Saturday, June 13, 2015

'Jurassic World': A Box Office Lesson?

I'm sure you've heard the news...

Jurassic Park IV, I mean... Er... Jurassic World, took in $82 million on its opening day alone. That's pretty massive! Let's see... That's actually the third biggest opening day gross of all-time, behind The Avengers (ended up making $207 million for the weekend) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 ($169 million for the weekend)...

This thing is going to make $180 million minimum on opening weekend. If audiences really loved it, it could go even higher!

This thing will most likely surpass $350 million at the domestic box office and $800 million worldwide. $1 billion is definitely in play. It already opened with $130 million overseas alone!

Now... How much did it cost?

Reports say $150 million.

$150 million.

Yes, Universal, Amblin, Legendary Pictures, and everyone involved put together a franchise entry that was guaranteed to make a lot of money from the get-go, for $150 million.

Now they've could've spent $200 million on it. $250 million even. They'd still make it back.

But they didn't. They spent $150 million.

Now, as for the Mouse House. You probably know what I'm going to say next.

Tomorrowland. An original sci-fi story that wasn't based on any familiar IP (it uses imagery and ideas from the iconic Tomorrowland of the Disney theme parks, that's about it) with not a lot of action, spectacle, and boom-bang-pow craziness. A sci-fi story that's definitely more about ideas than spectacle. It's an adventure, sure, but a different kind of adventure and one that presents ideas. Ideas, especially in sci-fi films, can sometimes set audiences off. Look at how many people are saying Tomorrowland is "preaching" something that it actually isn't...

How much money did Disney spend on Tomorrowland? $190 million. For Disney, the picture would've have to have made over $450 million at the worldwide box office. Well maybe Tomorrowland wasn't meant to be a no-holds-barred blockbuster that big. Maybe it was meant to be a movie that made roughly $300 million worldwide.

The Lone Ranger? Same deal. Adaptation of a property that's well-known to boomers, but anyone younger than that? Well still, it was certainly a riskier project because it wasn't a sequel, reboot, remake, or adaptation of something a ton of moviegoers know. Why in the world would you spend $225 million on that, let alone $125 million? With a $225 million budget, it probably had to make $560 million minimum! Well maybe a movie like The Lone Ranger isn't meant to be a blockbuster that big. Even recent films based on familiar IPs - from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Godzilla to Oz The Great and Powerful - didn't make that much!

John Carter of Mars and Prince of Persia, also fine examples.

Disney isn't the only one doing this...

Sony Pictures threw $255 million at The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and they were somewhat justified, for all the Spider-Man films made serious bank worldwide. Spider-Man 3 in particular, grossed $890 million against a $258 million budget. Nearly 3 1/2x that then-massive budget. Reboot The Amazing Spider-Man cost a pretty massive $230 million (how? It didn't look it, at all), and it made 3x its budget, with a solid $752 million. However, that was quite a drop-off from Spider-Man 3. Its overseas gross was a little behind Spider-Man 3 but above Spider-Man 2, but the domestic performance wasn't exactly up to snuff...

Sony assumed that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 would pick up from there, because despite opening a bit lower than expected, Amazing Spider-Man was a bit leggy and picked up steam. So instead of keeping the cost the same, or dialing it down, they threw $255 million at the movie and a massive amount at the marketing. Remember how aggressive the marketing for that film was last year? Tons of trailers, ads, major things were spoiled! Perhaps Sony assumed it would make much more than the first, and coupled with a guaranteed-big overseas gross, they were a-ok.

But they weren't.

Audiences clearly didn't like Amazing Spider-Man 2. After a very strong $91 million opening, it collapsed. It pulled a very bad 2.21x multiplier, the worst multiplier for a Spider-Man movie and just a horrible one. Period. Overseas it collected an excellent $506 million. That added up to a great $709 million gross...

But wait, that gross wasn't great!

You heard that right, $708 million not being a great gross. It failed to make 3x its budget. It barely surpassed 2.5x. Sony wasn't happy, they deemed it a disappointment. How they would've handled the series in the future without Marvel essentially stepping in and confiscating it is a mystery for the ages. They probably would've thought twice about the budgets for the dead third installment and the aborted Sinister Six spin-off, or maybe they wouldn't have.

To think $708 million isn't enough to cover the expenses... $708 million. Gross. Absolutely disgusting...

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a guaranteed blockbuster from the start, being a Spider-Man movie, but Sony had to throw that much money at it when they could've spent $200 million on it. Or $150 million.

Sony Pictures is also not Disney, they don't have a safety net that's as wide as Disney's.

Even Warner Bros. isn't off the hook.

Man of Steel. Obvious smash, right? It's the iconic Superman coming back! But with a Christopher Nolan flavor! Look at The Dark Knight, Inception, and The Dark Knight Rises, $1 billion worldwide each. Actually, before I go on, they got a bit cocky with the budget for Rises. The Dark Knight had cost a good $180 million and made that back 5 1/2x. They went and spent $250 million, assuming it would cover it. Thankfully, it performed very well and quadrupled that mammoth budget...

So the logic was, throw $225 million at Man of Steel, for that would also catch on and easily make it back.


Man of Steel opened big. $116 million. Massive! It's got $300 million in the bag! It missed $300 million domestically, legs were so-so. Had many audiences loved the picture like they loved Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises, it would've flown past $350 million domestically. Overseas it did solid business, and it finished with $668 million worldwide. Warner Bros. was certainly happy, but not jumping for joy. It was viewed as a slight disappointment...

That's right, $668 million a slight disappointment. Certainly below 3x the $225 million budget, and overall expectations...

Had Man of Steel made $750 million worldwide, would they have even questioned bringing Batman into the next installment? I kinda think they would've made a proper sequel next had the film really lived up to their expectations.

Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures also overspent on various films. $195 million went to Jack the Giant Slayer, I guess the assumption was that a PG-13 update on a classic fairy tale was a surefire $450 million-grossing film. Well, Snow White and the Huntsman didn't do just that a year earlier, and this was before the fad really kicked off. Jack the Giant Slayer was a bomb. Edge of Tomorrow cost $178 million, and it was based on an unfamiliar IP, and apparently happened to be a hard sell. It had a very leggy run and did good business overseas, but it really wasn't enough to cover the budget. Back in 2009, $130 million was spent on Watchmen, based on an IP that wasn't exactly mass audience-friendly. The R-rated superhero epic was a flop. Maybe they didn't expect a hit, maybe they just wanted Zack Snyder to make something cool since he gave them 300.

Other times they were a little more conservative. Godzilla cost $160 million, and it tripled its budget. $165 million went into Interstellar, rather than $200 million, and it still would've made it back. $110 million went into 300: Rise of an Empire, and good thing they didn't go big, because it tripled its budget. With a $150 million budget, it wouldn't have done just that. They also didn't overspend on Zack Snyder's disasterpiece Sucker Punch, and it still flopped anyway. Clash of the Titans cost $125 million, its sequel cost more and it barely doubled the budget. Lesson learned.

So that brings me back to Jurassic World...

What did Jurassic World have going for it?

The franchise. Jurassic Park made $900 million back in 1993. No 3D, no IMAX, much lower ticket prices... Lost World, however, made significantly less, ditto Jurassic Park III. Those sequels weren't made long after the original came out. The wonder and awe of the original couldn't be replicated in the sequels, particularly the third one. Jurassic World was actually once thought to be a 2008 release, and it was then titled Jurassic Park IV. Maybe it's a good thing they waited, because...


90s nostalgia is in full swing right now, and nostalgia in general can be a force to be reckoned with if handled right...

Jurassic Park is iconic and beloved, and it's been 14 years since the underwhelming third film. Do audiences care now? No, it's a new Jurassic Park movie and it's a 90s throwback. Of course everyone went! It didn't matter if the original's amazing achievements were imitated several times over from the mid-90s up until now. It didn't matter if the dino effects and stuff were nothing new in the world of 2015, it was a new Jurassic Park movie and the first one in over a decade. Nostalgia!

It makes me wonder how Independence Day 2 will do next summer. Independence Day was fresh back in 1996 with its alien destruction and fx spectacle, and of course, today, that's nothing special. However, Independence Day turns 20 next year. I bet the nostalgia is going to work in that film's favor, too. Oh, and the original grossed $800 million back in 1996. Again, with lower ticket prices than today's, no 3D, no IMAX, and an international market that's nowhere near as big as today's, you get the picture.

I bet similiar nostalgia will help make Finding Dory a monstrous box office behemoth. Non-sequel Pixar films that audiences end up liking make over $200 million domestically, easily. Add in the nostalgia and the film being a sequel to a beloved hit, and boom. As long as it satisfies audiences, that is. Monsters University sorta-kinda did that, with better legs it would've topped $300 million domestically. I expect Finding Dory to become Pixar's highest grossing film next year, if not the highest grossing animated film. I think it can do it. The original made nearly $900 million worldwide twelve years ago.

Universal probably knew some serious pieces were in place here. Maybe they didn't predict that it would open with $180 million! (Apparently they were thinking in the low 100s) They probably knew it would easily top $500 million worldwide... But...

They spent $150 million on the film.

I applaud that. If they do this with future would-be blockbusters (they spent $190 million on Furious 7, so they don't do this all the time), I will applaud them.

Maybe Disney should've thought of that when green lighting Prince of Persia, John Carter of Mars, The Lone Ranger, and Tomorrowland...

Maybe you don't need to spend so much money on a big fx spectacle picture that'll be a big blockbuster. That way, less disappointment, more gain, and a figure like $600 million isn't considered "not enough"...


  1. I think I discussed this with you on twitter yesterday, but I'm somewhat concerned for Inside Out right now.

  2. That bothersome thing called the market... why must it get in the way?

  3. Kyle, did you see that Kung Fu Panda 3 trailer???? it was taken out of youtube, but its back in pieces, but its online in Chinese websites. its also in Chinese, and the lipsynch is also Chinese (high probability that we'll get the film with english dubbed over Chinese lips). its amazing.

    1. I've seen the pieced-together version. Suffice to say it is amazing. I hope the US trailer is just like it.