Monday Morning Quarterback Part II
By BOP Staff
October 10, 2012

Colts Colts Colts!

It's a very un-happy Halloween for Mr. Burton.

Kim Hollis: Frankenweenie opened to $11.4 million. Why did this Tim Burton movie throw under even Dark Shadows?

Felix Quinonez: To compare it to Dark Shadows is completely unfair because Dark Shadows had Johnny Depp. But I definitely think it under performed, just not as much as people will make it out to be. When you really think about it, it almost feels like they went out of their way to limit their audience. I mean its subject matter (the dead pet) doesn't exactly scream family fun. And as we've seen before, stop motion animation isn't really embraced by mass audiences. If that wasn't enough, it's in black an white. Also, I don't think that anyone expected Hotel Transylvania to be as strong as it is, so opening Frankenweenie just a week later might not have been a great move.

Max Braden: Kids love cuddly animals...except when they look like they popped out of Pet Sematary? I wonder if there were parents out there who dissuaded their kids from going to see it. As an adult, I see the appeal of Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas, but this mashup didn't appeal to me. Aside from that, I think given the choice, families went to Hotel Transylvania instead.

Edwin Davies: The dead pet angle is probably largely responsible - even Corpse Bride did better and that's not only macabre but boasts a really off-putting title - as well as the fact that the style is about as far away from mainstream as you can get without veering into Quay Brothers or Jan Svankmajer territory. Yet ParaNorman, which is not that dissimilar in tone and style, did much better, both on opening weekend and probably in the long-run, despite having nowhere the name recognition that Tim Burton has. As with Dark Shadows, I get the feeling that people are getting tired of Burton's schtick, especially since it resulted in one of the most hated yet successful films of all time, Alice In Wonderland. I don't think he's complete box office poison just yet, but I do think that his recent run of poor form (I say recent; I think he's made precisely two good films since Ed Wood - Big Fish and Sweeney Todd - and a whole heap of shit) has probably done a lot to erode the faithful audience that have otherwise kept even his smaller, personal films like Frankenweenie afloat. Even though the consensus seems to be that this is one of the better films Burton has made recently, I imagine a lot of people probably decided to wait until it comes out on DVD.

Jason Barney: I have to agree with the concern about theme discussed by some of the others. I think it is possible to do kids Halloween films that could be very successful, but I just think some of the material explored the last few weeks has been risky. I saw the ads for both Transylvania and Frankenweenie and just made the decision they were not something I wanted to take my seven-year-old to. Perhaps others are fine bringing there kids to these, and maybe the films are less dark than the ads portray, but we passed on both of them.

David Mumpower: I want to explore a couple of the thoughts here. Marley & Me is a great example of how a film with this sort of subject matter can attain tremendous popularity. The key element is that the viewer must be sold on falling in love with the pet, even if the movie proves to be a snuff film. Frankenweenie never had that opportunity. The movie premise dictates that people know the puppy dies. That's a troublesome scenario for the marketing team. There is a reason why Michael Vick was so reviled when his secret life was revealed. People adore the blind devotion dogs give humans. I always crack up when I see the bumper stickers that say, "Please let me be the person my dog thinks I am." There is wisdom and truth in that. Any film that sells itself as one where the puppy dies has the deck stacked against it prior to release.

The other consideration mentioned here is that this is the third gothic animated movie released in three months. This is a smaller audience than mainstream animation. Once we factor in saturation, being third out of three is problematic, independent of the Tim Burton discussion. So Frankenweenie possesses a depressing theme and enters a jaded marketplace. Given these issues, its bombing is not surprising.

Kim Hollis: Look, I'm someone who is always willing to give Burton's films a chance. I like his visual style and can usually find something to appreciate even when I'm not completely enthusiastic about the end result. With that said, while i think Frankenweenie might be fantastic (and the reviews give me reason for hope), there's no way in heck I'd see this in the theater. When I saw How to Train Your Dragon, a movie that is effectively about falling in love with a pet, I was sobbing at the end because Toothless reminded me so much of a cat who had passed away only months before. My nearly 17-year-old pooch died a year ago, and the dog in Frankenweenie bears somewhat of a resemblance to him. So...there was just no way. Based on comments I've seen from people who have seen it ("my wife was trying not to break down in utter tears," etc.), I made the right call. The subject matter is just too painful, even when done in an overall comedic fashion.

Glee: The Movie! Oh, wait. We already had that, didn't we?

Kim Hollis: Pitch Perfect expanded to 2,770 locations and earned $14.8 million. Based on last weekend's results, is this more, less or about what you expected?

Felix Quinonez: Although it's a totally respectable result, especially when you consider its budget, I was still expecting a little more. I really thought its great performance in limited release would have lead to a lot more buzz and help it really break out. Now I kind of wonder how much it helped or if it actually burned off demand, making this weekend's number less impressive. I thought it was a forgone conclusion that it would beat the opening of the Footlose remake but it made less. But maybe I just got carried away and had unrealistic expectations. Either way, this movie is already a hit.

Max Braden: In my mind that's a typical opening range for a decent comedy without a big hook or big star. I did expect more though based on the strong limited release box office it pulled in last weekend, and on the strength of the trailer. I think everyone just went to see Taken 2 this weekend. Despite what this means for the movie, I think this is a win for Rebel Wilson ("Fat Amy"), who is apparently a supporting character, yet the trailer has focused on her as much or more than Anna Kendrick. I could see Wilson's career taking on the arc of Jonah Hill's.

Edwin Davies: This is perhaps a bit more than I expected since, as I said last week, I fully expected the early release strategy to burn off some of the demand for the film in a way that didn't happen with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, which used a similar release pattern last December. I definitely think that has happened to some extent but it's hard to gauge. You could argue that the film might have opened to $20 million if the $5 million from last week was added to this week's, yet at the same time we can't really tell how much of this week's total was earned as a result of the early release schedule and word-of-mouth. Regardless, I think this is a very solid result and a small yet significant demonstration of how this kind of mid-scale platform releasing can work to create fanfare for films that might not have anything else to focus on.

Tim Briody: This is fine and I'd argue that the small opening last weekend actually helped it this weekend, and I would like to see this release pattern again in the future. It's much better than a Wednesday opening, which usually siphons box office off of the weekend and isn't enough time to create additional buzz via the magic of social networking. A targeted release a week ahead is perfect for this, however. More please, and good on Pitch Perfect for already beating its budget.

David Mumpower: I agree with Tim and would go so far as to say that Universal's decision to platform the film is the reason why it didn't open in single digits. Building consumer awareness through organic word-of-mouth always has been and still continues to be THE best way to promote a movie. For a disposable movie whose two biggest stars are Anna Kendrick and McLovin to earn $21.7 million in ten days is spectacular.

Kim Hollis: This is a terrific weekend result for a film that already was looking like a winner thanks to its strong debut last weekend on limited screens. Think of it this way: It made as much this weekend as Rock of Ages, a musical with a much more recognizable star (Tom Cruise), did during its *summer* opening. Keeping in mind that the audience for these films is not massive to start with, the fact that it has more than $22 million after two weekends is a stellar accomplishment.