Legend of Tarzan Ape

Sunday Box Office Update: Legend of Tarzan Exceeds Expectations; Will Reach at least $38.1M Fri-Sun and $44M Fri-Mon — This is a WIN!

Legend of Tarzan Box Office, Most Read

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.


  • Foreign numbers are starting to come in:
    ‘Tarzan’ Takes $18.8M In First Offshore Swing; ‘TMNT2’ Kicks Up $26M China Bow; ‘Pets’ Purrs – International Box Office
    Refresh for latest… With studio estimates rolling in on the international box office weekend, this is shaping up to be a hodgepodge frame. There was no major wide release in the session, although staggered rollouts began on Warner Bros/Village Roadshow’s The Legend Of Tarzan, Fox’s Ice Age: Collision Course and Steven Spielberg’s The BFG. Of those reporting thus far, we have an $18.8M take for Tarzan which began pounding his chest in 19 markets including the key plays of Russia and Korea; and a $3.9M overseas bow for The BFG in Russia and Australia.
    Swinging into 19 international markets, the David Yates-directed spin on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic creation snatched $18.8M on about 6,700 screens. It’s got an A- CinemaScore in North America where it is opening at $38.1M. The offshore rollout is staggered to take advantage of the competitive landscape and surrounding the ongoing Euro Cup soccer tournament (although with England’s surprise knockout out last weekend, anyone who purposely stayed out of the UK this weekend has to be bummed). The main cast for Tarzan was set for UK press ahead of next frame’s bow there, with Alexander Skarsgard headed to Scandinavia and a key push later in Beijing. Tarzan was given a plum July 19 release date out of the Middle Kingdom. Peculiar given the typical July blackout on Hollywood imports, but also not a slam dunk either given there will be a bevy of Chinese movies in the market by that time.

    Back to this weekend. Tarzan predictably topped Russian box office with 44% of the Top 5 at $3M. The action/CGI lends itself to Russian audiences, but the opening is only on par with the launch of Snow White And The Huntsman and 35% above Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. That film’s sequel, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, fared much better in Russia with a $9.8M start in 2014.

    Similarly, in Korea, Skarsgard’s turn as a thinking man’s Tarzan grossed $4M from 600 screens. This is currently a crowded market with two local pics, Familyhood and The Hunt both performing strongly. Tarzan landed No. 2. It should be noted that Disney’s The Jungle Book, which has grossed upwards of $18M here, is still in Korean theaters.

    Elsewhere on Tarzan, Asia had No. 1 openings in India, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. Without going into detail, WB says Tarzan opened No. 1 in the majority of Eastern European markets and Puerto Rico. Next weekend, more heavy-hitters come along including the UK, France, Australia and Mexico.

  • I’m trying to contain my excitement since I know there’s still a long way to go, but this is such a fantastic start and I’m particularly happy that the public response flies in the face of those nasty, mean-spirited reviews. I just hope it continues nice and steady.

    As for the overseas numbers, I know it’s been a staggered release, but do these numbers indicate a positive trend? Outside of coming in #1 and #2 in some markets, do the numbers seem solid all things considered?

    • I’m still struggling to get a full context on the overseas numbers. They definitely seem to be okay . . . but they need to be btter than okay. I know a lot is riding on China, which doesn’t open until July 19. There should be more on the int’l on Monday. Watching closely.

  • The “white savior angst” among some of the critics is interesting and paves the way for meaningful social discourse on race issues. Yates clearly took pains to consider this, and should be lauded for watering down the trope.

    The core narrative of the film revolves around the relationship between Tarzan and Jane. If there is a savior, it’s a “black savior” in the guise of George Washington Williams. He gets Tarzan to come to Africa, uses him to achieve his goals, and succeeds in blowing King Leopold’s cover.

    • Yes …. I do have some minor quibbles about the ending and how a bit of that may have played into the hands of the “white savior” complaint crowd — but I’m not ready to raise minor quibbles yet. That can come later. I’m having too much fun enjoying a WIN for Yates, WB, ERB, and all of us. Boom! Yes. Ahhh…..

  • I have a feeling that the negative reviews, many of which lacked some professional objectivity, really did not sit well with many viewers. I appreciate objectivity in all reviews, but negative reviews for this particular movie came across (at least to me) in some cases like:….don’t go….you should not watch this….this movie should have never been made…

    RT audience score includes many reviews where viewers scored the movie, but also commented on the critics. This would be an interesting theme for some sociology/psychology research or paper.

    I saw this negative critic today. Someone posted this on IMdB under the title: Strong contender for the most ignorant review…
    I honestly wonder: What did this lady actually watch?


    • That review is getting a lot of attention for how over the top it is. Amazing. The reviewer also tweeted it to all the Tarzan people she knew from twitter….rubbing their noses in it. Quite an agenda.

      • I honestly felt uncomfortable just reading it. Yes, this is a movie which had to address very sensitive issues such as racism and colonialism evils, and judging by the interviews, and reactions of many viewers on RT and IMDb my impression is that it managed to do that. I could bet that a good portion of those harsh reviewers maybe even did not know who George W. Williams was before this movie. If nothing else, this movie brought attention to this real life person and to the atrocities committed in Congo at that time period and should at least get the credits for that.

        I don’t find all negative reviews the same. I have not seen the movie yet so I am yet to judge it. I will always accept any legitimate arguments such as if the movie was poorly edited, bad story, poor performance by the actors etc., but to judge the movie with the preconceived notions is not a good work ethic and neither is it professional. As you Michael once said, this lady said more about herself in her reviews then about the movie. As Alex’ character Eric in TB said in one scene: Poorly played (lady).

  • I saw that article, Ana, and I found it disgusting. I find it hard to fathom what she was watching, other than to think that her own personal demons influenced her review. I think it could be fair to say that she was trying way too hard to be offended and screaming from the rafters “See, I’m not a racist”. That may be totally unfair, but I’m pretty shocked at what she wrote.

    As for the ending of the movie, I admit I initially sank in my seat a little when I saw all of the cheering from the mountain top. I thought it might play into the “white savior” criticism, but after some time, I think it could be argued that it wasn’t just Tarzan who saved the day, nor just Tarzan they were cheering. As Demos noted, George Washington Williams played a big role. Not only did he get Tarzan to go to the Congo, but he actively derailed Rom in the end. George is the one who fired the machine gun that created the initial destruction of Rom’s boat, that caused all of his men to leave him alone on a sinking ship. It was a team effort — Tarzan and George. I think there’s a tendency to think only of Tarzan in that moment, he is the title character after all, but taking a step back, it’s the two of them that saved the day.

    • Thank you very much for sharing your views (about the movie itself in one of your earlier posts and also about this particular review). I agree and I also find this article not worthy of a professional reviewer.

      I am a fan of Alexander and Djimon. I remember first seeing Djimon in that over the top ax scene in Deep Rising movie, though he was not so popular back then (and last night there was a rerun of Gladiator, so Djimon again:)) Therefore, having the two of my favourite actors in the same movie was one of the initial draws. In addition, I am intrigued to see this new and fresh take on Tarzan in the 21st century. I read the first 6 books when I was a child and was also a fan of Tarzan comic books. 1984 Lambert’s version was one of my favourite, and I really enjoyed Weismuller’s Tarzan.

      I commend the efforts of the director and all others involved in this project to tell the story which may not be easy to tell in this time and age. I appreciate your thoughts about the end of the movie (something like that might play into the “white savior” criticism), but as you said it was a team effort, not a one-man-show, and I really like that they went into that direction. I got a distinct impression that this is an excellent adventure/romance movie, whose heart is in the right place, and which also offers some deeper messages. So, I am really looking forward to see it.

      Also, judging by the reviews, it seems to me that this Tarzan is a bit rusty:), not 100% percent the Tarzan in the books or Tarzan we would expect him to be. If I understood correctly, he gets beaten by both men and apes, he makes mistakes and is obviously one who also needs help. I like this more realistic and humane version, after all he is just a human, regardless of all his skills and abilities and unorthodox upbringing (to put it mildly:)).

  • Analysis from IndieWire:
    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.

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