The trick with any studio launch of a $200-million would-be franchise--especially one freighted by $100 million in marketing--is to open well enough to make your money back, and then some. At an estimated $52.7 million, Green Lantern opened soft: Anthony D'Alessandro explains why.
The box-office strength of Warner Bros. $200-million tentpole Green Lantern dimmed from green to yellow as the DC comic book adaptation finally beamed in $52.7 million -- about 9% below the studio’s conservative projection. The frame’s second wide entry, Fox’s Jim Carrey family vehicle Mr. Popper’s Penguins, bested its $12-$15 million estimate with $18.2 million, a figure that’s in sync with the comedic actor’s last studio live-action debut Yes Man, which ultimately totaled nearly $100 million. (Indie grosses are here.)
Green Lantern’s bow would be a decent bow for any other film except Green Lantern. The biggest pain in its digital tights is its monstrous budget and $100 million U.S. ad campaign. It's deja vu all over again as Warner Bros. got caught in the overspending spin cycle of its 2006 reboot Superman Returns ($270 million) which, though a seven-day Independence Day release, posted $52.5 million over its Friday-Sunday frame. Not to mention, $200 million is a production spend better reserved for sequels, not risky comic-book franchise launches.
What makes Green Lantern risky? He’s not as accessible for superhero identification as Spider-Man, whose protagonist is grounded in a relatable setting like Batman or Iron Man. Warners has practiced relative frugality with fanboy fare in the past, with 300 ($65 million cost, $456 global B.O.) and Batman Begins ($150 million budget, $373 million global). They figured that Green Lantern was a sci-fi story demanding VFX eye candy, but not every film set in outer space is budgeted at NASA prices.
At this level for a June bow, Green Lantern will be lucky to fly past the $200-million mark stateside, as only films that open around $50 million are boosted by excellent word-of-mouth, such as Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me ($206 million) and Superman Returns ($200.1 million). Green Lantern played in the same exact frame as Batman Begins (June 17-19, 2005), but that film unspooled over five days, raking in $72.9 million. In hindsight, a five-day rollout might have been the better release pattern for Warner Bros. in an effort to spin the higher figure.
If the studio wanted bigger opening numbers, they could have taken a note from the way Paramount launched their arguably less-popular Marvel title Iron Man: Use more star mugs in the posters, particularly those that appeal to a wide audience. Despite Warner Bros.’ objective to educate John Q. public on ‘Who Green Lantern is’, especially women, they traded images of glossy fave Blake Lively for aliens in their marketing, thus alienating women and making a large gesture toward fanboys.
Despite the studio’s awful one-sheets and billboards, they were timely in spreading the word on the film, as they fell prey to arguments that they were falling behind due to VFX. Green Lantern held full court last July at Comic-Con and fans gushed when leading man Ryan Reynolds recited the Green Lantern oath (see video below). The trailer hit screens last November, and had a big presence at WonderCon – so it’s not as though Green Lantern was hiding under a bushel.
On a brighter note, Green Lantern reps the highest opening of all-time for director Martin Campbell, beating Casino Royale ($40.8 million) as well as producer Donald De Line (Fool’s Gold ($21.6 million). Above all, Green Lantern doesn’t rep a waning star for Ryan Reynolds: It’s his best leading man opening outside his second banana in Wolverine ($85.1 million). Warner Bros. picked well: Reynolds is in his prime as a box office contender.
Buzz on Green Lantern looks as though it was effected by kryptonite: Daily grosses fell 22% between Friday and Saturday with another 15% today spurred by a B Cinemascore, B+ among those under 18 (19%). Older fan-men showed up at 64% with 63% over 25. Females repped 36%, evidence that the marketing skewed young; they were not able to sell a date movie. 3-D wasn't a driver, making up 45% of the opening B.O. despite 2,711 locales being equipped with the visual format.
As far as Popper’s Penguins goes, Fox can be credited for tightening their wallet on a project that teams a physical comedian with CGI penguins. Popper’s Penguins only cost $57 million, a bargain price next to Carrey’s recent comedies, i.e. Yes Man ($70 million) and Fun With Dick and Jane ($100 million). Despite critics’ sense that Carrey mailed it in, his career isn’t over. Despite his latest string of high-teen live-action openings, Yes Man ($98 million) and Dick and Jane ($110.3 million) respectively made five to eight times their bows. Penguins is PG, it has an A- Cinemascore and there’s more than enough room in the family market even after Cars 2 arrives next weekend. Popper’s Penguinsskewed female at 56% with 58% under 25.
Those avoiding the 3-D up charge on Green Lantern opted for a more-old fashioned sci-fi film, Super 8. The J.J. Abrams’ film in its second weekend enjoyed a minimal dip of 38%.
Top Ten Weekend Box Office Chart
1. Green Lantern (Warner Bros.) $52.7 million in its first weekend at 3,816 theaters. $13,806 theater average. Domestic total: $52.7 million.
2. Super 8 (Paramount) $21.25 million down 38% in its second weekend at 3,408 theaters. $6,235 theater average. Domestic total: $72.8 million.
3. Mr. Popper’s Penguins (Fox) $18.2 million in its first weekend at 3,339 theaters. $5,451 theater average. Domestic total: $18.2 million.
4. X-Men: First Class (Fox) $11.5 million down 52% in its third weekend at 3,375 theaters. $3,407 theater average. Domestic total: $119.9 million.
5. The Hangover Part II (Warner Bros.) $9.6 million down 45% in its fourth weekend at 3,460 theaters. $2,785 theater average. Domestic total: $232.7 million.
6. Kung Fu Panda 2 (Paramount-DreamWorks) $8.7 million down 47% in its fourth weekend at 3,469 theaters. $2,508 theater average. Domestic total: $143.3 million.
7. Bridesmaids (Universal) $7.5 million down 26% in its sixth weekend at 2,573 theaters. $2,910 theater average. Domestic total: $136.8 million.
8. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Disney) $6.2 million down 43% in its fifth weekend at 2,742 theaters. $2,274 theater average. Domestic total: $220.3 million.
9. Midnight in Paris (Sony Pictures Classics) $5.24 million down 10% in its fifth weekend at 1,038 theaters. $5,046 theater average. Domestic total: $21.8 million.
10. Judy Moody and the not Bummer Summer (Relativity) $2.24 million down 63% in its second weekend at 2,524 theaters. $888 theater average. Domestic total: $11.2 million.