Home Is Where The Box Office Is
By John Hamann
March 29, 2015
If it’s a weekend featuring a DreamWorks Animation title, the box office would normally be in trouble. This weekend, Home breaks the usual trend we’ve seen from the publicly traded production company, but is the opening enough to stop the cavalcade of write-downs DreamWorks has seen recently?
This weekend should be considered the pre-Furious 7 frame at the box office, as the sure-to-be-huge Universal blockbuster is going to change the box office landscape dramatically next weekend. This frame gives next weekend’s counter-programming options a time to shine before they get buried. One of our new releases is Home, the latest from DreamWorks Animation. This time, the project is a little different, as the toon features a unique set of performers including Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez and The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons. DreamWorks was looking to shake the negativity this weekend, as their last few films have not performed well enough and led to massive restructuring at the animation studio.
Our other major opener is Get Hard, the buddy comedy with Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell. After advertising the life out of it and being subject to catcalls about the content, it was going to be interesting to see how audiences respond. Lastly, we get something we hardly see anymore – an unexpected, last-minute expansion of a VOD title in It Follows, the very well-reviewed horror title released by Radius and The Weinstein Company. Could it translate a $10,000 venue average last weekend into a decent wider opening this weekend?
As expected, our number one film is Home, the animated feature distributed by Fox and made by DreamWorks Animation. Since the release of Madagascar 3: Escape to Africa in 2012, DreamWorks Animation has struggled, releasing a crop of so-so releases that, while not being out-and-out flops, have left the company with a series of write-downs they couldn’t afford. Those films include Rise of the Guardians, which earned $306 million worldwide against a $145 million production budget; Turbo, which earned $282 million versus a $135 million budget; Mr. Peabody & Sherman, which had a $145 million budget and earned $272 million worldwide; and Penguins of Madagascar, which earned $370 million worldwide against a $132 million budget.
The studio had two hits: The Croods, earning $587 million worldwide against a $135 million budget; and How To Train Your Dragon 2, which earned $618 million internationally against a $145 million budget. While the hits were decent, they didn’t make up for the drag caused by four films that cost a combined $557 million, and earned $1.23 billion. While the cost versus revenue might look good on paper, it’s important to keep in mind that DreamWorks has to share revenues with the distributor, Fox, which means they have to do even better than the "three times the budget" multiplier we normally see to earn a profit.
Home needed to break the streak and behave more like a How To Train Your Dragon or The Croods. Once again, DreamWorks spent way too much on another release - this time it was $135 million on a 94 minute animated feature. The studio had to be pleased to see a first day gross of $15 million, with another $650,000 coming from Thursday previews. The opening day almost doubles that of Mr. Peabody & Sherman, which got started with a sad $8 million over an earlier March weekend last year. It’s also healthier than the $10 million Penguins of Madagascar brought in on its first Friday and the $6.6 million turned in by Turbo, although both of these films were Wednesday releases. Home was able to use Spring Break and a lack of animated features (SpongeBob has been out for eight weeks) to its advantage, and score a solid weekend take of $54 million from 3,708 venues. The opening is a solid increase over The Croods ($43.6 million) and How To Train Your Dragon 2 ($49.5 million). Now, Home just needs to find some domestic legs and overseas firepower. One of these will be easy, one might not.