After spending the past two weeks trying to turn the tide for “Pacific Rim,” Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures now are bracing for what appears to be a gruesome inevitability for the $185 million-plus monster movie: A domestic opening ranging between $25 million and $35 million.
This weekend could be the second in a row in which an expensive non-sequel property bellyflops at the box office after “Lone Ranger” flamed out last weekend.
The impending doom has been pretty clear ever since “Pacific Rim” came on tracking early last month. And while there are certainly some last-minute hopeful signs for Warner and Legendary to cling to (i.e. strong reviews and unreliable tracking lately), there’s little chance that “Pacific Rim” will open well enough in the U.S. to counter its monster-sized budget and marketing costs.
But before we delve into the negative, there are a few possible bright spots:
- Positive reviews. As of Tuesday afternoon, the film has scored an 85% rating on RottenTomatoes, with a 98% rating among audiences who want to see the film. Exhibitor reactions to the film also have been better than expected.
- Overseas. Warner launches “Pacific Rim” in 38 day-and-date territories, including the U.K., Mexico, Russia, South Korea, Italy and Australia.
- Skewed tracking. “Pacific Rim” straddles the line of being a fanboy and family film, with heavy interest among boys, and tracking for younger auds is notoriously unreliable. Does that mean the film can double current projections? No.
- Holiday frenzy. The buzz surrounding the Fourth of July weekend was still humming on Monday, when NRG — the most subscribed-to tracking service — released its most current weekend estimates. The company will revise those estimates Thursday.
All of those factors weigh in “Pacific Rim’s” favor, particularly the first, after Paramount managed to parlay strong early reviews for “World War Z” into a surprising $66 million domestic opening.
But to be clear, an opening like that is not in the cards for “Pacific Rim” — not with competition from “Despicable Me 2″ and “Grown Ups 2,” both of which also have strong family appeal. Observers predict that “Despicable Me 2″ will win its second frame in the high-$40 millions, while “Grown Ups 2″ is expected to gross in the low-$40 million range. Both “Grown Ups 2″ and “Pacific Rim” are rated PG-13.
For “Pacific Rim,” which is a passion project for helmer Guillermo del Toro, the early July release date was likely modeled after “Transformers,” which opened with $70 million in 2007. That’s the kind of start Legendary expected to see when it greenlit the pricey ensemble project about an apocalyptic battle between aliens and robots created to fight them. But without a major star toplining the film, Warners — which came on board later to help finance 25% of the production cost — had to market the film based solely on the original concept. The studio only recently began highlighting the pic’s humor and lighter elements to help draw interest.
Tracking for the film outside the U.S. is strongest in Asia, with the area’s long history of creature features, but the pic is seeing only moderate interest in other parts of the world.
Some celebrities, including Kanye West, have taken to social media with positive reactions to the film. Videogame design icon Hideo Kojima also expressed his admiration in a tweet saying, “This film is not simply a film to be respected, but most importantly, it let us dream the future of entertainment movies.”
The film’s grim financial outlook notwithstanding, Kojima may have a point. If only the film’s budget could have been kept in check.