The Croods Top Spring Box Office Weekend
By John Hamann
March 24, 2013
It’s spring break and there is something for everyone at the movies this weekend. The question, though, is if anyone showed up.
New films this weekend include DreamWorks Animation’s The Croods, distributed by 20th Century Fox. That studio is hoping for a better result than Paramount had with Rise of the Guardians. Also new in release are Olympus Has Fallen, an interesting-looking action flick that unfortunately stars Gerard Butler, Admission, a wish-it-was-better comedy with the lovely Tina Fey and the under-appreciated Paul Rudd, and the nationwide rollout of Spring Breakers, the R-rated bikini pick from Hollywood weirdo Harmony Korine, which is currently the best-reviewed film in this weekend’s batch. This weekend's lineup serves all demographics – there are films that could break out to give us a huge Friday-through-Sunday. We’ve had those thoughts before, though, haven’t we?
Our number one film of the weekend is The Croods, a fact that anyone reading this column likely already knows. Ranking wasn’t important for the $135 million-budgeted 3D feature, only the opening three-day figure. With DreamWorks Animation being a publicly traded company, and a high ratio of their profits dependent on box office, the opening weekend for a film like The Croods is key, as DWA has only one other title to be released in 2013, Turbo. There are no sequels, no quick wins with built-in audiences. DWA has to be sweating the opening of The Croods, as the extrapolation of hit or miss will be quickly calculated, and shares traded based on that.
After a large, $87 million writedown on the $145 million Rise of the Guardians ($23.8 million opening, $103 million domestic total, $300 million worldwide gross), we get a clearer picture of how an animated feature must perform to earn a profit. Doubling the production budget worldwide is not enough, as costs following production are huge. The Croods cost $135 million to make, but with marketing and other costs, a truer cost for this one is likely more like $250 million, which means the stakes are high. A $30 million open for The Croods was simply not enough, and the $40 million that Fox and DreamWorks were estimating would likely make it a push. At least they were able to take the shine off a so-so opening for a very expensive film.
On Friday, The Croods got off to a decent start, earning $11.6 million, which would cause much relief within the halls of DreamWorks Animation. A quick calculation shows that the film would need only a 3.5 weekend multiplier (weekend gross divided by Friday gross) to eclipse the $40 million mark and start the kid flick on what could be a profitable path. How to Train Your Dragon, which opened on the same weekend in 2010, had a first day take of $12.1 million and went on to earn $43.7 million over its opening frame, as it found a 3.6 opening weekend multiplier. On the other hand, Time Magazine at the time said Dragon opened “with a purr, not a roar." Dragon’s opening at the time was met with surprise, as expectations had it opening to $50 million plus.