Rango, Adjustment Bureau Give Hope to Box Office
By John Hamann
March 6, 2011
Finally. After seven weekends of questionable films leading the box office (like the 6% fresh Roommate and the 19% fresh Just Go With It), we have two films leading the box office that are actually good. After what felt like seven weekends of pain, Johnny Depp and Matt Damon are here to save us. Openers this weekend include Depp's animated Rango from director Gore Verbinski; The Adjustment Bureau starring Damon and the lovely Emily Blunt in a sci-fi picture based on a Phillip K. Dick story; Beastly with Alex Pettyfer trying to get teens to forget I Am Number Four; and Take Me Home Tonight, an '80s comedy from the writers of That 70s Show. Had it been one of the last seven weekends on the calendar, only the former two would have opened.
Our number one film is the animated Rango, re-teaming Johnny Depp and his Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski. When I first started seeing trailers for Rango, I wondered if the concept was too "out there" for young kids, but with a sales pitch that featured the Depp brand almost more than Rango's, the film worked, likely to a wider audience than just kids. Rango earned a not bad $38 million from an ultra-wide venue count of 3,917. The Paramount release had a venue average of $9,701. While the opening was strong, Rango was an expensive film to make. George Lucas and ILM spent $135 million making Rango, so the CG western is going to need an opening-to-final box office multiplier well over 3.0 – and that's just to match the budget. With prints and advertising, the overall budget for Rango was likely more than $200 million. Will an animated western play in Bulgaria?
Co-production credit on Rango goes to Nickelodeon Movies, as Paramount tries to rebuild the relationship with the kid company. Lately, the two companies have had their hands in some live action films, with disastrous results. Together they made The Last Airbender, M. Night Shyamalan's Razzie Award winner, and Imagine That, the Eddie Murphy vehicle that cost $55 million to make and earned $16 million domestically. In the late '90s and early 2000s, Paramount and Nickelodeon put out a slew of animated features, some successful, some not. It started with The Rugrats Movie, which earned $100 million domestically against a $24 million budget, and it earned an additional $40 million overseas, when it wasn't even cool to do so. Other Paramount/Nickelodeon titles included Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, which earned $100 million worldwide against a $30 million budget; Rugrats in Paris ($103 million worldwide, $30 million budget); and SpongeBob SquarePants ($30 million opening, $140 million worldwide, $30 million budget).
For Johnny Depp, Rango is the second success the oddball actor has had in animation. Depp did the voice work in 2005's The Corpse Bride, which is still in the top 25 opening weekends for the month of September. The Corpse Bride opened to $20 million, but wasn't a real hit with domestic audiences (it was maybe a little TOO weird), as it had a domestic total of $53 million, but added another $64 million from overseas audiences. Depp jumps back to live action with the the next chapter in the Pirates series, On Stranger Tides, then the more serious Rum Diary, based on the Hunter S. Thompson book.