Monday Morning Quarterback Part I
By BOP Staff
December 17, 2013
Kim Hollis: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug earned $73.6 million, down over $10 million from the opening weekend of the first Hobbit film (An Unexpected Journey). Why did the audience not expand?
Edwin Davies: It's probably worth mentioning that there have been a few factors which people have used to explain why Desolation of Smaug didn't do as well as An Unexpected Journey (aside from the fact that it has a far worse title), and these tend to be things that the former had to contend with which the latter didn't. Firstly, adverse weather, which can depress box office somewhat by making people think that it's not essential that they go and see The Hobbit this weekend. Secondly, An Unexpected Journey basically had the weekend to itself last year, with no other film earning more than $8 million. Desolation of Smaug faced off against three films that earned twice that much this weekend, and some people might have opted to see Frozen or The Hunger Games instead. Personally, I don't think either factor would be strong enough to have this much of an impact, but they could have chipped away at some of the demand.
What, then, is responsible for this dip? Well, we've said in the past that the quality of a film will be reflected in how people respond to its sequel, and I think we're seeing that in effect here. The first Hobbit was not a very good movie, and was generally seen as something of a disappointment in comparison to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which were not only hugely popular movies but were critical smashes as well, with all three garnering superlative reviews and nominations for Best Picture in their respective years. Enthusiasm for the first Hobbit was already a little bit muted considering its pedigree, and I think that its quality put off many casual fans who might now be waiting to hear what the word-of-mouth is on Desolation of Smaug before checking it out. (It's also worth noting that even though The Hobbit made $300 million, it sold roughly 15 million fewer tickets than Fellowship of the Ring, which was far and away the least popular of the Lord of the Ring films, so inflation and premium ticket prices have obscured the fact that there had already been significant audience erosion.) That it still opened to such a high number is a testament to the loyalty of the fans, but the bloom is off the rose somewhat at this point.
Matthew Huntley: No one could have put it better than Edwin I think, although in addition to the first installment's lackluster reviews/audience reception, I'd say the quality of The Desolation of Smaug also played a role in its eroded box-office return. To me, it's an inferior film compared to its predecessor, which itself merely ranged from "OK" to "decent" to "pretty good." Incidentally, I feel the same way about the LOTR trilogy.
In any case, perhaps word-of-mouth spread quickly that Smaug is just not that enjoyable, exiting or consequential, and I'm wondering, too, if audiences are more privy to the idea the studio is simply trying to milk this franchise for more than its worth. In spite of the "disappointing" opening weekend, though, The Hobbit saga is already a massive hit, based on the box-office return of the first one alone, and it would seem any money that Smaug and There and Back Again make will be pure gravy, but I have a feeling fans are starting to feel betrayed, or at least uninterested, by the listless storytelling.