Why Did John Carter, Eddie Murphy and Silent House Flop?
Three flops stormed the box office this weekend as The Lorax took the number-one spot for the second week in a row. Who's to blame for Hollywood's setback?
While box office receipts are up this year, two major studios – Disney (NYSE: DIS) and Viacom's (NASDAQ: VIA) Paramount Pictures – and one small studio – Open Read Films, which is backed by AMC Entertainment and Regal Entertainment Group (NYSE: RGC) – have taken a hit this month. John Carter, one of the most hyped films of the year, performed with less-than-stellar results during its opening weekend, earning only $30 million domestically on a budget of $250 million. Silent House, one of the most hyped horror films of the season, failed to break the $10 million mark, instead taking in only $7 million. Meanwhile, A Thousand Words (the awful-looking Eddie Murphy comedy) earned $6.3 million.
Why did these films flop? And how did Dr. Seuss' The Lorax (the animated family flick from Comcast's (NASDAQ: CMCSA) film division, Universal Pictures) make it all the way to the top for the second week in a row?
For answers, Benzinga turned to Ben Carlson, the President and Co-Creator of Fizziology, a company that uses Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media to predict the success or failure of upcoming films.
“Silent House is interesting,” Carlson told Benzinga this afternoon. “It was a horror movie that never took hold. We saw a lot of conversation around it, as horror movies typically do, but it wasn't like any of the bigger horror movies this year, not even like The Woman in Black, it just never kind of took off to that next level. That, coupled with the fact that people who saw it tended to have a negative reaction to it. I imagine we're going to see some pretty high negatives this week following opening weekend.”
One of the biggest complaints viewers had with Silent House was the ending, Carlson said.
“I think any time you have these ‘based on true events' horror movies, sometimes you catch lightning in a bottle, and other times people end up being disappointed,” Carlson explained. “This one came out of the festival circuit. I think people had slightly bigger hopes for it. It's a small-budget movie. The fact that it made $7 million – that's actually where we had it tagged to open. But you gotta remember that the film was made for $1 million. So even with marketing on top of that, that's still a nice return.”
Carlson couldn't speak on John Carter because of a client relationship. But with regard to A Thousand Words, Carlson referred to it as the “bigger flop” of the week with “no hope” going forward. “Here you have a movie with a really expensive movie star [Eddie Murphy] at the heart of it,” he said. “I think it ended up right where Silent House ended up at $6 or $7 million. That's amazing. Of all the movies, that's the one. I don't think that was a surprise, necessarily. But on a scale of disappointment, I'm probably the least disappointed with Silent House, and the most disappointed with A Thousand Words.”
Despite the disappointment, Fizziology's estimates were actually lower than its box office haul. The film earned $6.3 million, but Fizziology's research estimated $5.5 to $5.6 million.
With regard to the week's box office winner, Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, Carlson referred to it as a “monster” that people love. “And it's a movie that's getting great reviews online from families, for sure, but not just the kids, but also the adults are saying it,” he said. “It opened at $70 million and we were under on it. I think the whole world was under on it. We were looking at it to [perform] comparably to Despicable Me [which earned $56 million during its opening weekend]. It over performed by a wide, wide margin. I think that's good.”
“Overall, the box office is up for the year so far,” Carlson concluded. “After the kind of rough fourth quarter we had last year, to see people returning to the movie theater, I'm thankful that we're being surprised on the high side with movies like The Lorax. That's much better than these movies that perform [below] expectations.”
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