Saturday, May 11, 2013

"Epic" Box Office Predictions

The next big animated film will be out of the gate soon, following the super-successful The Croods, which grossed north of $500 million worldwide so far with a sturdy domestic take. In a few weeks, Blue Sky Studios' Epic hits cinemas nationwide. Will it be another big animated film? Or will it do poorly and not attract audiences on opening weekend?

From what the marketing has shown and what's been revealed, there are a few problems that may affect this film at the box office. Let's get those out of the way...

#1. Don't Be So Vague... And Self-Important!

Epic... I never liked that title, never did. Leaf Men, the original title, was far superior. This is once again another vague re-titling that'll probably hurt the film more than anything. Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole should've taught the film industry a lesson... But when a film does badly due to mistakes made by the studio, nobody seems to learn. Rise of the Guardians also proved that vague titles aren't the way to go, and that one only caused confusion... But this title has other problems.

The title of this film is even worse because the word "Epic" can really be about anything... People have poked fun at this film as far back as the release of the first teaser in June 2012. When someone says to you, "There's a movie coming out that's called Epic", what would you think of? A big, big movie? Action and lots of things going on? Battles and stuff? Gladiators? Lords of the Rings-style thrills? An adventure about tiny leaf men and bugs in a hidden world in the woods? Leaf Men was the better title. Why they changed it, I don't know. The title they ended up using almost makes the film seem... Well... Pretentious. Imagine if another animation studio titled their film Mindblowing or Amazing or something. It would just seem self-congratulatory and cocky. Epic is not a good title, not at all.

#2. Action, Epic Scope and... Hip-Talking Slugs?

The film looks to be different from the past Blue Sky films which were definitely more goofy and comedy-based than anything. Well at least it seemed that way...

The trailers start out great with the moody tone and yes... Epic-looking action sequences. But then when the characters talk, we have a problem. Aziz Ansari's slug character talks in a "hip" tone ("Imma sluuuuug... No shell up in hurr!") and we also see that our cast includes the likes of Pitbull, Beyonce Knowles, Steven Tyler, Johnny Knoxville... An all-star cast alongside the likes of Amanda Seyfried, Colin Farrell and Christoph Waltz. Yeah... I can sense that some of these actors were doing it for the paycheck. Looks like big names were cast just for the sake of it... So I expect the performances here to be nothing special. When will studios get it? Cast people who know and realize the characters that they are voicing, don't cast an obvious big name that probably doesn't give a crap about voicing an animated character to begin with!

But I digress... While families will no doubt care about these annoyances, I think most adults will cringe. I know I did and several other animation fans are on the fence about the film because of the "hip" dialogue and all-star cast, and what looks like mere pandering. This looks more like one of the mid-2000s DreamWorks films, which isn't good because that tone clashes heavily with everything else that's on display here: The jaw-dropping visuals, the fantasy setting, the action and the apparent stakes. If you're going to make an animated film, don't turn the adults off with forced humor and dialogue that's already dated. The film will mostly likely appeal to families, but will it get any other demographic in the seats like the best and most successful animated films do? Pixar movies don't make more than $200 million because of kids and families. Adults are flocking to see these things too! When most adults aren't interested, you get a lower gross.

Despite the odds, I think this film will be a small hit and a profitable one at that. Why? What could work in this film's favor at the box office?

#1. The Somewhat Balanced Marketing

Like I said, the use of humor in the trailers will get the kids and families coming in. Also, the marketing doesn't make the film look cold, super-serious or anything of the sort. Plus, there's a lot of appealing bug characters. It'll certainly appeal to the family audiences and a few others. Even overly cutesy stuff has the power to bring in audiences of all ages, just look at The Lorax! It may not make for a big opening, but it'll still be good-sized.

#2. Barely Any Real Competition

This is the first family-friendly film since The Croods that's not carrying a PG-13 rating, it's from a big studio and the marketing campaign is big enough. This film opens the same weekend as Fast & Furious 6 and The Hangover Part III, two films that the family audiences will definitely not be seeing. Sure, both films will suck away all the teens and adults... But there will still be an audience there on opening weekend for this film, plus Memorial Day ought to give it a boost since kids are out of school. If Epic wasn't opening against those two films, it could have a better chance at getting a bigger opening.

So now that the pros and cons are out of the way, what do I think this film will end up making domestically?

What will it open with? Somewhere north of $30 million, for sure. It has appeal and families will eat it up since there's nothing else for them that's not PG-13 until Monsters University comes out. $40 million, to me, seems a bit out of reach for this. $40 million is becoming something of a new benchmark for animated films on opening weekend these days. DreamWorks' films usually open with less than $50 million nowadays, and Disney's Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph didn't make more than that amount on opening weekend either (Frozen could possibly break the mold), ditto Blue Sky's recent films.

So I think Epic should open with around $37 million. If it gets anything higher than $40 million, I'll be very impressed.

Multipliers for animated films are usually good, so Epic should score something below 3.5x but above 3.0x. I think it'll pull a 3.4x multiplier and finish up with around $126 million at the domestic box office. This isn't a big total for an animated film, though it's not much lower than what the likes of Rio, The Smurfs and Hotel Transylvania took in. It's also significantly higher than Rise of the Guardians' $103 million total.

Basically, I think it'll make this amount because it's the first big PG-or-G family film since The Croods, the marketing is balancing the action with cutesy/funny stuff and since it's a big animated film from a big studio, the success is kind of built in from the beginning. I think it'll be a smaller hit out of the animated pack this year, grossing a competent and respectable amount.

Worldwide? Who knows, because this is where things get a wee bit unpredictable. An original animated film that's not a sequel can make more than $200 million overseas. Even Rise of the Guardians could do it! I think a total that's higher than $200 million is guaranteed for this film, $300 million is also possible. Blue Sky's first non-Ice Age film to get that amount was Rio back in 2011. Recently, DreamWorks' The Croods - also distributed by Fox - topped that amount overseas with ease, but I don't quite know if Epic can reach that. I think it'll gross between $200 million and $300 million, though it's possible that it can top that amount. That would make for a final worldwide total of more than $320 million, which would put it below the Ice Age films and Rio.

Either way, it's a good-sized success for the studio depending on the budget. Blue Sky's films normally cost less than $100 million to make, and there's currently no budget info on this pic. I don't quite know what Fox or Blue Sky would consider a success if the film happened to cost up to $150 million to make. Would a minimum of $320-340 million be good enough? Or will the bean counters call it a disappointment/flop? DreamWorks' Rise of the Guardians made $303 million worldwide, more than doubling the $145 million production budget yet it was deemed a flop. I understand that marketing is also factored in, but still. If Epic costs the usual $90 million, then Blue Sky has a hit on their hands. If it's bigger budget, I'm not sure how they'll react to a $320-340 million total.

How do you think Epic will do at the box office? Will it be a hit? An unexpected animated blockbuster? A big flop? Or a disappointment? Sound off below!

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