Monday Morning Quarterback Part I
By BOP Staff
April 18, 2011

Welcome to the Promised Land, Mr. Berkman.

Curt David *really* wanted us to watch this!

Kim Hollis: Rio, the latest release from Blue Sky Studios, opened to $39.2 million. Its budget is estimated at $90 million, and it's already made $160 million worldwide. Do you view this as a good result, or are you bothered by the fact that it inflation adjusts as the studio's worst debut to date?

Tim Briody: This is fine, I think where it suffers the most is the timing. Hop came out two weeks ago, Rango was seven weeks ago and I'm come to the realization that something called Gnomeo and Juliet wasn't just a bad dream. There hadn't really been a lot of pent up "sheesh, we've gotta get out of the house and take the kids to a movie" demand. It's going to hold fairly well next weekend so I see minimal cause for alarm.

Josh Spiegel: I'm curious to see what the hold is for next weekend's take. On the one hand, Tim's right: Rio comes as the end of a glut of family films (including a lot of animated ones) over the past two months. If anything, families could have had some kind of overload. However, there's nothing that will compete with Rio for the next few weeks, so Rio might dominate even more than it has in the last few days (or the last week, if you live elsewhere in the world). In general, I think the number is solid, at the least.

Bruce Hall: Not to sound redundant or to sound redundant, but the first thing that popped into my head reading Kim's question was that yes, there has been an avalanche of snarky talking animal movies in recent weeks. Even the most enthusiastic of children may have had enough already. Even the most indulgent of parents must pulling their hair out in clumps at this point. It's not even May and Discover cards all across America are already sporting Christmas level balances again. But when you consider how much money has been wrung from this demographic this year, it's hard not to be optimistic. The domestic figure might be a little short but when you're sniffing 200% profit 72 hours after release, it's hard to complain. Isn't it?

Edwin Davies: I'm inclined to view this as a good result almost because of the saturation of kids' films we've had so far this year. If two snarky talking animal movies can open to within two weeks of each other and get almost identical results, that suggests to me that kids are not getting too sick of these films just yet. However, in the long run I'm not so sure of Rio's prospects, since neither Hop or Rango have shown the sort of legs that How to Train Your Dragon did that allowed that film to go from being a mild disappointment to a smash last year. The advantage that Rio has over Hop is that there isn't a film on the horizon (unless Hoodwinked 2 radically overperforms) that will cut its legs out from under it in the way that Rio has done to Hop this week.

Shalimar Sahota: Latching a bit onto what Bruce said, given the number of CG animated films, for some parents, they probably just all blur into one, making it more and more difficult to justify why they ought to go and take their children to see another so soon. Even if it's inflation adjusted as Blue Sky's worst debut, it's still a great result that many other studious would kill to have. Maybe they'll decide to leave Rio as a standalone film rather than turning it into a franchise, but it's still a hit.

Pete Kilmer : I think it's an okay result for an animated movie. While the movie was lacking a little something, families still want to see family films. What I've noticed the past year is that studios are using the worldwide box office totals more and more to hype the movie a little bit more.

Brett Beach: The goodwill of "from the makers of Ice Age" is becoming as strong a cachet as the Pixar name. Talking birds lack the inherent appeal of dinosaurs, making that $40 million opening even more impressive, especially since, as others have noted, there have been a lot of family/animated films in recent weeks. Good legs seem almost a given with the positive reviews, G rating and early audience reaction. Plus, how cool for a reunion (of sorts) for two-thirds of the Green siblings from "Get Real".

Jim Van Nest: Taking Gnomeo and Juliet out of the equation, Rio is/was the least interesting looking animated film of the group that everyone is talking about. $40 million seems like a pretty solid win. Sure, it's the inflation adjusted lowest grosser, but with the possible exception of's the least "good" looking as well. Maybe I'm just hungover from the Toy Story 3/How to Train Your Dragon/Tangled trifecta of 2010, but Rio doesn't seem to hold a candle to those, quality-wise.

David Mumpower: As Pete touched upon, this is one of the most popular animation studios abroad, meaning that Rio is going to make money. We should always focus on that first since that's the name of the game. Having said that, this always struck me as a sub-par film concept and nothing that happened this weekend changed my opinion on this. Robots inflation adjusts to about $4 million more and we should keep in mind that they apologized for that release afterward. This is the territory we're talking about with Rio. It's a win from a financial perspective but a lot remains to be seen in terms of overall perception.

Too many cartoons? Impossible.

Kim Hollis: Do you think we're starting to reach a point of over-saturation with animation or do you think that the market can easily handle eight to ten major releases each year (which is roughly the current pace)?

Josh Spiegel: If the latter ends up happening, it'll be because studios have lowered their expectations. Unless we're talking about the latest Pixar movie or a Kung Fu Panda sequel, I don't know that animated movies are going to hit numbers higher than 40 million in a weekend (and that's with high ticket prices and likely 3D options). The market can handle a lot of animated releases, but studios can't sincerely think they'll all be massive blockbusters.

Bruce Hall: For the most part we're talking about films aimed at children and if its a cartoon, there are talking animals and cute songs, most pre-teens will happily sit through it a thousand times. But what about their parents? How much time and money are parents willing to put into something that drives them insane, even if their kids love it? I tend to think that unless a project is just an utterly misguided monument to creative hubris (Mars Needs Moms), it's hard NOT to entertain kids. But the difference between an average return on investment may be whether or not you can reel in the adults as well. The Toy Story franchise is an example of a wildly successful children's property, in part because parents love it as much as their kids do. So I fully expect the average plain as oatmeal, paint by numbers talking squirrels singalong full of half baked lessons on friendship and loyalty to scrape together $30-40 million opening weekend. But if you want to differentiate yourself in this area, it's really no different from anything else in life. Innovation is the key. If adults are as eager to take their kids to see your movie as their kids are to be taken to it, you're more likely to break out from the pack.

Edwin Davies: I don't think that we have reached saturation point yet, but we could reach it soon if studios don't get a little smarter when it comes to scheduling their films. Having them all bunched up together as they have been this year doesn't benefit anyone, since we get a situation where films which have been out for a few weeks wind up getting their audience taken away from them, and new films can be hurt by a kind of fatigue as parents get sick of taking their kids to see talking animal film after talking animal film.

Pete Kilmer: Like any other genre I think we'll see more and more but it will settle into layers of quality spread throughout the year. Pixar and DreamWorks will stake out special times of the year for their animated releases (they already have) and the other studios will fall in around them. There is a lot of money to be made from these at the home market level. With DVD players in vehicles now, parents are buying a ton of these things to keep the kids occupied, so with the uptake in releases for family computer animated films we'll see more and more.

Max Braden: I don't have kids to entertain, but my feeling is that if the kids are content enough to watch at home and not cost parents $50/month in tickets, I'd rather switch up that earworm my kid is obsessed with every four weeks rather than every eight or so. Even though they tend to be aimed at kids, I like the creative avenue that the animated format offers and I wouldn't want to see that constricted by some arbitrary limit on the number per year. From that perspective, I'd vote for more animated movies and fewer run-of-the-mill "adult" comedies.

Jim Van Nest: I don't think animation is really different than any other genre of film. If the quality is there, the audience will be there. So, if you're releasing a handful of Gnomeo and Juliets (yes, this is my animation whipping boy right now), people will start to tire. But if you're putting out several How to Train Your Dragons, it'll never over-saturate.

David Mumpower: The true crisis here is that we're running out of adorable animals to animate. I think the platypus is next in line for a feature. I strongly suspect some animation teams use as their home page and the instant a new animal appears, they greenlight a project. This is the most logical explanation for Alpha and Omega.