Kim Hollis: Planes: Fire and Rescue, the sequel to Disney's cash grab from a year ago, earned $17.5 million this weekend. What do you think of this result?
Monday Morning Quarterback Part II
July 23, 2014
Matthew Huntley: If this movie wasn't tied in with a whole slew of merchandise, I'd call this figure a disappointment (given the movie's surprisingly high $50 million production budget), but as it is, it will open up a large enough window of awareness that the studio will still turn a hefty profit. This is good news for Disney, but likely not for audiences, as it means we'll be subjected to yet another sophomoric animated movie from the Mouse House, perhaps even another Planes sequel. Granted, I haven't seen any of these movies, but judging by their trailers, they're full of lame jokes, puns and predictable stories. I'm speculating when I say this, but it's a shame this is the only offering out there for kids right now.
Edwin Davies: As with The Purge: Anarchy, I think that this result is not as bad as it could have been considering that the first film wasn't a huge hit or particularly well-liked. That it was only a few million short of the first one's debut probably says more about the lack of anything for family audiences than it does any goodwill for the first film, and will probably allow it to chug along nicely for the next month or so. But, as with Planes and the Cars films, the box office is far less important than the merchandizing, the profits from which will dwarf whatever Planes: Fire and Rescue makes in its theatrical run.
Jay Barney: I was a strong defender of Disney's decision to throw Planes into the summer box office slate last year, and I don't mind them doing it this year either. That said I probably won't take my son to see Planes: Fire and Rescue, but if you look at the landscape, there is actually a chance that Fire and Rescue could repeat 2013's success. Yes, the opening is a little lower and the budget was about the same, but Disney has placed this film very well against competition. I've always thought one of the reasons Planes did so well last year was its place in the schedule. It was released on August 2nd and literally didn't have any direct competition until Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs in late September. Fire and Rescue appears to be quite lucky, the kids schedule is looking pretty devoid of screen time for the rest of July and August. Fire and Rescue could get attention by the fact it is the only kids option out there.
Reagen Sulewski: The biggest thing I worry about with this result is the overall reputation of Disney as it relates to quality. Disney can absorb a few body blows in terms of quality like this, but the biggest problem they could have is in diluting their brand to the point of just being another Fox or Sony Animation. This whole sub-franchise business has been penny-wise, pound-foolish, in my opinion, and they'd be wise to call it a day after this.
David Mumpower: To Reagen's point, even though this is a Disney release rather than a Pixar one, my concern is simple. I doubt that a lot of people understand the discussion. The brand that becomes damaged by such low quality knock-offs is that all of the trust built by Pixar over a 15 year period feels like it has been varnished in just a couple of years.
Pixar reached a crescendo with Toy Story 3, their best performer, and then there was an immediate downward spiral with Cars 2. Brave was okay but not up to their usual standards to the point that Frozen was clearly the film Brave wanted to be. Mountains University is a gentle tale that feels like an attempt to remind people to keep buying Mike and Sully toys rather than a story that needed to be told. And the two Planes offerings lack subtlety to the point that they should have MSRP price tags on each plane. Pixar loved their brand and were protective of it.
Disney is mistreating a wonderful property in order to pad their bottom line. I expect better from them than this. Planes: Fire and Rescue will earn money via toy sales and international revenue. Those gains are ill-gotten, though.
Kim Hollis: Sex Tape, the comedy that reunited Bad Teacher's Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz, earned $14.6 million in its debut this weekend. What do you think of this result?
Matthew Huntley: When I first saw the trailer for Sex Tape a couple months ago, I really thought Sony had a hit on its hands, especially given the audience reaction to the preview (people were laughing a lot at what they saw), but now that seems to be an isolated incident, because poor word-of-mouth and the pitiful critical reception have clearly caught up with it. A lot of people on social media were saying the movie's title is to blame, but I don't think that's the case (to me, "Sex Tape" is catchy and direct); I think the problem is probably the content itself (I haven't seen it yet), which is that it's simply not funny. This isn't good for a movie that reportedly cost upwards of $40 million just to produce. Rest assured, we won't be seeing any movies in the future that are marketed with the lines, "From the studio/people who brought you Sex Tape."
Edwin Davies: I also thought that this had a shot at being a hit, if only because it was coming hot on the heels of Cameron Diaz's previous comedy hit The Other Woman. I now wonder if the novelty of a comedy featuring three female leads was more important to that film's success than the contributions of any one cast member, because Sex Tape clearly couldn't coast on her name alone. I think the ads were a problem for this one since they weren't particularly funny, and they made the film seem incredibly tech illiterate considering the machinations of the story. "No one understands the cloud!" seems like an idea pitched at older people who don't understand how iPads work, rather than the younger audience who should be the target demographic for a raunchy comedy. Setting aside the quality and bad word-of-mouth, which obviously hurt the film as the weekend progressed, I wonder if the problems are much deeper and tied into the whole set-up. The film probably would have worked better if it was set 20 years ago, when Sex Tapes were actually, you know, tapes, and losing one was something that didn't require a lot of poorly thought through technobabble.
Jay Barney: Of the openers, this one seems to be in the most trouble. First, its opening against the production costs is problematic, as Sex Tape would need significant holds to stretch a $15 million opening against a $40 million dollar budget. The weekly drops are going to lesson the chances of this reaching profitability very quickly, and its prospects are not going to get better.
Opening in fourth doesn't help, as there is little or no buzz. I suppose the one bright spot is the lack of strong competition at this point in the summer. Transformers 4, Tammy, Planes Fire and Rescue, The Purge Anarchy, and a few films that have been out for over a month to compete with the film. It would seem Sex Tape could get some traction, but the chances are slim.
The other point is that there are three wide new releases next weekend. Sex Tape may be in the top ten for two or three weeks.
Reagen Sulewski: I have to agree with the idea of a mismatch between target audience and content. They thought they were selling this to hip 20 and 30 somethings, but it was really an older demographic movie, but one that was too raunchy for their tastes. This kind of thing can be done - look at Date Night - but it's a fine calibration. It also suffers from over promising and under-delivering - so not only did it scare off people with the promise of raunch, it didn't give the people that wanted it that. Just a creative misfire all around.
David Mumpower: Combining Jason and Reagen's points, Sex Tape is skewing older so while I understand why Jason is worried about its future, I will be surprised if it earns less than $40 million domestically. Is that a good enough result for a film starring Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz? Absolutely not. It is not a financial loser, though. The pinch is felt in the opportunity cost because this pairing should frontline a wildly successful comedy rather than a $15 million opener. Sony aimed for Something about Mary or Horrible Bosses, raucous high concept comedies bursting with life. Instead, they have settled for a performance that is right in line with Blended. Both films had star power to burn, but nothing about the ads enticed viewers.
I also believe that this summer has demonstrated that some established actors are being put out to pasture by a new generation of consumers. That over-30 market Hollywood has relied upon for decades now is starting to be infiltrated by people who were teens when the Internet became ubiquitous. That are savvier consumers who need to be enticed more to enter a theater rather than watch something on their phone.