2-D Princess Dominates Pre-Avatar 3-D Weekend
By John Hamann
December 13, 2009
It's a tale of two weekends, this one and the next. In this frame, old school animation dominates the box office in the form of Disney's The Princess and the Frog, whereas next weekend brings the next big thing to movie screens, in the form of the 3-D Avatar. Our only true wide opener this weekend is Invictus, Clint Eastwood's latest master-class work with stellar performances from Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. Invictus is a film that could reap a lot of award attention, but would need at least a small victory in terms of box office to catch the attention of Oscar voters. Finally, we have the now weekends-old battle between The Blind Side (David) and Twilight: New Moon (Goliath), and thankfully Goliath is taking a beating, after dominating the opening round.
Our number one film of the weekend is the old school The Princess and the Frog, Disney's 2-D plunge into a 3-D world. There were a lot of questions heading into the release of this one, as no one knew if this almost old-fashioned story would still strike a chord with young audiences and families. Disney also chose to use their old school release pattern for holiday season animation, starting with a limited run on only two screens, which is similar to what they did in the early 1990s with films like Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. The Princess and the Frog did very well in limited release, scoring $786,000 in the first weekend (venue average of $393,000), and $748,000 in the second weekend (venue average $373,855, and a drop of only 4%). With these early scores, we knew Princess and the Frog was going to be a success, but how big of one? Aladdin earned $196,000 when it was on two screens in 1992, and then opened to $19.3 million. Pocahontas earned $2.7 million from six screens in 1995, before going wide with an opening of $29.5 million, and 1997's Hercules earned $852,000 from its two screens before earning $21.5 million over its first wide frame.
The Princess and the Frog did finish in the number one spot this weekend with a gross of $25 million from a quite wide 3,434 venues. It had a venue average of $7,280. The question remains: Is this opening good enough financially for Disney to spawn more 2-D animated films? The easy answer is likely no, as this score is far from breakout status; however, legs could spell the difference. Tracking was expecting $25-35 million, so to swing at the low end of such a wide range is not a good start, considering this is a Disney animated film, with a huge marketing campaign working behind it. On the other hand, it did beat the last wide opening 2-D animated production, Curious George, which opened to $14.7 million (albeit on almost 1,000 fewer screens) in February 2006. The non-Disney Curious George went on to earn about $58 million, or about four times its opening. Princess also beat the last Disney 2-D effort, Home on the Range, as that one opened to a bleak $13.9 million in April 2004, and went on to earn only $50 million, against a production budget of $110 million (yes, ouch). Maybe most importantly, it wasn't close to the last 2-D Disney hit, Lilo & Stitch, which opened to $35 million eight years ago, and went on to earn $146 million domestically, and another $100 million overseas. With the opening weekend of The Princess and the Frog now on display, we know it's never going to be a Lilo and Stitch (best case scenario), but it will be better than Home on the Range (worst case scenario)? Will it end up as a disappointment for the folks at Disney? Probably, but Christmas may throw a curveball into the analysis.