Monday Morning Quarterback Part I
By BOP Staff
March 26, 2013

This would be a lot more enjoyable if one of the webmasters weren't a Georgetown fan.

Kim Hollis: The Croods, the latest 3D animated film from DreamWorks, opened to $43.6 million this weekend. What do you think of this result?

Bruce Hall: Well, this is the first truly kid friendly film we've had in theaters in over a month, and it couldn't have dropped at a better time, with tots everywhere off from school. I still think DreamWorks is a firm second banana to Pixar but this is a strong opening, and I don't believe there's any real competition lined up until Epic opens in May. I think The Croods will continue to put up solid numbers and if your'e a fan, rejoice - this will no doubt be enough to warrant a sequel.

Felix Quinonez: I think this a great result that will give the movie some very nice headlines, which will in turn get more people interested in it. When you throw in the overseas weekend numbers, this movie has already made over $100 million. Also, the upcoming holiday will definitely play in its favor and when you consider that it won't have any real competition for more than a month, I think it's safe to say that The Croods is in very good shape.

Matthew Huntley: Not a monster opening, but as Bruce and Felix alluded to, its leg are bound to be very long given the lack of direct competition. I think it's safe to say it will make at least $170 million domestically and, oh, about $500 million+ worldwide since its subject matter/characters are so easily dubb-able/universal (The Croods is not unlike Ice Age in this regard, which I'm sure was no accident when it was green lit). Stateside, I think its success will mostly be by default, since the movie itself is nothing special. It'll gross a lot of money because it's one of the few family options out there, not because it's particularly high quality.

Edwin Davies: This is a solid opening that probably has more to do with timing than anything else. We're three months into the year and there hasn't been a huge amount for families other than Oz: The Great and Powerful and, to a much lesser extent, Escape from Planet Earth, so people would be primed to see something like The Croods regardless of its quality (though the fact that it's not really terrible probably helps a bit). Going forward, I think it'll probably hold okay and end up somewhere north of $150 million, so it's not going to be a flop for DreamWorks, but they probably aren't going to recoup marketing costs unless the film takes off overseas, which it likely will. In short, this one looks like it might be a bit of a qualified success for DreamWorks, but a success nonetheless.

Jay Barney: This is a very solid opening, as I think there was a lot of speculation ahead of the weekend that this one might under perform. Against the production budget and marketing costs, this $44 million will go a long way. This has to be counted as a success, as Oz The Great and Powerful is still out there, only a few weeks old. The other kid-friendly picture, Escape From Planet Earth, has dropped out of the top ten but when the release schedule was set up, I'm sure they were hoping for the stars to align for the least competitive weekend possible. Croods is not a box office smash hit, but it will do fairly well over the coming weeks. The international gross is already starting to pile up and this kid flick is over the $100 million mark worldwide. This should have enough steam to push it into the territory of recouping the production and marketing costs. Maybe it is sad when we can label a film that only makes its money back a success, but Jack the Giant Slayer this is not.

Kim Hollis: This debut is right in line with what I was expecting. It will do fine domestically and pull in excellent numbers overseas (and in fact is already doing so). I actually think cavemen rather than dinosaurs/animals a la Ice Age is a tougher concept to sell. Since it's spring break around the country, I expect The Croods to benefit and play well for the next few weeks.

Max Braden: I think that's decent, for what it is. The look didn't blow me away - to me The Croods looks very similar visually, and storywise, to the Ice Age series. That series has opened pretty solidly in the $40-50 million range, so The Croods lines up with that well. I don't see it necessarily winning awards, but I don't see anyone really panning it either, which means it should have a nice steady run in theaters and again on video.

David Mumpower: I am of the opinion that this result was almost exactly what should have been expected. It's right in line with recent DreamWorks Animation movies released outside the holiday periods on the calendar perform like clockwork lately. We all have acknowledged that its domestic performance can be safely ranged. The x-factor is how well The Croods performs overseas. At the moment, we know that the movie will prove to be at least a draw with a chance at being a huge winner if it does tap into the insane popularity of Ice Age overseas. I strongly suspect the lack of Scrat makes the comparison overly optimistic, though.

Kim Hollis: Do you believe animation fatigue has become a factor with major studio releases? Why or why not?

Felix Quinonez: I honestly didn't even know that was a thing. I believe there will always be an audience for animation in some shape or another. I think if returns for animation releases have been unimpressive it has to do with the movies themselves, not because people are tired of animation.

Bruce Hall: I don't think there's any such thing. As long as there are children, and as long as there are parents who want those children to sit still and shut up, there will be a market for animated films. But for sake of argument, I will comment on a handful of 2012 features based on domestic box office only.

There's The Lorax, which appears to have made its production budget back the weekend it opened. Then there's Madagascar 3, which had a somewhat similar opening, and owns an almost identical lifetime domestic gross, yet cost twice as much to make as The Lorax. Then you've got films like Brave, an animated film that cost considerably more to make than Captain America, more or less in the same boat. ParaNorman fell short of its budget, and vanished as soon as it hit theaters (Zombie movie in August = bad timing. Was I right about that or what?). And then you've got Wreck-It Ralph, which everyone seems to love, but had a tepid opening...yet was ultimately profitable - although not nearly as much as The Lorax, which is tracking lower than Michael Bay's first Transformers movie at Rotten Tomatoes.

Quality is subjective of course, and I am sure someone somewhere has done a comprehensive analysis on the state of big budget animated features. But if we're just talking about about the domestic reception given animated features relative to their cost, my unscientific conclusion is that the North American public is plenty willing to pay for these films almost regardless of quality, but studios might want to start finding more economical ways to make them.

Matthew Huntley: For the studios? No. For audiences? Somewhat, yes, because studios still seem to market their computer animation titles as if the format is new and therefore assume audiences can be won over on presentation alone (with the lackluster ones anyway). Whenever I see a computer-animated title, much of the time my initial feeling is the studio elbowing me and saying, "Heh, heh, see what we can do? Isn't it pretty" (movies like The Lorax or Cars films.) But they are such big moneymakers that I don't see this ending any time soon. It's only the really high quality ones, which actually have an original story to tell and that use animation to their advantage, where I don't feel like I'm being pandered to, and that I don't find exhausting.

Edwin Davies: I think it's set in to an extent in that a film being computer animated isn't a guarantee of success in the way that it was 10 years ago, back when there was a lot of novelty to the format and Pixar and DreamWorks were able to control demand since they were pretty much the only game in town. Now that there are a lot more studios making these kinds of films it means that the market is much more saturated so parents (especially ones who maybe can't afford to go to the theater every week) have to be a bit more discerning. That doesn't preclude a bad film like The Lorax being successful, but then again that was an adaptation of a very popular book by a cultural icon, so it's kind of an anomaly. On the other hand, the success of films like How to Train Your Dragon, which opened soft and showed great legs, demonstrates that people will turn out for the films that are great, which is also why Pixar has remained such a force. With the exception of Cars 2, they make good films and people turn out for them because there is a mark of quality there that sets them apart.

I don't foresee a drop off in the popularity of animation akin to that which hit Hollywood during the '70s and '80s when studios started closing down their animation departments and Disney even toyed with getting out of the game, but I could see studios producing fewer animations if they can't get their budgets down somehow. DreamWorks, Disney and Pixar can take a middling performer or an outright bomb every now and then, but it'd be death to some of the smaller ones.

Jay Barney: No, I don't think there is animation fatigue. There are two ways to take this question, though. The 3D element is becoming quite blah at this point in time, and I believe it won't be worth it for studios to add the extra effects required. They may come to a different decision than what I expect, but I go to the movies more than the average person, and I specifically try to avoid 3D movies. The tickets are more expensive, you are usually dealing with a young adult crowd, and sometimes the 3D just is not worth the extra few bucks. So I have reached the point where I don't see something in 3D unless I know it is going to be good. Someone else has to recommend it to me, and then I might see it.

The other way of tackling the question is how it might apply to kids movies and the really young audience, those films that parents take their children to. On this front, I believe there is a sad miscalculation on the part of studios about a family's willingness to kill a couple of hours with the kids entertained by something other than parents themselves. I have always thought that studios should make the effort to produce more kid friendly films, as the animation and movie experience can be fun and memorable. I can only speak with my own wallet, but I believe studios are leaving money on the table in this regard.

Max Braden: I think animation struggles not because there's too much of it but because it seems harder to do really well, and the types of stories it can tell are narrower. We're not going to see animated action movies like Olympus Has Fallen or romcoms or even straight up animated dramas. So instead we get epic treks (Croods, Ice Age), anthropomorphism (animals/toys/monsters behaving like people), or growing pains (Brave, How to Train Your Dragon). (Or that weird Ponyo stuff. It didn't hurt, but I still feel uneasy like I got alien scanned by that movie.) And some work really well, but when they don't work well they can feel much more lifeless than a lame live action movie. Knowing that, and the large investment of these projects, has to be both a temptation and a scare for studios. I'm in favor of them to keep trying, and failing from audience rejection if necessary, because that's how things improve. Even when animation is as old a genre as live action, it still feels like animation has the most room for growth.

David Mumpower: I am squarely in the animation fatigue column. I also believe that the studios have no one to blame but themselves. For every entertaining film like The Lorax (hi Edwin!), there are reckless sequels like Ice Age: Still Robbing You Blind and Shrek: Remember That One Character You Used to Like? Worst of all, Pixar has acquiesced to this temptation. First, there was a giant top sales campaign with Cars 2, and they followed with the unimpressive Brave. 2013 will feature the release of Planes, which may prove to be wonderful. On paper, however, it is one of the most shameful marketing ploys disguised as movies this side of G.I. Joe/Transformers/Battleship. Yes, Pixar is becoming Hasbro while DreamWorks Animation has become complacent in most of their endeavors. Consumers are not blind to this, and it is having an impact in the industry.

Kim Hollis: I tend to think that it's a quality issue more than any sort of real fatigue. Edwin's analysis of recent films in the genre was pretty much on the nose. People will still go out to see them because it's nice to take the family out for a movie every now and again, but they've learned to be more discerning. Studios need to remember that story and characters are the crucial ingredient for success here.