Top 12 Film Industry Stories of 2007 #11: Previously Free TV Somehow Opens to $74 Million

By Kim Hollis

December 27, 2007

Maggie stands firm for the screenwriters.

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"I can't believe we're paying to see something we get on TV for free! If you ask me, everybody in this theater is a giant sucker! Especially you!" --Homer Simpson, The Simpsons Movie

As it turns out, there were a lot of suckers in the movie theater on the weekend of July 29, 2007 – including me. After airing on network television for 18 seasons, Simpsons fans finally got a chance to see their favorite family on the big screen. Given the fact that some diehard fans had lost enthusiasm for the show in recent years and also realizing that Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie are easy to find on television every single day, expectations for the movie's debut weekend were tempered by studio executives. In the end, however, The Simpsons Movie had a North American debut weekend of $74 million, making it the third highest animated film debut ever, behind only Shrek 2 and Shrek the Third.

The success of The Simpsons Movie is even more impressive when you consider the fact that it is a PG-13 rated flick with not quite the same family-friendliness of contemporaries like Ratatouille or Shrek. Sure, it's a show that people watch in their living rooms on Sundays, but sometimes it's not necessarily a show that is appropriate for all ages. The Simpsons Movie pushes the envelope even a bit further, with some language and cartoon nudity that would never even be considered on the television side.


20th Century Fox had to be thrilled with the result, as even though The Simpsons Movie went through a number of stops and starts, it still carried a budget of only around $75 million. On top of the $71.8 million domestic debut, the film also took in $96 million internationally in that first frame of theatrical release. By the end of its run, The Simpsons Movie earned $183.1 million in North America and $342.5 million overseas, indicating that there is a lot of life still left in a show that has been airing for nearly two decades.

What was the key to The Simpsons Movie's success? Beyond the fact that these iconic characters are truly beloved and practically a part of many people's lives, Fox mounted a marketing campaign that was nothing short of brilliant. Audiences across the world were stunned when a surprise trailer aired in front of Ice Age: The Meltdown, and things simply accelerated from there. A clever trailer that took jabs at 3-D films made fans laugh, while attention was also garnered in other, more creative ways. 7-Elevens across the country were converted to Kwik-E-Marts, a contest was undertaken to determine which "Springfield" across the U.S. would be considered the official one, and life-sized Simpsons families could be seen sitting in movie lobbies. Thanks to Burger King, it was possible to "Simpsonize" oneself – or submit a photo that would then be converted to a Simpsons-esque character.

With a DVD that was released just in time for Christmas, the success of The Simpsons Movie hasn't come to an end just yet. It's sure to have been one of the most popular titles for Christmas giving. As Maggie implies during the movie's credits, maybe a sequel isn't a crazy notion at all.



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