

Anyways, enough with the debbie-downer stuff, it's nice to see an animated film actually clearing $200 million at the domestic box office. Sure, Cars 2 came close, but it seemed like $200 million was unreachable for this year's animated crop, even Brave. Well, with The Lorax doing well along with films like The Hunger Games breaking records, 2012 might be a great year for animation since it's already a great year for box office in general. I once referred to The Lorax as being the great decider of the fate of animation here in the states, and with it breaking $200 million, I am confident that we'll see a few other $200 million grossers this year. Maybe even a $300 million grosser. (I'm hoping that will be Brave) Now I know box office does not equal quality filmmaking, but if very high quality films (other than Pixar's) catch on at the box office, we might see a bright future for animation here in America.

As a side note, here are my current predictions:
The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! - $66 million
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted - $117 million
Brave - $302 million
Ice Age: Continental Drift - $148 million
ParaNorman - $78 million
Hotel Transylvania - $102 million
Frankenweenie - $90 million
Wreck-It Ralph - $152 million (Come on Disney, start marketing this film!)
Rise of the Guardians - $204 million

The success of The Lorax indicates that there will be a good future for the medium, and that audiences are still interested in animation. Let's just look at 2011 and chalk it up to it being a bad year for box office in general. I wonder what would've happened if Rango or Tintin or Arthur Christmas were released this year, or better yet Cars 2, DreamWorks' two films and Rio. Would they have made more? What do you think? Do you think The Lorax being a success is a good thing or bad thing for animation here in the states? Also, how much do you think the other animated films will make this year? Sound off!


  1. Since The Lorax already collected so much money, I bet that it's official that Illumination Entertainment is going to make the other Dr. Suess adaptation. I read that they already announced it, but were waiting whether The Lorax would be a success or not. I guess we'll see A Cat In The Hat, within 3 years or so?

    What I don't understand is why they wait an entire year to release Arthur Christmas on blu-ray. By December, this movie might already be forgotten by the audience! That would be a sad thing, since I loved the movie.

  2. "The Cat in the Hat" is probably already in pre-production. As for "Arthur Christmas", I believe "The Polar Express" was released on DVD a year after it came out. It would be kind of strange to release a Christmas movie in March/April, so that's why they wait. Hopefully when it comes to Blu, Sony really promotes it because these films have a new life on home media, and "Arthur Christmas" can find a new audience that way.