Indiewire has some good analysis although I’m not loving their headline, which is “The Legend of Tarzan and The BFG May Not Recoup.” But it’s not an untrue statement. Friday morning it looked like there was no way whatsoever that Legend of Tarzan would recoup. By Saturday morning it looked like a possibility, and by Sunday morning it looked like with really good foreign, it could be a probability. But “good probability” and “may not recoup” are two different ways of saying the same thing.
It starts with: ““The Legend of Tarzan” exceeded predictions, but is far from home-free in recouping its $180-million cost (plus marketing). Then it lists the results using the same figures as everyone else —
2. The Legend of Tarzan (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 43; Est. budget: $180 million
S38,135,000 in 4,068 theaters; PTA: $10,709,000; Cumulative: $38,135,000
Then it goes through all the movies before coming back to Tarzan with this:
Why “Tarzan” Stood Out – And How It Compares
This summer is so crowded every weekend that even a high-end budgeted film like “The Legend of Tarzan” has to contend with two other openers, as well as a Pixar smash. Two entries also chased younger viewers, adding to the challenge. Add the wariness audiences are showing to many new but still familiar-sounding releases and a general downbeat advance reaction (reviews and box office speculation), and the stories about another big-time flop were ready to be written.
That didn’t happen. The movie opened to $38 million and will likely pass $45 million for the four days. But the $180 million production budget (add marketing and you get to $300 million) keeps it in the “wait and see” category.
Compare it to another Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptation, 2012’s “John Carter,” which Disney opened in March. It managed (adjusted for inflation) a total of $32 million, just a little below what “Tarzan” would have done without its extra Sunday pre-holiday boost. It cost more — $250 million in 2012 figures— and died an ugly death (tripling its domestic take of $73 million overseas). But everyone pronounced it DOA.
Last weekend, the nearly as costly “Independence Day: Resurgence” actually grossed $3 million more, again with no holiday boost. Last year, “Terminator: Genisys” through five days had passed $42 million. So we’re talking a trio of high-end cost films close to the same range. Why the different treatment? The industry was calling out a disaster—so “Tarzan” surpassed low expectations.
The movie nabbed strong female interest (just over half of the audience) with the “Me Tarzan, you Jane” romantic appeal of well-reviewed Margot Robbie (“The Wolf of Wall Street”) teamed with muscle-rippling star Alexander Skarsgaard (building on his cable following for “True Blood”).
The movie also beat out “The BFG” as the go-to younger audience film. Both films had about half of their viewers under 25, but “Tarzan” scored better with the higher-ticket cost for over-12 attendees. And per Warners’ reports, the most enthusiastic response (A+ Cinemascore) came from those under 18. So give credit to those backing the film for guessing that though “Tarzan” might seem like a retread for some older audiences, younger folks familiar with the Disney animated perennial were interested. That sounds (at a much lower cost) similar to Disney’s triumph with the already familiar but fresh live-action redo of “The Jungle Book.”
But “Tarzan” took a 10% second-day drop, not unusual when the Friday figure includes Thursday early shows and summertime matinees add to initial results. But that was a whole lot better than “The BFG” (which had little preview interest). We’ll see how it holds.
The likely $300 million combined cost means the total worldwide box office needs to total far in excess of $400 million to break even (film rental overall comes in to distributors at less than half of gross, as other revenues add on later). A best-case scenario would see a domestic multiple of over 3X (total $120 million), then this playing like “John Carter” (that would mean around $360 million). Initial foreign grosses were decent, but hardly decisive. Most of Europe hasn’t opened yet because of high-end soccer competition.
And the summer remains super competitive. Sunday’s figures will be an early indication of any result coming in better than expected. So far, not so bad.