Saturday, January 31, 2015

Hit or Miss: Will 'Home' Be A Success?

Given what DreamWorks has been going through for the past couple of months, and the recent shocking news, I figure I'd inject a little positivity...

DreamWorks only has one film slated for a release this year, a film titled Home. I've been writing about it for a while, and I'm sure those in the know have known of its existence for a while. The film is based on Adam Rex's sci-fi flavored novel The True Meaning of Smekday, and it has a pretty cool futuristic setting. The visuals are nice, as per usual with DreamWorks films. It's about aliens, the story seems alright, some of the jokes in the trailer are okay. Most animated trailers aren't very good to begin with, so...

Since DreamWorks has had trouble lately, the sharks are out in full force. You know how it goes. They revel in the studio's misfortunes, they want to stick it to them. They get a joy out of seeing a big company have problems, not caring that artists and animators have jobs that are at stake. They also predict that this little film will in fact be a box office bomb. Stone cold fact! They've got time machines to prove it! They think it'll tank because to them it doesn't look good, because their opinion apparently is shared by everyone else in the world! They've come back from summer 2015 to tell us that the March release didn't, in fact, make it back at the worldwide box office!

My take?

Home has a lot of months to itself... The film opens March 27th, right? When does the next big animated film open? June 19th, Pixar's Inside Out. So to recap, it has all of April, May, and a good chunk of June all to itself as far as family-friendly films go. I mean, Mall Cop 2? That won't hurt it. Neither will Monkey Kingdom, since Disneynature films only do certain numbers these days.

Animated family films usually have good legs to begin with, and DreamWorks' films are no slouch. Every film they have released from 2009 to now have made more than 3x their opening weekends, good enough for any film. However, most of them hover closer to the 3 1/2 mark, and sometimes they hit the 4 and 5 marks. Audiences are seeing these films, it's just the opening weekend grosses and the high budgets that are the problem. Audiences are hard to predict because they might avoid the film on opening weekend. It's got to leap out of the gate on opening weekend, because movies spend less time in the cinemas and it's out on physical and VOD formats before you know it. Competition can hurt a little bit too, as it takes screens and 3D screens away. They don't cannibalize each other though, that's a silly myth. It's about as real as the aliens in this movie.


How To Train Your Dragon opened March 26, 2010. It shockingly didn't open with over $50 million, the bar that seemed easy to clear. Kung Fu Panda, Monsters vs. Aliens, you'd think this would clear it too! $43 million isn't bad by any means, but you had some news outlets declaring the film an underperformer or a bomb...

Look what happened. The dragons had no real competition until the release of DreamWorks' own Shrek Forever After, which was May 21, 2010. The film shockingly made over 5x its opening weekend and became the studio's highest-earning film that wasn't a sequel or a Shrek flick...

The Croods opened with $43 million back in March 2013. Some immediately wrote it off, especially since the previous film - Rise of the Guardians - was the studio's first money-loser in years. There was no new big animated release until Epic in late May 2013. With all that time to itself, and positive audience word-of-mouth, The Croods climbed to a very impressive $187 million.

I think Home will perform similarly.

It can open on par with last March's Mr. Peabody & Sherman, which did have stuff like Muppets Most Wanted and Rio 2 in its way. Now you might bring up Underdogs, which the Weinstein Company is releasing in April. I don't see that as a threat, for it doesn't look very good, it's a Weinstein butchering of something that was probably alright, and TWC family flicks never really opened big. Paddington is actually their biggest family film opening, with $18 million. I honestly can't see Underdogs breaking $50 million domestically, or even $30 million.

Let's just say Home opens with around $30 million. With all that time to itself, it'll inevitably score a 4x multiplier. It seems like a guarantee at this point. With that, the film will make at least $120 million domestically. Not enough? Okay, let's try $35 million. It'll make a decent $140 million minimum. $40 million? $160 million. If it opens on par with The Croods, $200 million might even be in sight.

All that matters right now is this: What the audience thinks...

The press loves to snark about DreamWorks, and some DreamWorks films didn't get good reception from the critics, but look at this...

Rise of the Guardians
Opening: $23 million
Domestic Gross: $103 million
4.47x its opening weekend, 3.21x its full opening week, excellent

The Croods
Opening: $43 million
Domestic Gross: $187 million
4.34x its opening weekend gross, excellent

Opening: $21 million
Domestic Gross: $83 million
3.95x its opening weekend gross, excellent

Mr. Peabody & Sherman
Opening: $32 million
Domestic Gross: $111 million
3.46x its opening weekend gross, pretty good

Penguins of Madagascar
Opening: $25 million
Domestic Gross: $81 million so far
3.24x its opening weekend gross, solid

These multipliers have always told me that audiences eventually warmed up to these films after they opened. The problem is always making the films look good prior to their respective opening weekends.

At worst, Home will score Turbo's multiplier, which is still awesome. Test screening results have also been positive. However, how much will it open with? That's the tricky part, and it's the one hurdle for DWA's films to overcome...

Well, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water opens next Friday, February 6th. There will be no new animated family film until Home, so that's nearly two months. In terms of family films, there's Cinderella, which could hang on and perform like Maleficent, but... Home still opens many weeks later.

I think Home will open fine. If Peabody could open with $30 million+, I can't see why this can't. Unfortunately, it's easy to think otherwise, for many other animated alien flicks opened poorly recently: Escape from Planet Earth, Planet 51, etc. But we don't know what audiences think of this particular alien flick, do they think it looks appealing? Or not? I know a lot of people like to say "but [x kind of movies] usually fail at the box office." To me, it is not what it is about... I think audiences are simply looking for, "Does it look entertaining or not, regardless of the genre?" Unless it's like super-out there or happens to be a certain kind of a film that isn't audience-friendly, then they might say, "I'll pass."

Again, audiences are unpredictable. They'll flock to one spectacle-heavy summer blockbuster, but completely avoid the other one. One romcom does well, the other one tanks. One animated family flick rockets at the box office, the other barely makes a fraction of the former's opening weekend gross. It's hard to know where they're at, it's hard to know exactly what they are looking for, what will hit them at the right moment. Who would've thought, in hindsight, that Frozen would double the amount of money Tangled made at the box office? I heard that Disney expected Tangled numbers at best for the film, and then it exploded. The marketing and the studio have been singing a different tune ever since. Who would've thought the delightfully bizarro Rango would've opened close to $40 million and actually sell more tickets than the much cuter-looking Rio, which opened a month later? Also, who would've thought Wreck-It Ralph would do well? Or heck, Lilo & Stitch?

All I'm saying is, "Who knows?" Sure this film may remind some of us of films like Escape from Planet Earth and Planet 51, but... Will audiences like these particular aliens? This particular alien story? Or not?

I prefer to be optimistic, it could be a hit for DreamWorks. Let's not write the obituaries already ya bloodthirsty sharks, let's let the film speak for itself first...

1 comment:

  1. I think Home will do just fine at box office but I also think it looks very lame. It probably won't be the salvation some are hoping for. As you say all 3 of their films in 2014 did pretty well doubling their budget in ticket sales or more. I think the problems at DreamWorks are bigger than any one movie can solve.