“Pacific Rim,” “The Lone Ranger” and “White House Down” flops are leading studios to re-evaluate their plans as an overcrowded summer schedule leads to millions in losses; one analyst tells THR, “It’s not worth the pain.”
This story first appeared in the July 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
At CineEurope, June’s convention of European theater owners in Barcelona, Spain, a top studio executive asked a colleague to snap a photo of him with a costumed Despicable Me 2 minion in the lobby. The executive doesn’t work at Universal, and he’s not the only one envious of that studio’s global blockbuster, one of the season’s few successes as Hollywood endures the most crowded summer in history for tentpoles. The pileup has resulted in an unprecedented string of expensive bombs that collectively will lose hundreds of millions of dollars.
It’s a crisis of Hollywood’s own making: Studios are releasing double the number of pricey movies they usually do during the summer, pushing the boundaries of how much the marketplace can expand. Amid the carnage, insiders question why studios are greenlighting so many films that cost more than $150 million to produce when so few have risen above the clutter.
“There was abnormally bad scheduling this summer by everybody. I don’t think you will see this again for a while — it’s not worth the pain,” says Wall Street analyst Doug Creutz of Cowen and Co. “While studios will still be willing to spend on a good concept, I think they might be a little more circumspect about when they are going to launch that movie.”
Guillermo del Toro‘s Pacific Rim, the latest disappointment, is the third straight high-profile miss after Gore Verbinski’sThe Lone Ranger and Roland Emmerich‘s White House Down. The three megabudget films opened during a two-week period, leaving no wiggle room. Worse, they debuted in the wake of Warner Bros.’ Man of Steel and Paramount’s World War Z, both of which caught on at the global box office and appeal to the same audience. Those films have grossed $619.1 million and $423 million worldwide, respectively.
“The biggest issue is dating,” says one studio head. “You had too many $100 million-plus movies, not to mention $200 million-plus movies, jammed on top of each other. There isn’t enough play time, and the result has been more movies that wipe out.”
Pacific Rim, which cost as much as $200 million to produce — plus a global marketing spend in the $175 million range — could lose $50 million to $100 million for Legendary and Warners, according to rival studio insiders. The pic opened to a soft $37.3 million domestically and $53.1 million from its first 38 foreign markets. While poised to do big business in Asia, Russia and Latin America, its chances are dicey in Europe and Australia. Legendary, which produced the fanboy-friendly film and footed most of the bill, will take the biggest hit.
Lone Ranger, with a production budget of $250 million, is falling off even faster than expected, grossing $71.5 million domestically and $48 million internationally to date for a total of $119.5 million. At those numbers, some Wall Street analysts say Disney could face a write-down of nearly $200 million. Analysts also say, though, that the studio is well insulated by profits from Iron Man 3, the summer’s top earner with $1.21 billion in worldwide grosses, and Monsters University, which has earned $474.2 million worldwide.
Sony has had two high-profile flops and likely will lose tens of millions from White House Down and Will Smith’s sci-fi epic After Earth. White House Down, which cost $150 million to produce, has earned a paltry $82.7 million worldwide, and After Earth, which cost $130 million to make, has nearly finished its run with a tepid worldwide gross of $214.8 million (though it is off to a good start in China).
And the carnage might not be over. Universal’s R.I.P.D., starring Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynoldsas otherworldly cops, could fall flat based on prerelease tracking. The movie cost about $130 million to produce.
Ironically, summer box-office revenue in North America is running 13.8 percent ahead of 2012, nearly closing the gap in year-over-year revenue. Several more modestly budgeted movies are helping to fuel the surge, including Summit’s magician heist pic Now You See Me and Fox’s female comedy The Heat, which have earned $185.8 million and $128.4 million worldwide, respectively. Sony’s offbeat comedy This Is the End also has succeeded in serving as counterprogramming to tentpoles, taking in $91.6 million domestically.
May was far less crowded in terms of tentpoles, and it showed. Even in Iron Man 3‘s wake, Warners’The Great Gatsby and Paramount’s Star Trek Into Darkness did good business, grossing $326.9 million and $446.9 million worldwide, respectively.
The deluge began Memorial Day weekend when Universal’s Fast & Furious 6 and The Hangover Part III opened opposite each other. Rivals were surprised at the double billing, considering both films needed males to succeed. Fast 6 was the big winner, taking in $704.2 million worldwide. Hangover III, from Warners and Legendary, earned $347 million, far less than the previous films in the trilogy.
“I’ll say one thing: This summer has got to be an exhibitor’s delight,” quips another studio executive. “Imagine being a theater owner and having all these tentpoles in a row. Face it: A theater owner couldn’t care less if the movie drops off a ton.”
per the UK Daily Guardian
Disney sequel is top at the UK box office as Pacific Rim fails to impress, and Andre Rieu’s live concert pulls in the profits
The third successive sunny weekend continued to see tough conditions for film exhibition in the UK, with significant drops for existing films, and below-expected numbers for new entrants. At least there wasn’t a historic Wimbledon final to contend with. Top title was Disney-Pixar’s Monsters University, with £3.46m, well ahead of rival new entrant Pacific Rim.
- Pacific Rim
- Production year: 2013
- Country: USA
- Cert (UK): 12A
- Runtime: 131 mins
- Directors: Guillermo del Toro
- Cast: Burn Gorman, Charlie Day, Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Ron Perlman
Disney cheerfully announced, “Monsters University Withstands the Heat as it Comes Top of the Class at #1 at UK Box Office,” adding that the film had achieved strong evening business, indicating a broad audience that extends beyond the family market. Fair enough, but that’s only the 11th best three-day debut of 2013, behind Iron Man 3, Man of Steel,Despicable Me 2, Fast & Furious 6, Les Miserables, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Hangover Part III, The Croods and Disney’s own Wreck-It Ralph and Oz the Great and Powerful. Predecessor Monsters Inc debuted with a much more impressive £9.20m back in 2002, including previews of £2.71m.
In Disney’s favour are the strong legs often exhibited by animated features. For example, The Croods opened with £3.52m plus £1.85m in previews, and is now at an impressive £26.2m. Monsters University has posted a very similar three-day debut, and could easily end up with a comparable number, especially with the whole school summer holiday ahead of it.
Animation is so far proving particularly robust in 2013, with The Croods, Despicable Me 2 (£27.1m) and Wreck-It Ralph (£23.8m) among the top eight grossers so far. Despicable Me 2 is steadily rising up the all-time animation rankings, and now has Shrek (£29.0m), A Bug’s Life (£29.4m) and Chicken Run (£29.5m) in its sights.
Critics and audiences bemoan Hollywood’s obsession with sequels and film based on established material such as comicbooks, TV shows and young adult fiction, but once again the numbers seem to support the studios’ risk-averse thinking. Pacific Rim, debuting with £2.19m is the latest film that is struggling to engage audiences, having been based on characters that lacked pre-existing awareness. The number would be less of a problem had the production budget not been a reported $180m (£118.5m).
Last summer, Battleship, derided at the time as a costly flop, opened with £2.25m plus £1.51m in previews. Thanks to director Guillermo Del Toro‘s credible reputation, Pacific Rim might hold up stronger in the coming weeks, especially as temperatures cool. But at this point it hardly looks a profitable endeavour for backers Warners.
The other big commercial disappointment of the summer so far is likewise based on an original story: M Night Shyamalan‘s After Earth, which debuted just ahead of Pacific Rim with £2.25m, and is now at £6.25m. Of course, critics may carp that the problem with Pacific Rim and After Earth is their familiarity, rather than their originality. The only 2013 release based on original characters that’s above £20m box-office is The Croods.
The live event
Dutch violinist André Rieu once again proved the potency of live events beamed into UK cinemas, with a stunning £449,000 on Saturday evening (includes some Sunday encore showings), according to distributor CinemaLive. The company adds that official data gatherer Rentrak has verified the result as the biggest opening weekend for an artist music concert at UK cinemas, ahead of May 2012’s Westlife farewell performance.
UK audience interest for Rieu’s concerts, beamed in from his home town of Maastricht, has been steadily growing since they began transmission here in 2010. His summer concerts in 2011 and 2012 grossed £55,000 and £153,000 respectively at UK cinemas, and his Home for Christmas 2012 pulled in £250,000, according to CinemaLive. A point to note: Rieu plays a week’s worth of concerts, and the cinema event has in fact been recorded several days before live satellite transmission.
The arthouse scene
Is your local arthouse playing mostly summer blockbusters? If so, it’s hardly surprising given the dearth of commercially viable specialised fare right now. With animation, action and comedies occupying the top eight places of the chart (respect to genre straddler Now You See Me, offering something a bit different and holding well in fourth place with £5.4m to date), and Bollywood flick Bhaag Milkha Bhaag in at number nine, the top release targeting non-mainstream audiences is The Bling Ring. Next comes Behind the Candelabra, now in its sixth week of release – the fact that it is still beating the numerous arthouse films released in the past month tells its own story. Everything else grossed less than £20,000 at the weekend, and the Other Openers chart below is mostly a sorry tale of woe.
Overall, the weekend box-office is 43% down on the equivalent frame from 2012, although, as so often, the devil is in the details. A year ago the market was boosted by two successive weekends of previews in England and Wales for Ice Age 4: Continental Drift, totaling £4.8m – whereas there were no previews to add in for Monsters University or Pacific Rim. Cinema owners will now be pinning hopes on a) an end to the heatwave and b) a nice big opening from The World’s End, which reunites Edgar Wright with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. There’s also serial killer investigation The Frozen Ground, with Nicolas Cage, John Cusack and Vanessa Hudgens; Swedish thriller Easy Money with Joel Kinnaman; and arthouse offerings including Breathe In and Wadjda.
Top 10 films
1. Monsters University, £3,463,917 from 525 sites (New)
2. Despicable Me 2, £2,225,543 from 539 sites. Total: £27,082,903
3. Pacific Rim, £2,193,500 from 494 sites (New)
4. Now You See Me, £1,142,376 from 478 sites. Total: £5,366,612
5. The Internship, £397,660 from 388 sites. Total: £2,263,505
6. World War Z, £382,975 from 366 sites. Total: £13,242,263
7. Man of Steel, £278,607 from 317 sites. Total: £29,190,336
8. This Is the End, £181,367 from 265 sites. Total: £3,677,230
9. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, 56 sites, £89,348
10. The Bling Ring, £76,540 from 75 sites. Total: £348,269
Do you have what it takes to battle aliens in outer space? Interested in becoming a hero remembered by all humankind? And are you a child? If you answered yes to all three, thenew official “recruitment video” for the movie Ender’s Game should be right up your alley. The promo video for the upcoming movie based off Orson Scott Card’s hit sci-fi book series features Harrison Ford as Colonel Graff making his pitch for you to join the International Fleet, along with new previously unseen footage from the film itself. It also sends aspiring recruits on to the Battle School website, where they can take aptitude tests to evaluate their “strategic thinking” skills. It’s all part of the big promotional push forEnder’s Game that will be going on at the San Diego Comic Con, which starts tomorrow. As io9 notes, that marketing drive includes pieces of the film’s set across from the convention center, so attendees can visit the Battle School in real life, too. For the rest of us, the video will have to suffice for now.