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Weekend Box Office: Green Lantern Opens Soft, Will Lose Money

by Anthony D'Alessandro
June 19, 2011 4:31 AM
11 Comments
  • |
Thompson on Hollywood

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.

11 Comments

  • Lisa | June 21, 2011 2:22 AMReply

    Great point: "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."

    I'm amazed that major studios continue to sabotage their adaptation or franchise projects by marketing largely to franchise insiders. Fox made a similar stumble this past winter with Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader. By marketing largely to evangelicals and literary buffs who had read the entire Chronicles of Narnia series, they failed to provide the general public with a compelling reason to fork over cash.

    Within the realm of the comic book franchise (a la Green Lantern), I'm especially troubled that these marketing faux pas seem to involve the female audience, time and time again. Hollywood, women do go to movies! And they'd even go to superhero movies--if you gave them a reason to care.

  • mary | June 20, 2011 8:28 AMReply

    Blake Lively's real box office test would be Oliver Stone's "Savages". (I really suspect that Blake Lively just get the first billing of "Savages", because Universal's announcement makes Blake Lively looks like the first lead. )

    http://www.thewrap.com/movies/article/universal-sets-july-3-2013-release-date-despicable-me-2-28308

  • Scott | June 20, 2011 6:19 AMReply

    This take on Green Lantern's BO take is *fairly* sound, except for the part suggesting that pumping Blake Lively in the ads would have made any difference. Blake Lively is the star of one of the lowest rated shows in the entire history of network television. If she can't bring people in on her main project (which is "free" to watch if you already have cable, how is she suppose to motivate people to pay money to see a film she plays a minor role in?

  • mary | June 20, 2011 6:00 AMReply

    Thank you, Jason. I'm just a amateur writer. :)

  • Huffy | June 20, 2011 5:57 AMReply

    It's astounding how clueless major studios can be. Anyone with half a brain should have been able to see that Green Lantern was in no way the kind of project you spend $200 million on. All you have to do is look at the business that every single superhero movie that isn't Batman or X-men has done over the past ten years (Ironman is an exception thanks to RDJ). I hope studios take note from Super 8's success and start green-lighting original, modestly budgeted projects from talented writers/directors rather than throwing suitcases of money at comicbook licenses and hoping something sticks. Super 8 is probably going to end up grossing almost as much as Green Lantern domestically and it cost a fourth of the money to make.

  • Anthony | June 20, 2011 4:37 AMReply

    Sorry Luke -- things aren't looking good in weekend one. The studio typically splits domestic with exhibitors, ultimately at 50/50. The first weekend, studios will usually get more -- so let's say 60% So Warner made close to $32 million in domestic rentals this weekend. Their share of foreign B.O. is usually 40%. Green Lantern made $17 million overseas; which means the studio brought home $6.8 million. Global deposits into WB account should be $38.8 million; and that's not a good start for a film that cost $200 million.

  • Luke Brandon | June 20, 2011 4:11 AMReply

    I have to say the title of this article is total Bullshit. You're completely ignoring the money coming in from overseas. When you factor in the profits from abroad, The Green Lantern will Not fucking lose money. Gimme a break. And I hope there's a sequel, which is actually quite likely.

  • Anthony | June 20, 2011 2:58 AMReply

    Scott,
    The point of pumping Blake is that she's the starlet in the film -- and to leave her face off posters is just senseless. She's the magnet for females; as Mary pointed out above, there's a lot of heat surrounding her now.

    http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20428531,00.html

    Also in town here, no one argues the cult success of "Gossip Girl." In terms of ratings - CW shows never post any ratings that rival the big Four; alot of that has to due with their station wattage and reach in certain markets.

  • Anne Thompson | June 20, 2011 1:44 AMReply

    Jason, thanks, I switched out the photo.

  • jason | June 19, 2011 10:13 AMReply

    wow mary, what insight! are you a professional writer? The photo used for Green lantern is a fake by the way, it should be updated.

  • mary | June 19, 2011 8:07 AMReply

    The prodiction team of "Green Lantern" doesn't look bad (director Martin Campbell + performers Ryan Reynolds, Peter Sarsgaard, Tim Robbins, Angela Bassett), so what went wrong behind-the-scene should be a interesting case to study. Still, the film's box office performance may not be enough to make profit for Warner Bros, but it should be enough for Warner Bros to save some face (especially 3D films tend to perform much better in overseas)

    Fox Searchlight’s “The Art of Getting By” has been receiving many bad reviews since Sundance 2011, but the film’s opening result is still worse than expected…. (at least it is much worse than what tracking indicted). Based on the box office leg of Fox Searchlight’s other similar releases (ie. “Choke”, “Fast Food Nation”), “The Art of Getting By” will be very lucky to gross $1.5 million at domestic box office.
    Bad reviews should not be the most major reason why “The Art of Getting By” flops so bad, since some other critically-panned tweeners like Sony Pictures Classics’ “Chloe”, Lionsgate’s “From Prada to Nada”, and even Fox Searchlight’s “Choke” could perform better in fewer theaters and less advertising….. It may indicated that Fox Searchlight mismarkets “The Art of Getting By”. In fact, Fox Searchlight has been exclusively marketed this film to youth audience, and it may turns out to be a big mistake.
    However, Fox Searchlight should be able to make profit on their other Sundance acquisitions “Another Earth”, “Sound of My Voice” and ” Martha Marcy May Marlene”. (Fox Searchlight acquired “The Art of Getting By” before the film’s reviews came out, unlike what they did with those three other Sundance acquisitions.)

    "Midnight in Paris" may even going to outgross “Hannah and Her Sisters” and become Woody Allen highest-grossing film ever. Many people think that Sony Pictures Classics is a terrible distributor, but the recent successes of "Incendies" and “Midnight in Paris” proves again that Sony Pictures Classics know how to help different kinds of films to maximize their box office potential (with reasonable P&A spending). But the box office failure of “The Art of Getting By” may not be a good news for Sony Pictures Classics, because SPC will release another youth-driven tweener "Restless". (SPC had enjoyed respectful domestic box office result with another critically-panned tweener “Chloe”, though)

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