THIRD UPDATE: 2PM. Some more coverage. Entertainment Weekly puts it this way:
Defying expectations by a mile at No. 2, The Legend of Tarzan pulled in a solid estimated $38.1 million ($10,709 per-location average) over its first three days, a total that will push closer to $50 million at the close of the four-day frame. Tarzan pulled in $5.9 million from 454 IMAX screens, making the $180 million tentpole a surprise overperformer as audiences stuck it to critics who slapped the film with negative reviews on Friday, ultimately awarding a decent A- grade on CinemaScore to director David Yates’ first non-Harry Potter feature since 2011.
NY Times is engaging in a little buzzkill which I frankly think is not fair to the film or its prospects. “Squarely in the loser colum” is really not supported by the numbers. No one else is saying that, and with a 180m budget (minus, probably $30M for the UK rebate) plus $50M or so for marketing, the total investment is $200M and a $100M/$300M domestic/foreign split appears eminently doable. That would put it in the profitability zone …. but having said that — here is the NY Times bit.:
Faring better was “The Legend of Tarzan.” Starring Alexander Skarsgard as the vine-swinger and made by Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow, “Tarzan” collected roughly $38.1 million over the three-day period. That total was much higher than analysts predicted before release. Most critics turned up their noses, but audiences gave the film an A-minus in CinemaScore exit polls, suggesting positive word of mouth.
Even so, “Tarzan” remains squarely in the loser column when it comes to profitability. Loaded with visual effects — violent apes, stampeding wildebeests — the movie cost a jaw-dropping $180 million to make, not counting marketing.
“This property has always really been about the international opportunity,” Jeff Goldstein, Warner’s executive vice president of domestic distribution, said by phone on Sunday. “You can best assess it a month from now.” Directed by David Yates and co-starring Margot Robbie, “Tarzan” opened in limited overseas release over the weekend, taking in $18.8 million. Important markets like Britain and China are still to come.
SECOND UPDATE 10:10AM: Hollywood Reporter is now out and has this to say:
Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow’s The Legend of Tarzan is holding at No. 2 in North America with a three-day gross of $38.1 million from 3,561 theaters and estimated four-day gross of $44 million. While that’s better than expected, it’s still a problematic number considering the movie’s $180 million production budget.
Both The BFG and Tarzan hope to make up ground at the international box office, but since both have staggered rollouts their fate overseas won’t immediately be known.
Legend of Tarzan opened in its first 19 markets this weekend, grossing $18.8 million, including a first-place finish in Russia with $3 million and a second-place finish in South Korea with $4 million. David Yates directed the action-adventure film, which stars Alexander Skarsgard in the title role opposite Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson, Djimon Hounsou, Jim Broadbent and Christoph Waltz.
In North America, Tarzan earned an A- CinemaScore, although reviews were less kind. The movie skewed slightly female (51 percent), while nearly 70 percent of the audience was over the age of 25.
“We thought we’d be in the $35 million range for the four days, but we’ve come in higher each day,” said Warner Bros. domestic distribution chief Jeff Goldstein, who credits strong exits and the A- CinemaScore. “And movie was always meant to be a big player internationally.”
FIRST UPDATE 9:45AM: Box Office Mojo is out now, with the same figures but with an interesting discussion that skews more favorable for LOT than Deadline or Mendelson in Forbes. Mojo’s Brad Brevet writes:
Next we come to Legend of Tarzan, which finished in second position with an estimated $38.1 million three-day opening, decimating Mojo’s weekend forecast and much higher than industry expectations. As of now the film is looking at a four-day around $43+ million, nearly $20 million more than Mojo’s projections. Given the film’s $180 million budget, however, it’s going to need some help over the coming weeks, and internationally, to justify such a massive spend. That said, working in the film’s favor is an “A-” CinemaScore with moviegoers under the age of 18 scoring it an A+. The audience breakdown was 49% male vs 51% female and 55% over the age of 35.
Looking ahead and comparing to other July releases opening in the same range, Tarzan‘s opening is just a shade above the $37.2 million opening for Pacific Rim three years ago and just a bit below the $40.3 million opening forThe Last Airbender. Pacific Rim went on to gross just over $101 million while Airbender totaled over $131 million. Given the audience score and opening it would stand to reason Tarzan could pop a bit higher than both films, but could it possibly reach $150 million domestically?
Internationally, Tarzan delivered an estimated $18.8 million from 19 markets for a $56.9 million global opening. It brought in $4 million in Korea and in Russia it finished #1 with an estimated $3 million. Next weekend it expands further into the UK, France (Jul 6), Australia (Jul 7) and Mexico (Jul 8).
ORGINAL POST 9:00 AMThe Sunday Box office figures are starting to come in and the first report, by Scott Mendelson at Forbes, has Legend of Tarzan at $38.135 for Fri-Sun and $44M for Fri-Mon Holiday. As Mendelson, a Tarzan skeptic, notes: “That’s a win, without question.” Is it? Hell yeah it is. As recently as Friday afternoon after the matinee figures were in, the Fri-Mon projection was $28M, which if it had happened would have spelled doom for any thoughts of a reborn Tarzan franchise. That hasn’t happened, and Tarzan is alive and “on the bubble” as to whether the performance will be enough to warrant consideration of sequels etc. Mendelson goes on to say that LOT has a realistic shot at $115M domestically (projections coming into the weeend were $60-70M), but notes that for the $180M film to be a success, it will need a big performance overseas.
Still, for there to even be rational discussion that Legend of Tarzan looks like it might be profitable is cause for fans and proponents of the franchise to rejoice. In an era where “exceeding expectations” is critical to the success/failure narrative — there is absolutely no doubt whatoever that LOT has exceeded all expectations.
Deadline is also out now with it’s Sunday AM update — numbers are the same as Mendelson and Forbes.
The Sequel Math — What is It?
This degree of success leads to a consideration of the sequel math — what does LOT have to do in order for WB to consider a sequel? This requires some explaining, so bear with me.
A general rule of thumb is that a film needs to do “twice its budget” at the global box office to be considered in the ballpark for profitability. This is just shorthand — real profitability involves all the income streams (theatrical, blu-ray, digital, premium cable, standard cable, broadcast, and residual asset value) over a ten year period. But generally speaking, a film doing twice it’s budget is starting to get in the ballpark, and 2.5x budget is safely in the black.
Legend of Tarzan’s budget is $180m according to all accounts. But there is an asterisk, and the asterisk involves the fact that it qualified for UK and Quebec tax rebates that should have netted it $30M in rebates, and thus the actual budget may well be around $150M. But then to be safe, let’s plug back in the marketing costs of $50M (not $100M as was the case with John Carter; WB was far more frugal). So 180 minus 30 plus 50 — call it $200m. Thus 2x is $400m and that is what is probably the “bar” that LOT needs to get over. And just to be safe, let’s tack on a little bit more and say to be really sure that a victory can be declared, it needs to get to $450M. So $400m is the low-end threshold where sequel talk is rational, and $450M is where it becomes very compelling.
Thus — threshold level of success would look something like this:L
$100M — Domestic Gross (25%)
$300M — Foreign Gross (75%)
$400M — Global Total (100%)
Let’s go back to where we are now.
If LOT does $38M opening weekend Fri-Sun, using the 2.5x multiplier that Mendelson uses, that projects out to a domestic US total of $95.3M. So that’s a little bit short of the scenario above. Good word of mouth can make up the difference, and so far it seems that LOT has good word of mouth. So $100M domestic seems attainable (Mendelson even mentions a possibile $115M domestically) ….
What about foreign?
The much maligned John Carter can serve as a corollary in the sense that it did 25% domestic, 75% foreign. Also as far back as the 1960’s, when foreign numbers were much lower, the Sy Weintraub Tarzan films were doing 75% of their business overseas. So is 75% foreign do-able? It would seem so.
The “Political” Dimension — does it raise the bar?
The mere existence of a Tarzan movie in 2016 has triggered a firestorm of vitriol over what many view as the inescapable racial or racist overtones of the story — and, the theory goes, no amount of storytelling contortions can excise the demons of racism that permeat the concept. WB Studios is mostly about money — but will this kind of critical and social negativism affect the willngness to proceed with a franchise?
Stay tuned. We don’t know.
But one thing is certain. Two days ago the idea of Legend of Tarzan being even a qualified success seemed like a pipe dream — now it’s definitely on the table the the film will succeed.
And a sequel?
Well, we can talk about it now and not be deemed unhinged.