Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Animation Box Office Update (October 2013)
We are now in a rather slow month for box office, though this month may be blockbuster month one day thanks to the success of Alfonso Cauron's Gravity - which I finally saw yesterday and greatly admired - and we'll start seeing bigger films open during this month. Heck, it may be ripe for big animated films! LAIKA and Reel FX could make that month a goldmine, amongst other studios...
Anyways, The Croods and Epic aren't playing anymore. Both distributed by Fox, the former was a big hit and a box office bounce back for DreamWorks, the latter did adequately but was overall an underperformer. The Croods had all of March, April and May to itself before Blue Sky's little forest people flick showed up, thus allowing it to grow very strong legs and gross north of $187 million stateside. It was a real success story worldwide, with a hefty overseas gross (not bad for an original animated film!) making for a grand total of $585 million. Turbo raced into theaters next and sadly, didn't win any races. DreamWorks suffered another loss with this one, as it has taken in $82 million domestically and so far, $224 million worldwide. It recently opened in the UK and other European markets, but it won't help it in the end. Since DreamWorks considered Rise of the Guardians - which actually doubled its $145 million production budget - a bomb, this is an even bigger loss.
Thankfully Epic wasn't as costly, the $93 million film managed to scoop up $259 million worldwide - a decent little hit for Fox and Blue Sky. It did very well in home media sales on its first week out, so that's a plus. I think this one didn't take off for a number of reasons. Opening it against Fast & Furious 6 and The Hangover Part III ensured that no teens would find themselves seeing it, and since the film seemed to appeal more to kids than adults, legs weren't as strong. It didn't help that Monsters University was also right around the corner, along with another big smash. It's also kind of unfortunate because animated films based on William Joyce's books or ideas never seem to gel at the box office. That's mostly marketing's fault, anyway...
Monsters University was expectedly big, being a Pixar film. Its $82 million opening was great, but legs were weaker than usual this time around - probably due to Despicable Me 2's unstoppable Minionmania and possibly underwhelming word of mouth from the adult crowd, either that or it didn't appeal to families as much. It's a bit of a conundrum right now, but Despicable Me 2 may ultimately be the reason why Monsters University didn't grow the typical Pixar legs and gross anywhere near $300 million stateside. Attendance-wise, it's a bit low on the Pixar list, clocking in at #10 out of 14. Still, $267 million is not too shabby and $737 million worldwide is pretty damn big.
But my goodness, Despicable Me 2... In a matter of hours, this thing will have made more than $900 million at the worldwide box office - and its domestic total was no average one. This was the first animated film since Toy Story 3 to make over $300 million at the domestic box office, showing that animation is huge hit material when done and marketed right. All it needs to do is beat Shrek 2 and it's the world's second highest grossing animated feature (not counting re-released films, i.e. The Lion King) behind Toy Story 3... It only makes me wonder how much Minions and the inevitable Despicable Me 3 will make. (Unless the novelty wears off by 2015...)
I bet Illumination, a relative newcomer no less, is very happy. Four consecutive hits, all profitable, and one of which is not only the second highest grossing animated film ever but also the most profitable film ever released by its distributor.
What about the annoying little blue pests? The Smurfs 2 has only taken in $70 million domestically thanks to a very bad opening weekend, and not-so-great word of mouth. Planes got in the way, the first film had the luxury of having all of August, September and October to itself. It only just proves that animation isn't a kiddie thing and kids-only animation isn't surefire box office gold. Despicable Me 2 made $300 million because of adults and teens, not just kids and their parents. But those who are ignorant towards animation won't realize that...
Planes also underwhelmed on opening weekend, being a kids-only film. Adults and animation fans swiftly avoided the cash-grab spin-off of the Cars series, and apparently the bad critical reception did little help to entice anyone with some interest in the film. But Planes had all of August and most of September to itself, the little film has crept up on $88 million domestically and $191 million worldwide - exactly what Disney wanted. I won't be surprised if the second one underperforms next summer, though right now it has little-to-no competition. Kids and families seem to be there when there's nothing else playing, hence something like Escape from Planet Earth having good legs at the box office.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 stayed flat, opening with a little more than what its predecessor pulled in back in 2009. However, the legs aren't as good. Still, it's on track to make more than $110 million domestically. Animation isn't in any slump, hopefully this film's success will teach our seemingly animation-averse press that.
So now that leaves Free Birds and Frozen. One's obviously going to be a hit (now that Disney marketing served up an excellent trailer last week), the other could go either way. The marketing for Free Birds - handled by distributor Relativity Media - is pretty slipshod, resorting to the usual "From the producer of Shrek" devices, touting the cast and putting out posters with lame-o puns next to the character profiles. I enjoyed the teaser trailer, but I felt that the second trailer was pretty bad. I have a feeling the film won't be anything like what it's making it out to be. (Apparently this one has quite a different sense of humor.)
Free Birds will probably open with above $20 million, since the marketing is at least making it look like a treat for family audiences whilst also playing up the Thanksgiving angle. In fact, I'd be curious to know how many people avoid it, thinking it's a 90-minute PETA commercial. The legs will definitely be cut off by Frozen, which by now should open with at least $45 million. (Boxoffice.com seems to think that it'll open with $38 million, their reasoning being the lack of big name voice actors and the "animation slump". Ugh...)
So far, 2013 has had its ups and down. Two films were big, one was a surprise success and the rest... Well I think this year has taught a valuable lesson: It's high time the studios start aiming for unique films, whilst also attempting to get more adults into the theater. Not everything has to be a cutesy family comedy. Rango did it two years ago, now it's time for some exciting originals like The BoxTrolls, The Book of Life and 2015's eclectic batch of animated features to change the mainstream animation field...