As of current, much is being made about the somewhat polarized critical reaction to Pixar’s latest film The Good Dinosaur. As discussion in the animation community remains divided over the quality of the film (with vocal arguments on both sides), The Good Dinosaur may soon face a larger problem beyond a divisive response.
Cartoon Brew has reported that The Good Dinosaur has fallen swiftly in its second weekend, with an unusually steep drop of 60.4% with $15.5 million. The only other Pixar film to drop that far was Cars 2 with 60.3%, but even that movie had gained higher numbers on its second weekend ($26.3 million).
To make the comparison even more stark, The Good Dinosaur has only made (to date) $76 million domestically, against a budget of $200 million. Compare that to Cars 2, boasting the same budget, yet it earned $117 million in its first two weeks.
Essentially, when adjusted for inflation, The Good Dinosaur
might become Pixar’s lowest-grossing film yet.
Things get even more grim when you consider that industry analysts and executives have gone on record to say that Pixar would need $500 million to break even theatrically, not only for the budget but also for the $150 million spent in marketing. So it’s not a good sign when we’re two weeks into the film’s box-office run, and its already fading fast.
Variety also took note of the film’s performance in its own report, highlighting several experts who also shared the same gloomy outlook.
“It’s not resonating like a typical Pixar film,” said Erik Handler, an analyst with MKM Partners. “It’s on a path where they’re going to need home entertainment to drive profitability. Usually with Pixar, by the time they’ve gone through the first [release] window, they’re in the black.”
“It’s a pretty bad fade compared to other Pixar releases,” said Matthew Harrigan, an analyst at Wunderlich Securities. “It’s certainly disappointing.”
That’s not to say that The Good Dinosaur is an instant flop. As Variety points out, the studios could easily make up ground in merchandising and home entertainment sales. But the fact that a Pixar movie is losing money at the box office is more than noteworthy on many levels.
There is one silver lining in this rather massive upset for Pixar, and that’s the international box office. So far, the international total for the film is $55.4 million. Combined with domestic totals, it all adds up to a global take of $131 million. There are still other markets where The Good Dinosaur hasn’t opened yet, and said markets may serve to give the film a small boost where it’s most needed.
Why is this happening? Simply, it’s a combination of many factors that have led to the film’s disappointing launch. Certainly, the film’s troubled production history is no secret to anyone who has kept up with the project since its inception. But also consider that the film – oddly enough – faces competition in the box office, ending up on the losing side of a holiday box office battle. Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is still number one, while Universal Pictures and Legendary Pictures’s Christmas horror film Krampus unexpectedly pulled into second place (where The Good Dinosaur opened on its first weekend) with $15 million. It doesn’t help that in less than two weeks, any and all noise will be washed away by a little film called Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Then of course, you have the critical reception, which has been only lukewarm in the sense that the film was merely good instead of great.
Which brings to what I think is the main reason why The Good Dinosaur is having a rough time critically and commercially. The film, faults and all, had to live up to the impossible task of maintaining the Pixar ‘standard.’ Specifically, the film stood not only in the shadow of the studio’s near-mythic reputation, but it also stood in the shadow of a film that brought Pixar back to the top of its game: Inside Out. The rocky, roller-coaster path through production only gave an extra layer of strenuous pressure to succeed. Everyone wanted this film to reach for the stars, but it could only get as high as the clouds.
The reason why The Good Dinosaur isn’t doing too hot is that critics and audiences have held the film to an unbelievable standard and a legacy that loomed large over Pixar’s 2015 comeback phase. But it could only succeed at being ‘good’, and The Good Dinosaur is (on some level) now being punished for doing exactly that.
To make one final point, I will say that The Good Dinosaur‘s performance is indicative of one unmistakable fact: Pixar will have to find new ways of staying on top. Specifically, we are no longer living in an age where Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks rule supreme in the feature animation field. This year, the controversial success story that is Illumination Entertainment scored its first billion-dollar hit maker with Minions, while second-tier players like Sony Pictures Animation and Blue Sky Studios went to bat with Hotel Transylvania 2 and The Peanuts Movie and each scored home runs.
These days, every major studio has an animation unit, and new faces are popping up with each passing day. As the years pass, it may become harder for Pixar to hold on to the top spot. At the same time, Inside Out has proven that they are more than capable of holding on to their place within the feature animation pantheon.
What do you think? Any thoughts on The Good Dinosaur and its box-office run thus far.
Edited by: Kelly Conley