A question in e-mail:
Love to get your feedback on the blog if you thought the Coraline box office was any good. Does it bode well for my Gaiman movies in the future? Or stop motion for that matter?
For those of you not aware, Coraline brought in an estimated $16.3 million over the weekend, from 2,300 theaters, for $7,100 per theater.
Those are pretty decent numbers, actually. In the stop-motion sub-genre of animated films, it’s the third best opening, after Chicken Run and The Corpse Bride, slightly edging out Wallace & Gromit’s feature-length adventure. If it has the same sort of legs as Wallace & Gromit, then it should end up in the $50 – $60 million domestic gross area, which is sort of the sweet spot for stop-motion theatrical releases, since Wallace, Corpse Bride and The Nightmare Before Christmas all ended up there in their original domestic releases (Nightmare’s added more through additional limited releases). IMDB says the film cost $35 million to make, which seems reasonable, and it was probably another $25 million or so to market (at least), so if it ends up in the $50/$60 million range, that’s a good sign, since it means the film will likely earn out when it hits international markets and especially home video, while it will likely do well and do well over time.
So: Not a monster hit, but I expect it’ll be a profitable film in the long run.
What does it mean for Gaiman films? Well, if indeed it ends up in the $50/$60 million range, I expect it solidifies Gaiman as someone whose work does sufficiently well domestically and earns out in international and home video markets, since this is the story of his previous big-budget films Stardust and Beowulf as well (he was source material for the first and co-wrote the screenplay for the second). This doesn’t make him the hottest property in Hollywood, but it sure as hell doesn’t suck, either. And it bodes pretty well for the recently-announced film adaptation of The Graveyard Book, which gets an additional bump by the fact that it just won the Newberry Award, which is a nice marketing hook. So, yes, Gaiman’s doing just fine. Expect more film adaptations of his work and/or original film work from him.
(What would punt Gaiman into the stratosphere, as I’m sure he knows, is if there is ever a Sandman movie, since a) Warner Bros would spend $100 million minimum making it, because it’s the sort of comic book franchise tentpole summer spectacular insert-your-own-studio-executive-salivating-description-here that movie studios live on, especially these days, and b) two decades worth of pale spiky-haired, kohl-weaing Sandman fanboys would camp out for weeks to see it. And this is even before any discussion of whether you can actually make a good movie out of it (I say yes, but you’d need filmmakers who really get the property — it’s more than a jackass concept, like, say, Transformers). But I have no idea what the status of anything involving making Sandman into a movie is at the moment.)
As for what it means for stop-motion films: I expect it means it’ll continue to be a niche market, since it doesn’t make huge amounts of money. Which suggests that we’ll more likely see it more out of places like Focus Features (the art-house, boutique arm of Universal Pictures, which produced Coraline) than one of the major studios proper. Inasmuch as they all end up on the same silver screen, it’s all the same to me as a viewer.
One final thought about Coraline, which is that while it’s opening weekend gross was in line with other popular stop-motion films, it was almost certainly seen by fewer people because a) inflation of ticket costs from year to year and b) 70% of the gross, as I understand it, came from 3D showings of the film, and it costs more to see those than regular movies. My cost to see Coraline came to $12.50, as opposed to the standard $8.50 ticket for that particular theater; there was a surcharge both for the 3D nature of the movie and for the 3D glasses.
I hesitate to say the 3D artificially bumped up the gross, since the 3D aspect was always part of the plan. But it does present some special challenges going forward. There are only so many theaters/screens ready to play 3D, and in a couple of weeks Coraline’s going to lose quite a few of those to the Jonas Brother’s 3D concert extravaganza. It will be interesting to see if Coraline will slip into 2D screens at these multiplexes, or simply disappear entirely. Either way, I expect it will have a significant effect on the box office take that weekend, above and beyond the natural weekend-to-weekend declines the film would see. But perhaps by the 27th the film will have made enough for this not to be a real big issue. We’ll see.
Update, 2/15/09: Coraline’s second weekend grosses are in and they are very healthy — the film’s gross slipped less than 10% from the first weekend to the second, which means it’s getting very nice word of mouth and/or repeat viewings. To give context, a 40% dropoff from first weekend grosses is pretty much standard these days, and if you drop off 25% or less from your first weekend, you’re doing well. The film’s gross now stands at $35.5 million in two weeks; it will almost certainly cross $50 million before the end of its run and $70 million is not out of reach. It’s doing nicely, in other words. That said, we’ll have to see how the loss of 3D screens will affect it in a couple of weeks.