Friday, August 04, 2006

Miniglut, Week 3

The Far Side, by Gary Larsen.
For the third week in a row, a new CG-animated feature opens wide. Omation Studio's (backed by Paramount) Barnyard: The Original Party Animals is coming out closely on the heels of Monster House and The Ant Bully. The reviews are far less kind than they were for the previous two movies, and expectations are even lower. . . Monster House is still doing so-so (it just crossed $50 million), and having seen it in 3D at Boston I'm more confused than ever as to why it wasn't released in October. It's a pretty good movie and could have been a huge hit then. Ant bully, as expected, is not exactly setting the world on fire, despite generally good reviews and positive feedback from those who actually saw the film. Cars is still a presence ($236 million so far), and Over the Hedge and even Ice Age 2 are still in some theaters, making a total of six fully animated CG features playing somewhere in America. Our expectation is that, after this opening weekend is past for Barnyard, we will read a spate of news articles that could have been completely predicted nine months ago or even a couple of years ago -- articles trumpeting the shocking news that it's possible to make CG flops, that maybe the bubble has burst, gloom and doom, panic and disaster, etc., etc., with all the requisite comparisons to the hand-drawn feature boom and bust. Then, months from now, there will be some high-profile hits, and the panic will subside, though the landscape will be seen as far more hostile to mid-sized animation companies. As always, updates over the weekend will follow. UPDATE 1: Barnyard opened in second place with five and a half million on Friday -- much better than expected, though still far from exceptional (by way of comparison, Monster House made $7.3 it's opening Friday). I'll go out on a limb and suggest that, when all is said and done (I'm talking DVD sales here), the Omation film may eventually find its way into the black. The big winner, Talladega Nights, can already safely be called a surprise hit, with a whopping $18 million opening day (between this film and Cars, NASCAR-movie fans have never had it so good). Both MH and Ant Bully had approximately 50% drops from their previous Friday grosses, and are in seventh and eighth places, respectively. POTC2 slipped to fourth. UPDATE 2: Early returns indicate that Barnyard (and Talladega Nights) didn't get the usual Friday-to-Saturday increase (pulling $5.7 and $16.1, respectively, on Saturday) but both continue to confound predictions. The earliest weekend estimates are calling for TN to make $47 million (Will Ferrell's biggest opening ever), and Barnyard $16 million (about double most predictions). Monster House is estimated to be in a dead heat for 6th with $6 million ($57 million cume), and Ant Bully in 8th with $3.9 million ($18.2 total). Cars slips to 19th with a cool million (a 59% drop from last weekend) and a tidy $237.5 mill.


Steve Hulett said...

I had a conversation today with a lawyer who's been involved with the animation biz a long time. He was shocked, SHOCKED that the boom is still going on, and that there are so many people working in the industry.

He asked where I thought CGI features were going, and I said that -- until Lasseter and Catmull showed up at Disney -- the herd was headed over a cliff, with everyone mimicking the supposed "sure things" (smart aleck fairy tales, wise-cracking fuzzy animals, etc.)

This deal was played out in the early nineties, when the lemmings that followed Disney were all making animated, family-friendly Broadway musicals that didn't make the kind of coin "Lion King" and "Alladin" did. But that kind of happens when you're the eighth one into the pool with your knock-off of somebody else's hit.

This time, there's going to be some blood in the water, but I'm willing to bet that enough originality will float to the surface to save CGI features from suffering the same fate hand-drawn features did in the late nineties.

Anonymous said...

I kind of agree with Steve. Some of the smaller studios might close down, or do tv series. A smart move for the younger studios would be to diversify and work on games along with commercial work and tv series.
There will still be cg animated features made, but the number of movies made will drop.
However, the vfx side of animation (live action work) seems very solid and less of a rollercoaster than the character animation side of it (studios closing down), even though it's somewhat seasonal (during the summer it's not as busy)
It'll be interesting to see how the cg features made in Asia (India, Philipines, etc...) and in Europe are received here in America.

My two cents.

Kevin Koch said...

One thing you have to give "Barnyard," it's not really imitating the other studio's films. It may be more funny talking animals, but it's unique. Which is probably why it's doing a little better than most people expected.

Anonymous said...

Wonder how Omation/Paramount feels about their result for the opening weekend. The movie didn't tank exactly, but you can't call it a blockbuster either.

Seems the humour found its target!

Kevin Koch said...

I have to think they're pretty happy, given the forecasts and projections and reviews. Plus this always seemed like a film that would do better on DVD than in the theaters, and a decent opening should translate into even healthier DVD sales.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the DVD sales comment. In fact, I suspect that's why such an early release date was chosen for what would make an excellent Halloween release. Since studios are making more on DVD sales, it seems they're now scheduling their theatrical runs around when the DVD release date is. Monster House will be the hit of many children's Halloween parties.

Site Meter