Angry Birds Slingshot to the Top
By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis
May 22, 2016
The birds were angry this weekend, my friends. They stormed out from their smartphones and tablets, ferociously assaulting their sworn enemies. While the pigs were reduced to bacon bits, movie-goers across North America watched a different type of avian flu evolve into a pandemic. The end result is that a civil war took a backseat to a species-based genocide. Children’s entertainment is much more bloodthirsty than you might remember.
Yes, the number one film in North America this weekend is based on a cellphone app. On a seemingly unrelated note, you’re old. Whether you play Angry Birds or not, you’ve undoubtedly heard of these suicidal flyers that will spare no expense or overlook any contraption in their quest for vengeance. Slingshot technology hasn’t been this popular since the days of David and Goliath.
What’s impossible to ignore about Angry Birds is how young the fanbase skews. Kids love the absurd bits of cartoon violence, their equivalent of the Three Stooges or Tom and Jerry/Itchy and Scratchy. That’s why the idea of a movie based on the games has floated around for several years now. As ubiquitous as the marketing arm of Angry Birds might seem, the game has only existed since 2009, making its omnipresent market penetration that much more astounding.
Sony eventually chose to bank on the birds in a big, big way. They spent $73 million on the production budget, somehow persuading even Sean Penn to voice one of the parts. Then, Sony invested more than $300 million in marketing this film, anticipating that a blockbuster would lead to a franchise as well as a fortune in licensing revenue. By Sony’s own account, they are more than $400 million in Angry Birds the movie, a refreshingly honest take that Warner Bros. wasn’t honest enough to admit about their failed Batman v. Superman endeavor. Sony obviously needs Angry Birds to delight a lot of the under-10 demographic to see any sort of return on their investment.
The opening results are largely positive. Despite arriving only two weeks after Captain America: Civil War, Angry Birds managed to win the weekend, earning $39 million in the process. Exhibited in 3,932 locations, its per-venue average of $9,919 is perfectly fine, albeit not dazzling by any stretch. While $39 million on its own is nowhere near enough to justify a $400 million budget, the number that matters is its worldwide take of $143 million, which includes two weekends of international revenue.
China was especially receptive to kamikaze revenge, paying $29.2 million to watch the birds seek vengeance. As BOP has noted, Hollywood’s return on investment in China is modest relative to other international markets due to governmental regulations there. The end result of this is that Angry Birds the movie still has a lot of work to do for Sony to earn a lot of revenue. The corporation is playing the long game here, though. They are following the same playbook as Universal Pictures did with Despicable Me. The first film is simply the introduction. The hope would be that several other titles are possible, each of which will come with its own merchandising opportunities.