The numbers from this weekend’s box office will be tough to swallow at the house of mouse on Monday morning. $27 million for BOLT! versus $70.5 million for Twilight. BOLT! didn’t even creep into second place on the charts. That was reserved for super spy James Bond. So how did this happen?
Although I haven’t seen either film, both have received okay ratings, with BOLT! actually having the edge there. Twilight, however, has the advantage of having a mythology, the four Stephanie Meyer books, with fans of its own to support it. BOLT! comes out of no where. That said BOLT! has the advantage of the well practiced Disney marketing machine behind it as well as the legendary history Disney animation.
I don’t think you can blame the effort of Disney’s much improved animation team or of marketing for the poor showing this weekend. I think the biggest fault here is scheduling.
When Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince backed off November 21, 2008 to July 2009, Disney moved up the release of BOLT! one week to fill that slot. Obviously Disney thought they’d pick up all those young ‘tweens’ who are so valuable at the box office since they bring their parents and friends with them. With Miley Cyrus, Hannah Montana herself, voicing one of the main characters, this move must have seemed like a “no brainer”.
As it turns out Walt Disney Animation Studios wasn’t the only company to have that idea; a little studio called Summit moved the release of its Twilight property from mid-Decmeber to the same weekend. Now Disney and Summit were competing head to head for the same ‘tweens’ audience. And judging by the box office results Summit won that battle by a landslide.
While the media is busy playing up the obsessed pre-teen fan card, those same teens were recently as devoted to Miley Cyrus as they are to Robert Pattinson (as the vampire Edward). I have to wonder how much the over-saturation and slight ‘passe’ feel of the Hannah Montana property played into Disney’s slide from grace this weekend.
I wish I was as optimistic as Walt Disney Studios spokesperson Heidi Trotta, who believes that word of mouth will help BOLT through the Holiday weekend. Instead I’m betting we’ll see those obsessed fans return again and again to see the object of their obession on the big screen. And as Twilight fans all know, it ain’t going to be a dog.
Update: OMG!!!!!!!!!!! To get an idea for how obsessed tweens can get, you have to watch this video of some young girls as they watch David Archuleta lose American Idol and then proceed to self-destruct. These same girls are now, no doubt, simiarly obsessed over Edward. (Thanks Rucker)
New Post: My thoughts on how Disney’s BOLT! lost the box office battle this weekend – http://is.gd/8JIt
I see it as a one-two-three-or more punch.
Too many “dog movies”: Disney just released “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” only a month before. Disney has remakes of “Shaggy Dog” and other recent-past dog movies in live action in the last couple of years. Over-saturation.
What TV shows about superheroes or inside TV executives?: Look at real life TV schedules. There’s no real series about a ‘tween and an animal battling spies or evil minions seeking to do harm to the world. Who lives the life of a TV producer or executive that most people would know, too? Looks like stuff that goes on in Mom and/or Dad’s offices, boring!-might be the sentiment.
Too many teen and ‘tween movies: In addition to the scheduling conflict the same opening day with “Twilight”, Disney had already released “High School Musical 3” mere weeks before.
Great publicity, not enough about Miley Cyrus: Maybe I’m out of the loop about the whole Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana thing, but had Dsiney promoted, more, Miley Cyrus had a lead role and also had some songs, maybe more people would have gone. Maybe.
‘Tweens maybe have outgrown “cartoons”: Our son is age 12. He was mortified to be there with his parents to see the latest Disney movie! We went to a 7:45 pm showing on Friday, wide release day. Our multiplex was buzzing and filled with teenage girls. In line with us, some were daring each other to buy a ticket to “Bolt” and it was easy to overhear this kind of sentiment: “Are you kidding??? I’m not seeing “Bolt”, c’mON!!!”
Maybe they only like Miley as “Hannah”-only. Maybe they are that “selective”. And they already have seen the 3-D “Best of Both Worlds” on Disney Channel and DVD umpteen times, whereas a movie made of a favorite book series with a romantic male lead what the latest “in” thing to do.
Proven formula in Hollywood = cast a handsome romantic male lead in role of “vampire”: Trace any “Dracula”-type movie in Hollywood history then ask around among those who’ve seen them, wicked attractiveness and safe seduction are part of this type of movie. You can’t swoon in exactly this same way over an animated movie about a dog or the voice artists in that movie.
“I’ve got your number” from other animation studios: You can’t dismiss that “Madagascar 2” got mediocre reviews just like “Twilight” did but audiences flocked to both anyway. If the Dreamworks movie hadn’t also still been in the marketplace “Bolt” would have done better. “Madagascar” did as much to suck life out of “Bolt” as “Twilight” did.
History of Disney Feature Animation the last 10 years and you see the history of Disney being eaten for lunch by others: Trace the box office of Disney Feature Animation the last 10 years, then the box office of Pixar the last 10 years, then the box office of any other studio doing CGI the last 10 years. Not only is there increased competition, but now that Pixar is part of Disney Pixar is still competing with Disney and does Disney better than Disney does Disney, as well as other studios can actually achieve #1 at the box office not only for their weeks of release to theatres, but for that whole year. Disney has let itself slide in a core company division. Disney now is trying to climb back. But now we’ve got other studios, including Pixar now owned by Disney, who are in public “brand consciousness” as doing at least as good as if not better than Disney. All CGI now looks alike, comes out of the same vat. Except for Pixar, most audiences know it’s quality and stick by it. But even there, the pie of box office gets split into smaller slices, and audiences might have too many choices out there now. Even Pixar doesn’t command the huge box office that, say, “Finding Nemo” did in it’s day. Too much competition.
Pixar vs. Disney: Disney certainly has marketed Pooh, Lion King, Princesses, and now Tinker Bell. These are characters of Disney’s past, however. The more recent characters are all Pixar (Toy Story, Wall-E, Cars, etc.) and audiences go to what they like and is proven. Did, say, “Home on the Range” toys sell vs. “Cars”? Audiences need convincing Disney is truly “back” to their old, classic, form. ‘Til that happens, it’s become a Pixarified world.
The ad campaign for “Bolt” was good. I certainly got the message and our family supported the film.
What I’m concerned abuot is “The Princess and the Frog”, the December 25, 2009 Disney animated film set in our hometown of New Orleans. We’re psyched for this! Can’t wait! Our culture and music will shine, and the first African-American Disney Princess will join the others Disney promotes. But is this lack of getting the word across effectively “Disney Feature Animation is BACK!” that affected “Bolt” going to affect “The Princess and the Frog”? And can 2-D animation draw them in, can the composer of scores for Pixar movies draw them in for a Disney Feature Animation movie? Will all audience demographic segments support this movie? Will the classic heart, quality of story, depth of characters be there that we’ve come to expect of Disney be there vs. how Disney’s been the last decade?
“Bolt” is a step up the ladder towards better times to come for Disney, I am convinced of that.
Sad to say, but Disney Animation doesn’t go very far anymore. For instance, if Disney had posted a Pixar label on BOLT! then I guarantee the movie would have received way may attention and thus would have had bigger numbers opening weekend.