After a weekend of $176,323 on 233 screens, and a foreign weekend of $25,000, it’s pretty clear that Legend of Tarzan is now into the final “long tail” that marks the end of the theatrical run. There is realistic potential for some additional hundreds of thousands in domestic box office; and the foreign total of $230M still contains an estimated component that could result in even an extra million or two when all is said and done …. but the greater chance is that we are reaching the end game of what would be a very successful theatrical run were it not for the alleged price tag of $180M.
Fans of the Tarzan franchise should be able to take heart from the fact that the film, burdened by low expectations and exceptional hostility from critics, performed at a level that puts it in the top 10% of all studio wide releases for 2016. The basic viability of the Tarzan franchise, it can be argued, was re-established. Now if the production cost can just be managed.
As to what we are to take from the numbers, a few thoughts:
- In absolute terms, the outcome is respectable and don’t let the naysayers say otherwise. The idea that all film results are indexed off the cost to produce a film is a fallacy. Eventually you have to bring the market and the cost in alignment, but a film that can pull in $360M worldwide is not to be scoffed at — the question is, could a future film be produced at a price that would be profitable with a similar market performance? In other words — $140M budget instead of $180M?
- Re “what about DVD? etc?” — be aware that when the so-called “experts” analyze a film’s success (or lack thereof) based on box office gross, there is a built-in consideration of subsequent non-theatrical income streams. In other words, the Box Office Gross basically sets the market value for DVD, Cable, Free TV, etc, and those revenues are all baked into the assessment. So it’s not helpful to say “yeah, but” and then talk agout DVD and other revenue streams. Those revenues have been considered.
- Bearing in mind the foregoing, what we are looking at with Legend of Tarzan is a performance that is more or less “on the bubble” between profitable/not profitable. The naysayers currently have the upper hand, claiming it falls short, but I think a case can be made that this is just the perpetuation of the narrative that was in play going into the release …. in other words, the film was declared a flop before it was ever released; it performed better than expected; but a lot of lazy entertainment writers persist in calling it a disappointment, if not a flop. It wasn’t a flop. If there was anything disappointing about it, it was that foreign topped out at $230M.
Is there reason to be hopeful for a sequel?
One, it isn’t going to happen automatically. In other words, between the high budget, the “on the bubble returns”, and the critical headwinds, WB is not going to automatically greenlight a sequel.
Two, if it is going to happen, it will require a champion, or champions, to emerge — for example, David Yates, perhaps wearing a producer hat rather than director (given how busy he will be with other projects) — to push the studio to consider a sequel. That push will need to include a compelling story and compelling production plan that credibly addresses the budget issues.
Fans fit into the equation as well. More about that in another post.
Bottom line, the ERB universe can hold its head high, but there is much work to be done.