Monday Morning Quarterback Part One
By BOP Staff
April 4, 2006
Everyone really *does* love RaymondKim Hollis: So, I suppose we ought to talk about Ice Age: The Meltdown. It exploded into theaters with an estimated $68.0 million, making it the second largest opener ever outside of the summer and holiday box office season. Only Shrek 2, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles have managed a larger animation debut. This starting weekend number is pretty good, right?
David Mumpower: I'm going to go out on a limb and say yes.
Tim Briody: Considering it blew the doors off of pretty much every prediction out there. I guess it would be considered above average, yes.
David Mumpower: 'Wow' seems like appropriate terminology, to be sure.
Kim Hollis: I did think that $60 million was the low water mark for it, but almost $70 million is monstrous.
David Mumpower: Kim and I have had a huge difference of opinion about this. I thought that a reasonable scenario would be a duplication of the original's performance, placing it in the $45 million range. We were amused that neither Hollywood Reporter nor Variety was willing to stick their neck out on the tracking data, too. The variables are simply too extreme with children's films.
People love to watch animals chase nutsTim Briody: It probably also helped that the marketing focused mainly on that lovable rapscallion, Scrat.
Kim Hollis: Right, Tim. One thing families can be certain of is that Ice Age is safe. There are no unknowns when it comes to a sequel like this, even if many people saw the original film as a lackluster product. Scrat is like the Madagascar penguins.
David Mumpower: He's five minutes of entertainment in a 90 minute movie?
Kim Hollis: Well, yes.
Tim Briody: Which is why a film like Hoodwinked was gauged a lower performer (and in fact widely expected to flat out bomb entirely). I'm sure there's a Hoodwinked 2 on the way, and that's quite likely to be a breakout film rather than a surprise hit.
Kim Hollis: You're right. Hoodwinked 2 is on the horizon.
Tim Briody: It's a rather astounding fact that Ice Age: The Meltdown is now in the top 20 openings of all time.
Maybe it's because two is bigger than oneKim Hollis: In an age of box office contraction, why do you think the Ice Age sequel showed over 50% improvement from the original's opening?
Tim Briody: It's the DVD age and it's an animated movie targeted at kids. It's had four years for kids to get familiar with a woolly mammoth voiced by the guy from Everybody Loves Raymond.
Kim Hollis: I think there are a few reasons. As I mentioned earlier, it is safe and easy, and we've had a dearth of widely-targeted family entertainment in recent months. It had a broad audience to draw upon and was a familiar, light product. Also, we theoretically haven't had a "known commodity" CGI film since Madagascar, so perhaps audiences were just a bit hungry for it.
David Mumpower: The perception these days is that people only venture out to theaters for "big" projects. While I am certainly not someone who considers an Ice Age sequel worthy of such acclamations, it's obvious that many families do. These genteel CGI animated comedies are safe and shiny. It's a potent combination in an era of mediocrity.
Tim Briody: Keeps the rugrats occupied for a couple hours, and the adults might get a laugh or two that goes right over the heads of the kids. Everyone wins.
David Mumpower: Reagen Sulewski is unavailable this weekend, but he has a theory I like about the nature of CGI animation films. He feels that people expect two a year, nicely spaced out between the summer and holiday seasons. When you look at 2005, we had Madagascar in May and Chicken Little in November. It was just time for another big one to explode.
Cars needs to sell at sticker priceKim Hollis: Does the Ice Age 2 opening place any additional pressure on Pixar's Cars?
Tim Briody: I don't think so, because Pixar has yet to have a disappointment. But it's entirely possible that if Cars opens under $70 million, it could be considered one. Which is laughable, but that's how the system works.
David Mumpower: I agree with Tim's comment, but I think it's unrelated to the pressure on Cars. This is already what I consider to be the most important title on the 2006 calendar. Now, in addition to the onus of being the first Pixar/Disney merged product, it has to face the peril of not being the largest CGI animation family film in an eight week period. That is clearly added pressure from my perspective.
Kim Hollis: There sure are a lot of Cars naysayers out there, but I really don't get it. The animation looks superb, and the trailers have been clever and targeted toward the right demographic. The complaint is that the trailer doesn't look good, but if people dig back deep, they'll remember that no Pixar trailer has been outstanding. They hold the good stuff back rather than throwing it all out there in the previews.
David Mumpower: A comparison I would make here is when a musician records a follow-up CD to a previous blockbuster. While the new content might show extreme maturation and a growing confidence in how to create a particular, unique sound, they could still discover that the consumer base has moved on to a new sound. Ice Age and Ice Age 2 are inferior to *any* Pixar release, but it's not like quality matters a lick in terms of box office success these days.
Kim Hollis: One issue for Cars that Ice Age didn't have to deal with is that Over the Hedge, Monster House and Barnyard (and also Garfield 2) open in very close proximity to it. I'm not completely certain that box office will doom it, but if Cars is perceived as "not as good" as other Pixar films, that's going to be a problem.
David Mumpower: I think that's an exceptional point, Kim. Ice Age: The Meltdown had no onus upon it in surpassing the quality of the original film. Cars is up against the entire Pixar catalogue. It's a case of differing expectations. I still expect Cars to be a $250 million performer, but will that be enough to satisfy critics? I'm not sure.
Color us surprisedKim Hollis: Does Ice Age 2 strike you as one of the films that should have been one of the five biggest openings of the past year?
Tim Briody: It wasn't on the short list, that's for sure.
David Mumpower: Absolutely not, but that's the position it has unexpectedly attained. In a way, this is the biggest box office shock for me (in a positive way) since The Passion of the Christ or, at the very least, Fantastic Four.
Kim Hollis: It's nice to be talking about the good side of the box office for a second week in a row, isn't it?
David Mumpower: Amen, sister.
Tim Briody: 2006 revenues are up less than 1% from this point in 2005! That's cause for celebration!
David Mumpower: The slump is over! The slump is over! PS: As long as we ignore ticket price inflation.
Tim Briody: I cleverly left out the bit about ticket sales being down..oops.
David Mumpower: You work for NATO, don't you?