Monday Morning Quarterback Part I
By BOP Staff
March 29, 2010

It's our web site and we'll put the losing team in the picture if we want. Bruce Pearl is our hero

Who wants a pet dragon? Okay, that's...nine dragons we need.

Kim Hollis: How to Train Your Dragon, DreamWorks' feature that was heavily featured during the Winter Olympics, opened to $43.7 million. Should the studio be pleased with this result?

Josh Spiegel: I would say it's not that big of a disappointment, even if that's what some people are already saying. Yes, having the Olympics as a major marketing springboard is helpful, but the movie doesn't have a big family-movie star like Jack Black, and DreamWorks didn't capitalize on the very positive reviews the film has. That said, going up against Alice in Wonderland and still getting so much money with 3D competition isn't too bad. Unfortunately, the movie's probably going down next week, with Clash of the Titans in the rearview mirror, unless that film flops, and flops hard.

Michael Lynderey: They shouldn't be pleased. This was clearly intended as a thematic follow-up to Monsters vs. Aliens, and the bustling late March 3D box office that one pulled in last year was almost certainly in the gameplan for the Dragon picture - not to mention the potential for a franchise. Now, even with some good legs, How to Train Your Dragon is just going to end up being seen as another middle-of-the-road CGI picture, marking time between Shrek sequels.

Shalimar Sahota: As I highlighted last week, audiences just don't seem to warm to dragons. I was expecting more along the lines of $35 - $40 million, so I'd say $40+ million is a good result.

Jason Lee: This is a rather lackluster opening given the fact that March is typically very hospitable to family animated releases (Monsters vs. Aliens, the Ice Age franchise, Horton Hears A Who, etc.). In fact, it reminds me a little bit of the weekend of Ratatouille with Pixar - great studio track record, impeccably-reviewed film but slightly disappointing opening. I think for me, the main problem with this movie is the subject matter and locale. No kid is going to get excited over Vikings (just like no mom wants to see a rat in a kitchen), and the muted color scheme of the Scandinavian coast isn't going to be as eye-catching as something like Kung Fu Panda or even Monsters vs. Aliens. This was never going to reach the heights of DreamWorks' previous animated films.

Reagen Sulewski: It's possibly a bit early to call this behavior, but it does seem like we're seeing an early trend of live action 3D films getting more of a boost than animated 3D films, as the latter seems like less of a utilization of the technology. I think all the studios that committed to having all their tentpoles be in 3D just got a shiver up their spines.

David Mumpower: I saw the movie and it's wonderful. Despite my bias toward it, I have to say that this is to my mind what passes for failure for animated 3-D/IMAX releases. Without the doubled ticket pricing for those exhibitions, we'd be looking at a debut around $30 million, which is not the target for a production with a nine figures budget. I think Shalimar has touched upon the key aspect of this. For whatever reason, films featuring dragons have consistently disappointed at the box office. How to Train Your Dragon looked like a potential exception to the rule due to its genius marketing tie-ins with the Winter Olympics and glowing reviews. The fact that this translated into a lackluster debut for a film playing by the new RealD box office rules means it was in a fashion doomed from the start. People seem to distinguish Lord of the Rings from the rest of the pack. There is some sort of glass ceiling for the rest of these pure fantasy films, which is bad news for fans of Dragonlance like myself.

You want to see 3-D? How about we charge you more for 3-D?!

Kim Hollis: Do you think that the widespread media reports about increased 3-D ticket pricing that took place effective this weekend had an impact on How to Train Your Dragon's opening?

Josh Spiegel: I don't know if there's a major quantifiable impact, but there's no question that it doesn't help the movie, or any 3D movie. The upside of a movie like Avatar doing so well in 3D is that people love the film; the downside is a story like this, with the exhibitors looking to empty our wallets even more. For me, the issue is whether the 3D is original or converted. For example, if I see Clash of the Titans, I'm not seeing it in 3D, because postproduction conversion to 3D looks (or, with Alice in Wonderland, looked) hideous. If the movie's not meant to be in 3D, why see it in 3D? With Dragon, the issue is interest; one day, sure, I'll see it. But I don't need to part with 15 bucks this weekend. That may have scared enough people away, though we'll never know.

Michael Lynderey: The ticket price increases surely don't help the film in theory, but it's possible the higher revenue from the tickets that were sold equalized the whole equation. Maybe the movie didn't do as well as it could have because the 3D backlash is already coming into effect, and the ticket price uptick is helping accelerate it. CGI animation in 3D isn't as new or fresh as live-action, so that familiarity with the subgenre was probably another factor.

Jason Lee: Though many people that showed up at the theater this weekend to watch How To Train Your Dragon may have been irritated by the higher costs, I doubt it stopped them from buying a movie ticket (can you imagine the complaining on the car ride home?). That said, I wonder if it'll make them think twice about paying for a 3-D screening in the coming weeks and months.

Reagen Sulewski: I find it somewhat hard to believe that after every single person in North America was taken by force to see Avatar that they wouldn't be aware of higher ticket pricing for 3D or that a new slight jump would keep them away. That said, Alice in Wonderland might have been a better weekend to do this for.

David Mumpower: I'm always dubious about these theoretical revenue losses that are supposed to negatively influence box office in a largely intangible way. In point of fact, I think Michael is correct that the ticket price increases for people who did go see the film tips the balance toward How to Train Your Dragon's box office being aided rather than deflated by such news. I'm certain a few people decided not to go see the movie because of rising ticket costs that cause consumers to make the determination about whether the appearance of a feature is enough to justify the expense. Many more people paid a couple more dollars a ticket, however, which is the endgame here. At worst, I see this as a draw but I lean toward a net gain in terms of box office.