I have no real idea why Home just had one of the biggest opening weekends for a DreamWorks Animation non-sequel behind Kung Fu Panda ($60m in 2008) and Monsters Vs. Aliens ($59m on the same weekend in 2009). Adapted from Adam Rex‘s 2007 children’s book The True Meaning of Smekday, Home is the latest riff on the E.T. story, depicting an alien named Oh (Jim Parsons) marooned on Earth and befriending a young girl (Rihanna). Critics were less than charmed by it. RottenTomatoes’ critical consensus currently reads: “Colorful, silly, and utterly benign, Home is a passable diversion, but there’s no shortage of superior animated alternatives.” It was originally ticketed for a November 2014 release before being switched with Penguins of Madagascar, a move which failed to pay off since Penguins ultimately bombed. In fact, DWA recently announced it lost $57.1 million on Penguins of Madagascar and Mr. Peabody and Sherman last year. It was assumed that parents had simply stopped trusting the DWA brand, unwilling to offer them a rubber stamp the same way they will with anything Disney Animation Studios or Pixar puts out. As a result, Home was expected to finish the weekend with a little over $30m; it ended up with a little over $52m.
As is now the tradition for every new DWA release, the stock market has lost its shit, except this time in a good way. DWA stock plunged after the mediocre opening weekends for Peabody, Dragon 2, and Penguins, but after Home it ticked up an impressive 7%.
Sure. That seems like the type of thing a stock market would do after something exceeds expectations. But why did Home exceed those expectations? Outside of How To Train Your Dragon 2, which had a long tail and eventually played big overseas, this is their biggest success since The Croods almost exactly 2 years ago, a stretch of time that also includes box office stinkers like Rise of the Guardians and Turbo. It didn’t seem to matter if the movie was a sequel, spin-off, or adaptation of little-known children’s book. Whatever DWA put out failed financially, or in the case of Dragon 2 failed to turn into a Pixar-level franchise the way over-zealous analysts had predicted. Not even their ever-present roster of celebrity voices made much of a difference. It turned out that Jude Law, Ryan Reynolds, Ty Burrell, and Benedict Cumberbatch couldn’t save Guardians, Turbo, Peabody, and Penguins, respectively. Are Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, and Steve Martin really so superior that their combined forces could help propel Home forward?
The answer is apparently a solid maybe. Parsons is the star of the biggest comedy on all of TV right now in Big Bang Theory, and there’s nothing about his performance in Home that disguises his voic. Oh really does sound like a nicer Dr. Sheldon Cooper. So, you recognize him right away in the trailers and TV spots. Rihanna is obviously a world-famous pop star, and the financial failings of her live-action acting debut, Battleship, is more commonly chalked up to its unfortunate release proximity to the juggernaut that was The Avengers. Plus, Battleship’s critics argue she might be better off with a voice-acting gig (To be fair, I’ve never actually seen Battleship). Jennifer Lopez is still a pop culture force who appealed directly to the Latin female community to help turn her B-movie The Boy Next Door into a surprise hit earlier this year. And Steve Martin is, well, Steve Martin. To paint in broad strokes, the multi-ethnic cast could equally appeal to whites, African-Americans, Hispanics, and older people. And the way it played out over the weekend was 60% female, 57% under-25, 48% Caucasian, 22% African-American, 15% Hispanic, and 15% Asian/Other.
However, it might not be as complicated as the ethnic make-up of the voices behind the characters. It could also owe a lot to the fact that this is a major animated feature starring a young black female as opposed to the standard young white male hero template. It joins a small club mostly filled by Princess and the Frog.
It might also have a lot to do with the extra work DreamWorks put into raising awareness for Home in the extra time it earned after its release date was switched with Penguins.
It might also have something to do with this being the first big animated film of the year, after SpongeBob’s mixture of live-action and animation. Plus, this late March release has been a successful platform for movies like Monsters Vs. Aliens and the first How to Train Your Dragon in the past.
Lastly, it might just be that little kids really thought the main alien in the film, Oh, looks really cute.
Good for everyone at DreamWorks Animation. They really needed the win. In fact, after the studio’s recent layoffs and restructuring two of the producers of Home ended up getting promoted to essentially run DreamWorks Animation now.
-How Did Get Hard Make over $30m?
This runs counter to the way the current movie season has devalued the traditional notion of the movie star (Channing Tatum, Liam Neeson, Johnny Depp, and Sean Penn all have box office bombs in 2015), but Get Hard debuting with $33.8m seems mostly attributable to the combined star power of Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart. It is the third biggest debut for any of Ferrell’s live-action movies, behind Talladega Nights ($47m) and The Other Guys ($35.5m), and the second for Hart, behind Ride Along ($41m). Hart is a voracious social media guy with a passionate African-American following, and Ferrell is always reliable for at least one if not several truly bizarre interviews during a promotional season which turn viral, like his Conan O’Brien appearance with a foul-mouthed cockatoo. So, you have their combined marketing powers going along with a profile-raising controversy surrounding the film’s supposed homophobic content when Ferrell’s disgraced rich man character is trained by Hart’s character how to best be a prison bitch in preparation for a looming, lengthy prison sentence. Put the two of them on a poster, add a provocative title, throw the trailer in front of other comedies and male-leaning action fare like Kingsman, and you have yourself a solid opening weekend despite Hart having already been in 5-6 other movies in the 15 months.
That doesn’t mean people actually liked it, though, giving it just a B on CinemaScore.
-Should We Be Impressed By It Follows?
It Follows is the film festival darling of the horror world which narrowly escaped a VOD release through Weinstein’s specialty label Radius by posting better-than-expected numbers in just 4 theaters two weeks ago. So, rather than continuing to play in limited release as well as VOD, ala Snowpiercer from Radius last year, they decided to open it wide in 1,218 theaters without giving it much if any of a marketing push. This was to be a test of whether or not social media marketing and old fashioned word-of-mouth could turn this into something special. As such, it’s kind of hard to really say that its $3.8m this weekend is good or bad based upon what similar movies did on the same number of screens because those movies at least had some kind of traditional marketing campaign. For example, The Quiet Ones had an identical opening weekend when it debuted in 2,000 theaters last April, but you could have at least seen commercials for Quiet Ones on TV in the week before its release. Radius/TWC did put out some It Follows commercials, but not many, none that I saw at least. Quiet Ones ultimately limped to a domestic total just south of $9m, and while that same fate would seem like a failure for It Follows given its immense buzz it would also be nearly five times its budget and considerably more than it would have made on VOD. I am curious to see how this social media marketing campaign translates to a second weekend because right now on paper this looks like just the latest micro-budget horror movie to post pretty low numbers.
-How Far Insurgent Did Fall?
Insurgent just had a bigger second-weekend drop than Divergent (59% vs. 53%), and is now on pace to gross $10-20m less than domestically. That’s an even worse result when you remember that Insurgent actually cost $25m more to make.
This Weekend’s Actual Box Office Top 10 Totals (3/27-3/29)
1. Home (First Domestic Weekend)
- Production Budget=$135m
- Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$52.1m
- Weekend Gross (International)=$24m
2. Get Hard (Opening Weekend)
- Production Budget=$40m
- Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$33.8m
- Weekend Gross (International)=$4.6m
- Worldwide Debut=$38.4m
- Production Budget=$110m
- Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$21.5m
- Weekend Gross (International)=$29.9m
- Production Budget=$95m
- Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$17m
- Weekend Gross (International)=$38.7m
And now comes word that Disney is moving forward with a live-action Mulan. No word yet if they’ll pick up the option on Dwane Johnson as the star of Bambi 2.
5. It Follows (Wide Expansion)
- Production Budget=$2m
- Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$3.8m
- Weekend Gross (International)=Nothing
- Production Budget=$81m
- Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$2.9m
- Weekend Gross (International)=$25m
- Current Domestic/International/Worldwide Total=$119.3m/$208.3m/$327.6m
This includes a $20m opening in China this weekend.
7. Do You Believe?
- Production Budget=They’re Not Telling
- Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$2.3m
- Weekend Gross (International)=Nothing
- Worldwide Debut=$7.2m
8. Run All Night
- Production Budget=$50m
- Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$2.1m
- Weekend Gross (International)=$2.1m
- Domestic/International/Worldwide =$23.7m/$19.7m/$43.4m
9. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
- Production Budget=$10m
- Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$2.1m
- Weekend Gross (International)=$2.3m
- Current Domestic/International/Worldwide Total=$28m/$38.8m/$66.8m
10. The Gunman
- Production Budget=$40m
- Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$2m
- Weekend Gross (International)=Less than $1m
- Worldwide Debut=$8.8m
What Left the Top 10?: Focus (Current total: $134.2m worldwide/$50m budget), Chappie (Current total: $77m worldwide/$49m budget) & SpongeBob Movie (Current total: $287m worldwide/$74m budget)
What’s Up Next?: Furious 7