Monday Morning Quarterback Part II
By BOP Staff
July 17, 2013

Bryce Harper blames him for the Home Run Derby loss.

Kim Hollis: Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim, a celebration of giant robots battling enormous monsters, opened to $37.3 million domestically and $91.3 million worldwide against a reported budget of $190 million. What are your thoughts on the opening weekend as well as the project itself?

Jay Barney: This opening for Pacific Rim is just fine. I am sure studio executives were hoping for a breakout performance here in the United States, but in the long run, I think the U.S. dollars were only part of the equation. It should be a great popcorn option here, but it will play much more like the old Godzilla movies, and be more popular overseas.

In one sense, Pacific Rim succeeded where The Lone Ranger failed. When I saw the trailers to both movies, I think I joined a lot of people and sighed, not believing studios would put their creative energies into such projects. Both had an over the top, unbelievable element to them. The Lone Ranger came across as ridiculous where Pacific Rim is being looked at as a legit summer option. Pacific Rim is surprising with its fairly good reviews, and I think people are walking away entertained.

Bruce Hall: Despite this being on the low end of expectations, I suspect the good people at Warner Bros will sleep soundly enough tonight. This was a film that a lot of people were going to mistake as a Transformers ripoff, since the average moviegoer does not spend as much time thinking about giant fighting robots as say, someone like me. Also working against the film was a lot of unnecessary attention being paid to supposedly poor tracking in the weeks leading up to release. Neither of these things are really relevant in light of the finished product, but from a marketing standpoint this movie already had a narrow demographic. Any additional level of misconception or bad press does not help. So all things considered, Pacific Rim has come up a little short domestically, but I think internationally is where its primary appeal will be. And I am willing to bet this thing moves once it hits VOD and BluRay.

You can't see it, of course, but there's already a space for it on my shelf.

Edwin Davies: I think this is a pretty solid opening considering the kind of film that it is - an original property with no stars and inspired by a sub-genre that most people aren't that familiar with - and considering that it was up against two sequels, one a runaway hit and the other from one of the most consistent box office performers of the last ten years. I'm sure everyone involved would have liked the film to pull a World War Z and become a surprise smash, but giant robot films apparently only do big business if they are inspired by toys, rather than the inspiration for them.

As Jay and Bruce have both said, the domestic market was probably never the key piece of the puzzle with Pacific Rim since it's almost certainly going to play better overseas. I'm particularly interested to see how it does in China and Hong Kong, where much of the film is set. If it can really crack that market, it might be looking at a final worldwide total of half a billion dollars even if it doesn't crack $100 million domestically. Then again, word-of-mouth around the film has been very, very positive, and there aren't that many big action blockbusters coming out in the next few weeks, so there is a chance that it might hold up pretty well over the next few weekends.

Shalimar Sahota: As the release drew closer, my projections for its opening grew smaller. Its ridiculously crazy concept of robots versus monsters is just as likely to keep some people away. However, while it is borrowing a lot of elements, for an original film that’s flying by largely on that concept, it’s a good opening. People may make the comparison to Transformers, but I can actually see a lot of young children warming to this, and on that front I think it could potentially hold well. Also, we all know that overseas is where it’s really at for Pacific Rim.

Max Braden: What surprised me was how well it was received. I know a lot of people - adults - who came back from the movie and scored it really well. The trailer of course made the movie look utterly ridiculous, but I guess this is one of those spectacle movies that if you don't take it seriously you can sit back and enjoy it. What surprised me was with all the positive return buzz, I expected that a lot more people had gone to see it than this result indicates. I also expected Pacific Rim to win the weekend and leave Grown Ups 2 behind. I wouldn't call $38 million significantly higher than Hugh Jackman's $27 million opening for Real Steel, and nothing compared to the Transformers series, but I do expect this to sell well overseas.

Tim Briody: As I stated in the Friday Box Office column, there was a set audience who was already there the moment Pacific Rim was first revealed. It was never able to expand beyond that core and that's why it settled for the bronze on the weekend. A couple months from now it'll turn out just fine thanks to international box office, but I still can't shake the feeling of money being left on the table.

David Mumpower: I will be the optimist *and* the cynic on this one. Domestically, I believe that Pacific Rim has exceeded expectations. So many people gave up on the project once early tracking was released, which is like quitting on a sports team because some moron sports talk host says they're done. Tracking always sucks and I will never understand why so many people give it so much credence. $37.3 million for a new property is a solid state for Pacific Rim in North America.

The problem with our saying that it will do well enough overseas to justify its budget is that it probably won't. A $190 million budget means a negative cost somewhere in the $235-$250 million range. A movie like that needs $500 million to be profitable, and the North American side of the equation has to be in the 40% range. With Pacific Rim, we are talking about a movie that should wind up with $125 million, give or take $25 million. That buffer will be determined by its word-of-mouth. That leaves the rest of the world carrying the load on its box office. Pacific Rim will need a minimum of $300 million overseas, which is more than Oz the Great and Powerful and Man of Steel have managed thus far. In fact, only three films released in 2013 have managed that feat. I am reticent to cede such totals to Pacific Rim simply because its director and one of its stars has international appeal. I suspect Pacific Rim will go down as a well intended concept that is a box office draw.

Numbers analysis aside, Pacific Rim is a phenomenally entertaining popcorn flick; it is also the type of project that Hollywood should attempt more often. It has franchise potential even if the first movie misfires slightly at the box office. And it has a true visionary in del Toro driving the action. He is one of the few people in the industry today who understands that special effects have to be special. Simply describing them as such does not make them jump off the page. People keep asking what the difference is between Pacific Rim and Transformers. The honest answer is that Transformers is more populist yet Pacific Rim has exponentially better architecture. One is a Ford Taurus while the other is a, well, I guess I should say Jaguar.

This project at the worst is a new version of Starship Troopers, a pretty movie whose quality proves divisive depending on the viewer. At best, it provides all of the visual stimulation of Life of Pi with a less obfuscating story. Personally, I liked the part where the giant robot punched the alien lizard.

Kim Hollis: I do think that Warner Bros did Pacific Rim a disservice by holding back on the marketing. I can't tell you the number of people who gave me blank stares when I mentioned wanting to see the movie over the weekend. And a lot of those people were solidly in the target demographic for the film. I mean, giant robots fighting old-timey monsters! It should have been easy to sell.

While I think this is an okay result, my instinct tells me that money was left on the table. With a little more effort, they might have won the weekend. I wonder if the money they saved on marketing was worth it.