Sunday, October 28, 2012

Will "Ralph" Wreck The Box Office?

Well, it's only a few days away. Wreck-It Ralph is opening nationwide this Friday. Yes, I am very much looking forward to this and have been pumped about it long before the first trailer was unveiled earlier this summer. As someone who tracks box office, I ask this: How much will it make? How much do you think it'll make?

Wreck-It Ralph is backed by an incredibly aggressive marketing campaign. I had ranted about Disney’s inept marketing in the past on here, and it seems as if my most optimistic predictions came true: Disney is really pushing this film, almost in a Tron: Legacy manner. The marketing is not like the lethargic, bland campaigns that anchored Bolt and The Princess and the Frog nor is it (intentionally?) misleading like Tangled’s campaign. Disney knows they can’t screw this up anymore, especially with a film that had a budget this big. Walt Disney Animation Studios’ growth hasn’t been stymied creatively, but financially, it has due to such bad marketing.

Wreck-It Ralph, some are suggesting, might actually become the year’s highest grossing animated film. It’s certainly the most interesting at first glance: It has video game settings and famous video game characters. That alone makes it more attractive than the other films released this year, but that says nothing of the quality. Brave was fantastic, but to audiences, it looked like a been-there done-that fairy tale. ParaNorman looked like a silly zombie comedy, and the style probably alienated audiences, ditto Frankenweenie. The Pirates! looked like a kids’ spoof of Pirates of the Caribbean. Madagascar 3 looked like... Well... Madagascar. Same with Ice Age: Continental Drift and The Lorax.

Disney got it right this time, something I wouldn’t imagine saying earlier this year. I was very afraid that they wouldn’t, and they would just market it the same way they did with Bolt and The Princess and the Frog, or hide it’s qualities in a Tangled-style marketing campaign. There’s buzz everywhere, and I’ve seen positive buzz from several people who aren’t even into animation. This could not only bring back Disney’s box office power, but also help the medium a bit since many aren’t responding as much to the recent batch of animated films.

We haven’t had an animated feature that made more than $250 million at the domestic box office since Despicable Me in 2010. Cars 2 and Brave missed that mark, no one expected Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax or Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted to reach $200 million. Everything released in 2011 either had a chance (most notably Kung Fu Panda 2) or didn’t at all. Now it’s time to clear that barrier again, and perhaps go higher.

What have I been predicting for Wreck-It Ralph as of late? Now I’ve been expecting an opening weekend that at least tops $60 million. Tangled did $48 million, so its entirely possible, plus the buzz for this was much higher than it was for Tangled. Also, think of the audiences that are going to see this. It seems as if Disney caught more in the net this time.

The tricky part from here is predicting word of mouth. Early reviews have been very positive so far, with very little negative reactions. So far it holds three fresh reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and one negative (reading the little blurb sums up the review itself and the critic if you ask me, plus Slant Magazine has a history of giving critically acclaimed films bad reviews), but even if it gets mixed reception, that may not matter. Look at Hotel Transylvania, that got mixed reviews and look at how it’s holding up. Its multiplier, however, won’t be spectacular by the end of its run, but still good enough. The appeal alone is working in its favor.

Wreck-It Ralph has all of November to itself before DreamWorks’ Rise of the Guardians opens on the 21st. Skyfall and the final sparkling fairies (*cough* I mean, vampires *cough*) installment shouldn’t be much of a threat to this film, animated films tend to hold up well against blockbusters after word gets out that it’s worth seeing. Plus, Skyfall and Breaking Dawn, Part Two will attract different demographics. Ralph will keep the families and everyone else. Then those said audiences could return to Ralph after they have gotten their fix.

Rise of the Guardians may take its 3D screens and some of its audience, but I think Ralph will still prevail. Toy Story 3 kept chugging when Despicable Me came out, Up was still going strong after Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs cut into it. Let's not forget how incredibly strong The Princess and the Frog was. Look what was in its way: Avatar, Sherlock Holmes and Alvin and the Chimpunks: The Squeakuel. Yet despite all of this, and "Shitmunks" taking the family audiences, Frog still got itself a 4.3x multiplier (on par with Pixar's film) and fought its way to $100 million off of a paltry $24 million opening. Tangled had the third NarniaYogi Bear (both were in 3D and were aimed at family audiences) and Tron: Legacy (also 3D and mostly family-friendly) in its way. No problem, it outlasted them and got to where it got. Never underestimate animated films, they hold on well after they've been released. The 3D re-release of Monsters, Inc. probably won’t affect it as much either. That said, with a $60 million opening, Ralph can easily clear $200 million and become Disney’s second highest grossing animated film to date (that is, if goes past Aladdin’s $217 million total).

Last up, will The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey affect it? Probably, but I think it’ll have more of an effect on Guardians than Ralph. By this time, Ralph will have little to no 3D screens which will probably work in its favor since the 3D share for most films these days is less than the 2D screenings.

But the bigger question is, how much will it end up making? With a roughly 3.5x multiplier, it needs an opening weekend of over $70 million to cross $250 million domestically. The marketing suggests that it may reach that, I can’t see it making any less than $55 million this weekend. Most animated films these days open between $40 and $60 million, so I can see this landing somewhere above that since this looks like something really worth seeing to audiences. I would love to say $300 million is possible, but it's out of reach for non-Pixar animated films and even Pixar's films. Finding Nemo got there and so did Toy Story 3 (for obvious reasons), but the closest another Pixar film came was Up.

So in all, I think Wreck-It Ralph will crack $200 million domestically and do very well on its opening weekend. I have a feeling word of mouth is going to really help this one, since it may give audiences what this year's and last year's animated films didn't give them. The video game cameos alone will probably ensure a big opening and generate buzz amongst people, gamers or not. Will it top Brave as this year's animated box office champion? I say it has a very good chance. Worldwide? Hard to predict this one, but the video game themes should help it do well in some markets. It's bound to do well throughout Europe to begin with along with Japan, but this one is a little harder to predict. $200 million overseas should be a given, but how much higher will it go?

What are your box office predictions for Walt Disney Animation Studios' newest animated film?

1 comment:

  1. Hey Kyle, how can I contact you by email?