... The big debut by the “The Nut Job” is the best ever for Open Road, and it looks like the computer-animated tale directed by Peter Lepeniotis could become the highest-grossing film ever for the not-quite-three-year-old company, whose current best is 2012′s “The Grey” at $51 million. ...
As Open Road’s first animated family release, “The Nut Job” represented uncharted territory for the marketing team. So how did they pull off an opening way about $10 million above the pre-release tracking and the expectations of analysts?
“We basically took our cue from the movie,” Open Road marketing chief Jason Cassidy told TheWrap, “and really embraced the fun and playful creatures that the filmmakers created. ...
In animation, having a compelling story isn't the end-all, be-all. But having characters that an audience can latch onto and enjoy usually is. When you have both, you're gold.
Without naming titles (because it's wise to be diplomatic), I can think of any number of animated features over the last dozen years that contained a dog of a story. Sometimes there were no second act. Sometimes there wasn't a third. Sometimes there were plot holes through which you could have steered the Queen Mary. And once in a while there stretches of plot (or dialogue) that were border-line incoherent.
But almost all of the pictures described above that still ended up successful had one thing in common: Characters the viewing public liked. Characters audiences could root for, wanted to root for. When the compelling lead and likable sidekick(s) were in place, the features often made big money.
I don't know if The Nut Job falls into "Has great characters!" category, since I haven't seen it. But judging from the reviews and box office, it seems to contain leads and supporting players who are good enough to bring quite a lot of ticket buyers in past the turnstiles. How much momentum it has and money it makes going forward is anybody's guess.
How The Nut Job holds up through its second weekend will probably tell much of the tale.