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HeyUGuys: WB Attempting to “Resurrect Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan From the Depths of Apathy”

Legend of Tarzan (Movie)

Jon Lyus at HeyUGuys is out with a post which is going to be a bit annoying to Edgar Rice Burroughs fans, but is actually fairly realistic in its depiction of the challenge facing Warner Brothers as it attempts to generate buzz for Legend of Tarzan.  Here is the lead:

The time has come to resurrect Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan from the depths of apathy and onto the big screen once again.   The Legend of Tarzan makes great hay of its leading stars Alexander Skarsgard and Margot Robbie, and director David Yates looks to be enjoying updating the man of the jungle.

Recently we had the chance to see twenty minutes of the film and attend a Q&A with the cast and director–there was a lot to see and it’s a great read –doing much to ignite the spluttering matchheads of interest there is for this film.

Now if you’re a long-suffering fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan (as opposed to the movie Tarzans, which are different creatures altogether for the most part), this is painful to read even though when you break it down, it’s not all negative.  But the negative aspect is reflective of reality.   It’s a fact that in many quarters, particularly among filmscribes who write about upcoming movies, the basic reaction to the idea of a Tarzan movie is “meh”.  In other words — apathy.

Are they right?

I do think WB has a big mountain to climb.  Yes, there is a high level of name recognition for Tarzan, but for the vast majority of average Joe filmgoers, it’s a “ho-hum” name recognition.  This has to be overcome if the film is to succeed.  Can it be?

One ray of sunshine is what we’ve seen from the trailer reaction videos and elsewhere — that there are a surprising number of millennials who really grew up with Disney’s Tarzan and have a very warm spot for it. These folks seem to be surprisingly open to Legend of Tarzan — their reaction is now “meh” — it’s “aww… Tarzan was my fav when I was a kid, what’s this about? I’m interested.”

But — neither that subgroup, nor the even smaller subgroup of actual ERB fans, will be enough to get critical mass in the promotion and get LOT over the hump into the success zone on its opening weekend. Add to these issues the really extraordinarly level of competition and it’s a heavy lift that WB is facing.

As an example — I just witnessed a dustup on the IMDB message boards in which a particular box office genius was predicting Legend of Tarzan to be the “biggest flop of the year” and listed his prediction of the July 1 box office weekend thusly:

1. Independence Day ($60-70 mil)
2. The BFG ($40-45 mil)
3. Legend of Tarzan ($30-35 mil)
4. The Purge 3 ($25-30 mil)
5. Finding Dory ($20-25 mil)

In truth, that’s not an outrageous prediction by any means.   He’s showing a total Box Office Gross for the weekend of around $200M max — and that’s not crazy.  The BOG for this weekend has been around $135M for the last two years, but in the two years before that it reached $230m.

A more hopeful  but still realistic version would be this:

1. Independence Day ($50-60 mil)
2.Legend of Tarzan ($45-50mil)
3. The BFG ($40-45 mil)
4. The Purge 3 ($25-30 mil)
5. Finding Dory ($20-25 mil)

But either way, you see the problem.

Look — make no mistake, there’s nobody who wants to see LOT succeed more than I do. I’m here plugging away every day trying to add a little boost to the buzz without abandoning all semblance of sanity.  I don’t mean this to be buzz-kill — just an injection of realism.

Which leads to a larger question — should we ERB fans be pinning out hopes on LOT doing well enough to get a sequel?  (Which means $50m opening weekend…) Or are we setting ourselves up for disappointment that way, and is it better to use some other metric to judge the success of the film. The truth is, if it does $30m (John Carter did $31M opening weekend) it will not be a hit but it won’t be an epic flop because unlike John Carter, the budget isn’t $267M (which is where John Carter landed after the UK Tax rebate) and the promotion is certainly not $100M.  There is dispute about what the production budget is, but worst case it’s $180M minus UK Tax rebate so figure maybe 150M max, and there is no way they are spending anywhere near $100M on promotion.  Worst case, WB will be out $200m or thereabouts when the movie is released, compared to close to $400m for Disney and John Carter. Now remember, Disney wrote down 190M on JC …. so crunch all those numbers and maybe WB breaks even with Tarzan opening at $40M and reaching $100M domestic and $400M globally. That’s a big bite from international — but historically, way back when most Hollywood films did 75% of their business in the US, Tarzan films were already earning 75% of their money overseas. Will that trend continue? Maybe, and that could well be what generates a franchise in spite of all the challenges.

Stay tuned.

And by the way — take a trip on over to HeyUGuys and leave a comment.  Lyus seems a reasonable sort in his response to a comment I left over there — maybe with enough comments he will see things a tiny bit more favorably for old Lord Greystoke and his tribe.


  • “millennials who really grew up with Disney’s Tarzan and have a very warm spot for it. These folks seem to be surprisingly open to Legend of Tarzan — their reaction is now “meh” — it’s “aww… Tarzan was my fav when I was a kid, what’s this about? I’m interested.” – this is exactly how my 18 yr old daughter and her boyfriend responded. My wife new nothing about the movie until I showed her the trailer and she went crazy ” WE HAVE TO SEE THIS!!!” which is somewhat out character. She went nuts because it was big crazy historical action fantasy adventure, not specifically because of Skarsgaurd. She was with me in LA for the John Carter sneak at Disney too, so she’s game for this kind of thing. But it was still a surprisingly intense response.

  • I’m getting a lot of reactions like that when I show the trailer to my coworkers. Once they see the trailer there’re all in. The tone of the introduction is a little snarky, but the article that he links to is one of the best/most positive articles written about the Tarzan movie so far, imho.

  • I really like your numbers estimates for the weekend. I agree that ID2 will have a bigger drop for it’s second week. When I saw the trailer for the first time I thought money grab. The studio was just rehashing the old story with bigger spaceships and effects. Whoopee. I see it making a ton of money but with all the good movies coming out the next week I think your numbers are more realistic. I also think the BOG will be closer to the 230 million numbers that we saw in years 2011 -2013. The nice variety of genres and the quality of the movies is really going to draw the public in this weekend for a change. I think the last few years have been a little thin for the July 4th weekend. I’m hoping this extra $ will put Tarzan over the top. I also agree that Tarzan is going to do gangbusters overseas. I’m hoping this is our ace in the hole that will push us into becoming a franchise.

  • BBFC have rated the film 12A. The runtime has been revealed as 110 minutes. They have also rated a 3:05 IMAX trailer.

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