Screen Shot 2017-03-12 at 12.53.36 PM

Does Skull Island’s Success Mean Anything for Legend of Tarzan Sequel Prospects?

ERBDOM, Legend of Tarzan (Movie)

The Sunday box office news is that Kong: Skull Island is looking pretty strong with $61M opening on a $185M budget, with Rotten Tomatoes critics score of 78% and Cinemascore ratings of A and A-minus in most demographics.  Deadline’s Sunday morning Box Office article  has a hefty section that discusses Kong in relation to Legend of Tarzan. Here’s what it says:

It wasn’t too long ago that Warner Bros. over-indexed on another dusty, expensive Hollywood property during its opening weekend run: the July 4th weekend opener The Legend of Tarzan. It too arrived in theaters with a huge $180M production cost (just $5M shy of Kong: Skull Island‘s). The Village Roadshow co-production was expected to post a low $30M four-day take, but WB pushed it to $46.6M. Critics didn’t love Tarzan as much as Kong: Skull Island, 36% Rotten to 78% Certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Both Kong and Tarzan earned very good CinemaScores (Tarzan an A-, Kong with various demos awarding it A or A-). Tarzan legged out to a 3.2 multiple off its 3-day of $38.5M to $126.6M, and Kong could generate a similar multiple with an end result well north of $150M stateside (Beauty and the Beast will definitely take a bite out of his legs next weekend all around the world). But again, in light of Tarzan‘s budget, it was very hard to get excited about the movie’s overperformance: Film finance sources inform us that Tarzan was definitely below breakeven after all ancillaries despite making $356.7M at the worldwide B.O.

So, once again, the culprit is the budget. LOT with a budget of $150M would have been profitable; at $180M, not so much.  LOT also drew fire from critics, and I’m curious to see Kong and figure out how it managed a 78% Fresh rating.  The trailers struck me as unoriginal and a yawn, but then that’s just me.

Full Deadline Article — click here

Thanks to mburns for flagging the Deadline article.



  • I loved the marketing for Kong: Skull Island….and I really enjoyed the movie. However, I thought the marketing was far stronger than the actual film. For me, Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong movie has far superior production design and visual effects…and it is a WAY better movie (yes, I even appreciate the hour of setup before the crew reaches the island, which is far more compelling than MANY of the slow episodes of The Walking Dead).

    I have to say though, Kong: Skull Island was nowhere near as good as The Legend of Tarzan. Seeing LOT for the first time was one of my all time best experiences ever going to a theater, so there was a high bar to overcome – of which Skull Island fails miserably at in comparison.

  • Skull Island avoided the ire of critics because it is in a Vietnam Nam setting and there is no question of the ” white savior” issue that was the crux of the antipathy critics had for The Legend of Tarzan. They didn’t want it to seem like this was all that was wrong with the film ,so they variously attacked it for being humorless,joyless,too complex,too simple, lacking coherence,a boring Tarzan and even poor CGI. I got the distinct impression many of them wrote their reviews before seeing the movie or didn’t bother to see the movie at all. LOL wasn’t tracking well so they thought they could easily write it off. It was not tracking well because WB didn’t build it up from the beginning as a major event movie and created little to no buzz about it. All their efforts were going into creating a buzz for Suicide Squad and LOL only the most most basic promo treatment.

    They gave Skull Island its rightful due and stated cresating buzz about it from the beginning of filming onward like they did for Suicide Squad. They didn’t put another WB blockbuster in front or behind Skull Island like they did with LOT that would steal airspace from it. They had enough competition going last summer from other big budget films. Tgey didn’t need to add to the competition by competing against themselves with Suicide Squad opening another so close to LOL. They made a big mistake with the positioning of these two movies and with the lack of an outstanding ad campaign for LOL. Perhaps with the death of Jerry Wientien and tge preoccupation of Yates with Fantastic Beasts there was no one to look out for the interests of LOL.

  • I find it a bit ironic that, like LOT, “Kong: Skull Island” has a big fearsome ape/gorilla, and Samuel L. Jackson among the cast. 🙂

  • “Film finance sources inform us that Tarzan was definitely below breakeven after all ancillaries despite making $356.7M at the worldwide B.O.”

    Micheal, what finance sources are Anthony D’Alessandro talking about? Also, how really bonafide was that often-cited $180M budget for LOT? Wasn’t the LOT production suspended at one point because of budget over-runs? And he then went up? I have always questioned that figure cited by Box Office Mojo.

    • It was in pre-production at a budget of 125m and they shuttered the production office and put it in turnaround until/unless they could get the budget down to 90m. According to Jim Sullos at ERB inc, they definitely tried to make adjustments to save money — he remembered them saying specifically they had or dramatically reduced the train scene, for example. But then …. it got greenlit. At the time I thought that meant that had gotten the budget down, but evidently they just convinced them to go forward. There was no talk about what the new budget was and it continued to be carried as 120 or 125M. Then, in the runup to the movie being released, Kim Masters at the hollywood reporter mentione din passing that the budget was 180m, and that stuck. No one from the production ever refuted it; no one clarified whether that was net of the UK tax rebates (which should have been around 30m) . . . etc. But 180m is embedded and no one from the production or WB has pushed back, and one thinks they would because they know that the expectations game is hugely (yugely) affected by the published or rumored budget. So I’m inclined to think the budget really did end up being 180m. All it would have taken was one statement by a producer or anyone to set the record straight. It didn’t have to be official, just credible.

      As for the experts — look, there are experts all over town who have the ability to take the production budget, look at what is known of the marketing budget, add those numbers up —then look at the box office gross in the US, and the box office gross overseas, and then do some modeling and come up with “profitable” or “not-profitable”. As a rule, the global gross needs to be at least 2x the production budget to even be considered as maybe kinda sorta profitable in the long run. LOT is right on that bubble. But 2x is the lowest model, a more common model is 2.5x and under that model, LOT would have needed tomake it to 440M globally, so there’s that.

      But the experts are experts. Deadline doesn’t mess around–they are a major trade.

      Now, if the budget was really 150m and the studio just never told us …..(30m tax rebates?) ….. then it looks better. But I think that’s wishful thinking. Sadly.

Leave a Reply