Weekend Wrap-Up

Tron Derezzes the Competition

By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower

December 19, 2010

Decapitation frisbee is all the rage in the high-tech world.

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With the holiday season in full swing, the movie industry delivered its usual December glut of quality releases into theaters, aiming to claim a piece of the huge holiday box office pie. Three new titles made their debuts, while a pair of others platformed into wide release. The end result is approximately $90 million worth of box office split five ways. As expected, the feature with the most impressive visual effects won the weekend, albeit with a total that will disappoint some.

Roughly a year ago when the first trailer for Tron Legacy was revealed, movie goers took notice of something that looked…shiny. Almost 30 years after the release of the original Disney spectacle that celebrated style over substance, there were not a lot of people clamoring for a sequel but the ones who were happened to be loud, repetitive and obsessed. After the relative triumphs of various Tron-related products such as videogames as well as the career re-ascension of Jeff Bridges, Disney warmed to the idea of trying to create a franchise from one of their most intriguing old school properties. After all, Tron had been a modest hit in 1982, earning $33 million or the 2010 ticket price equivalent of $84 million. With the right combination of splashy visuals, an IMAX-focused release could dominate at the box office.

Alas, Tron Legacy has fallen a bit short of the lofty expectations placed upon a $200 million production, at least in the short term. Tron Legacy is the number one film of the weekend, however, earning an estimated $43.6 million. That total reflects a lackluster per-location average of $12,634 from an ultra-wide release in 3,451 venues. In addition, this is only the 13th largest debut for the month of December. When Disney placed Tron Legacy on the holiday schedule, we sincerely doubt that their expectation was a mid-40s debut.


Still, there are some positives here. As BOP has repeatedly stressed over the years, December box office is its own unique entity with artificially depressed opening weekends followed by tremendous legs. Out of the 18 December releases that opened north of $35 million, 15 earned at least $200 million domestically. Only the word-of-mouth clunker Ocean’s Twelve and Marley & Me, a Christmas Day release, failed to reach the $180 million plateau. Among the prior dozen $40 million December debuts, each one has earned at least $200 million domestically. Effectively, what we can take from this information is that barring something unforeseen, Tron Legacy should be a wash for Disney on the domestic side with international receipts determining the project’s overall success or failure.

For those of you wondering about Marley & Me as well as last season’s Sherlock Holmes, both of which had lesser multipliers relative to other titles in this discussion, please consider that each one was released on Christmas Day. That gave each film fewer December box office days to inflate their totals. The period from December 20th - 23rd is among the most lucrative on the entire schedule. Titles that lack that opportunity are de facto punished in terms of final box office. This is an issue that Tron Legacy will not face. The most likely comparison for it is King Kong, the 2005 Peter Jackson follow-up to Lord of the Rings that failed to captivate audiences as much as expected. If Tron Legacy suffers a similar fate, it would still be looking at final box office in the area of $190 million. So, most of the information on hand right now points to a draw. BOP will once again run the 12 Days of Box Office starting on Tuesday, so we will track the validity of this assertion into the New Year.

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