Monday, June 10, 2019

Repost: Phoenix Interruptus -- just ashes

Disney can certainly take the hit, but still:

According to Box Office Mojo, Dark Phoenix tanked with $33 million in its first three days, domestically. That is by far the worst opening in the franchise, finishing well below The Wolverine's $53.1 million back in 2013. It's more than $20 million less than the original X-Men from 2000, even though there have been nearly 20 years of ticket price inflation and premium formats such as 3D. Dark Phoenix finished second for the weekend, trailing The Secret Life of Pets 2 ($47.1 million).

It goes without saying this is a disaster for Fox. While it's true Dark Phoenix was something of a lame duck from the get-go since the Disney/Fox deal made a hard reboot inevitable, everyone involved was still hoping for the film to be successful. Dark Phoenix was even one of the more expensive X-Men movies, with a budget of $200 million. Odds are, it won't turn a profit for the studio; X-Men: Apocalypse, which opened with $65.7 million in 2016, earned $543.9 million globally. That's a figure Dark Phoenix is unlikely to match or surpass, especially with how low interest was at the start. This decidedly was not a must-see cinematic event, and due to the bad reviews, it's not going to have strong legs.

Keep in mind a good rule of thumb is that a film has to more than double its box office to break even, making this a big money loser for Disney/Fox.

The thinking in the film industry for a number of years now has been that the more you spend on these big franchise films, the more you'll make. For those versed in the history of the industry, this line of reasoning strikes a familiar note.

This isn't to say that we're looking at another late-sixties type crash, but the bigger budgets=more profits assumption never ends well.

Film history for fools -- box office disasters

Consider this a footnote to the previous Motley Fool rant.
There's an old and very common saying in Hollywood that the biggest money-losing film ever was the Sound of Music. The joke here is that though the film did rather well...
Upon its initial release, The Sound of Music briefly displaced Gone with the Wind as the highest-grossing film of all-time; taking re-releases into account, it ultimately grossed $286 million internationally. Adjusted to contemporary prices it is the third highest-grossing film of all-time at the North American box office and the fifth highest-grossing film worldwide.
... The films it inspired lost a lot of money. That's a bit of an oversimplification. Music was just the last of a string of hit musicals in the early Sixties ( West Side Story, The Music Man, My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins) but it was the biggest and it suggested an upward trend and, to the extent that it was responsible for what followed, it might well justify that money-losing title. 
The commercially and/or critically unsuccessful films included Camelot, Finian's Rainbow, Hello Dolly!, Sweet Charity, Doctor Dolittle, Star!, Darling Lili, Paint Your Wagon, Song of Norway, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, Man of La Mancha, Lost Horizon and Mame. Collectively and individually these failures crippled several of the major studios.
I don't want to push the analogy with comic-book movies but there are similarities, particularly regarding the budgets and the stories executives told themselves to justify them. 
And I'm pretty sure if Motley Fool had been around in, say, 1967, these upcoming movies would have generated lots of optimistic exclamation points.


  1. Mark: do you really mean "double its box office to break even"? is there a missing qualifier to box office?

  2. Good catch. I meant to say that box office has to be at least double shooting budget.