Sunday, March 16, 2014

'Peabody' Hits #1


Last week, DreamWorks' Mr. Peabody & Sherman opened with a modest $32 million. That was a good $13 million below that weekend's #1 opener, overdue sequel 300: Rise of An Empire. However, for an animated film, that was a pretty good opening. It was on par with the likes of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, thus it should be something of a small success.

However, Wall Street and other analysts were quick to announce that it was dead on arrival last week.

Wall Street, from what I've been observing over the last couple of years, have been eying DreamWorks like hawks. DreamWorks, until now, was a studio relying on animated features in order to stay afloat. Very expensive animated features…

Nowadays, DreamWorks has been expanding into television (their gargantuan Netflix deal, a possible DWA channel), theme parks and live action (DreamWorks Oriental)… They're building a safety net for themselves, expanding the same way the Walt Disney Studios did back in the late 1940s/early 1950s. A flop like Turbo won't be too detrimental in the future, plus the TV series based on it is currently doing well from what I've heard.

That being said, you would've thought that Mr. Peabody & Sherman was some kind of massive failure, despite the fact that it opened with $32 million, a pretty good total for any film. Okay, the budget was big, typical of a DreamWorks film… But animated family films usually have very good legs, and this little film held well this weekend and actually took the #1 spot, dropping only 34%. It should make around $120 million by the end of its run, as Rio 2 won't be any threat, neither will Muppets Most Wanted be.

That's another thing that's irritating. When a new animated film or family-friendly film comes out, the assumption is that it will "cannibalize" the last one. I don't know, Frozen, The Lego Movie and this film are currently in the Top 10. Frozen has been in the top ten for an amazing 15 weeks in a row, and when The Nut Job was out, it was in the Top 10 with Frozen and Lego. Last summer, we had Monsters UniversityDespicable Me 2 and Turbo in the Top 10 despite the grosses the snail film ended up getting.

True, some animated films dip when a new one comes out, but they still hold on afterwards and continue to have decent legs. If anything, it's the significant loss of 3D screens that cause the films to dip a little bit. Audiences will still see an animated feature, even after a shiny new one comes out.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman will probably have to make around $350 million worldwide in order to cover its hefty cost ($145 million), but this is kind of confusing to me…

Rise of the Guardians was deemed a flop by DreamWorks. The film cost $145 million to make, and it made over $300 million worldwide. That's double the budget right there! How much did it cost to market it? Probably another $100 million… Did DreamWorks need Guardians to make $500 million in order to double roughly $245 million? Does DreamWorks need the time traveling dog to pull in $500 million as well?

If so, then they better start thinking about lower budgets. DreamWorks, again, doesn't have a safety net that's like Disney's. Disney Animation can make something like Wreck-It Ralph for $165 million, spend $100 million marketing it and make less than $530 million worldwide with it… And still be okay with it, knowing the long-term success that's in store for it, plus they can handle an outright bomb. If that were a DreamWorks film, it probably would've been deemed a money-loser.

But then you've got something like How To Train Your Dragon, which didn't hit $500 million worldwide despite costing $165 million. The marketing must've cost a pretty penny, no? DreamWorks must have a specific bar for their films to pass at the box office, and I have no idea what it is.

They said they would start whittling the budgets back when the whole Guardians/layoffs fiasco went down, but they said that the cost-effective strategy wouldn't go into affect until two years later. So does that mean we'll be seeing roughly $100 million DreamWorks films next year? Will films like The Penguins of Madagascar cost $100 million instead of $130-150 million?

The problem with these costs is that not every animated film is born to be some franchise starter. Mr. Peabody & Sherman making around $300 million is still pretty good considering what the source material is and how blah the marketing was. Heck, it's surprising that Turbo made almost $300 million worldwide! Not every film is the next Frozen or Despicable Me, and if Peabody cost a decent $70 million (like an Illumination film), it would've been deemed a pretty big success. $300 million is nothing to scoff at, but when it comes to these kinds of animated films, it's nothing. It's more of the cause for alarm, if anything.

Kind of sad, really. Oh yeah, forget that the film is #1 this weekend and is actually making good amounts of moolah.

Anyways, here's hoping that the film holds on and eventually makes a pretty decent amount. Maybe now that DreamWorks has expanded a little, there won't be too big of a loss if it doesn't meet their expectations…

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