Top 10 Film Industry Stories of 2011: #8

North American Movie-Goers Less Animated in 2011

By Kim Hollis

December 27, 2011

Look, she's screaming at him. We totally need that!

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In 2010, animation was a hot ticket at the box office, with four of the top ten movies of the year coming from that genre. Between them, those four films brought in more than $1.1 billion in North American dollars alone. The wave was riding high, and with some highly anticipated sequels coming in 2011, that trend seemed certain to continue. Except…it didn’t.

In fact, the best performing animated film in 2011, Cars 2, looks likely to finish in seventh for domestic box office with a North American total of $191.4 million. This total is $26 million lower than last year’s fourth best performing animated film, How to Train Your Dragon. We actually have to go all the way back to 2002 to find an animated film in the top ten for the year that finishes with a lower total than Cars 2 – and that movie is Ice Age, whose $176.3 million domestic finish still inflation adjusts quite a bit higher than Cars 2’s number for 2011.

It wasn’t all gloom and doom, of course. The first animated film of the year, Gnomeo and Juliet, came on pretty strong. A comparatively inexpensive movie to make (some reports have it with a $10 million production budget, though it’s likely higher than that), the Shakespeare knockoff had a debut weekend of $25.4 million, and it finished its North American run with $100 million. Beyond that, we had a number of animated films that finished above their reported budgets in terms of domestic finish, but none of them were stellar in that regard. International numbers had to save the day for a lot of studios that invested in animated properties in 2011.


Other than Gnomeo & Juliet, the year was peppered with middling to blah domestic performers. Those so-so titles would include Rango, which although a terrific little animated film, was only able to pull $123.3 million in North America versus its $135 million budget. Hop was actually a decent earner with $108 million (versus a $63 million budget), but expectations seemed higher and it felt like a slight letdown even with the decent return on investment. The same goes for Rio, which tallied $143.6 million against a $90 million budget and The Smurfs ($142.6 million versus $110 million). Winnie the Pooh, the only new wide release of the bunch to utilize classic animation, just missed its $30 million budget with a domestic total of $26.7 million (and barely got it back even with international numbers).

Then we had the various sequels, all of which underperformed compared to their predecessors. Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil kicked things off by opening to only $4.1 million and taking in $10.1 million at the domestic box office. The original Hoodwinked earned $51.4 million back in 2006, so this was a truly disastrous result for The Weinstein Co. This was a film that couldn’t even make its money back with international receipts, as it only made an additional $7 million or so overseas, meaning it only took in about 50% of its budget in theaters.

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