Kenny Sayz: Disney’s 4Q Movie Schedule Could Hinder ROI

The Entertainment Industry was shocked to see that Disney’s “Frankenweenie” tanked at the box office this past weekend. The Tim Burton black and white stop motion animated film grossed a dismal $11 million over the weekend but luckily the movie is a relatively cheap $39 million investment. Even the similar”ParaNorman” released by indie studio Focus Features performed stronger in the middle of August then Disney’s “Frankenweenie” which is nothing short of a pathetic showing in the 3D format as well as in IMAX. I’m willing to bet that if there is a record for low gross for a wide release feature on the IMAX format then “Frankenweenie” might have broken that record!


There were several factors to this movie performing poorly but one was the most obvious:

the kid’s film “Hotel Transylvania” took away its core audience.

Releasing an animated kids movie a week after a huge animated family hit wasn’t going to work. The Tim Burton stop motion animation film needed a release date closer to Halloween and far far away from “Hotel Transylvania” in order to succeed. Also, I don’t think the black and white format helped the film very much either. I think the B&W format scared away Gen X’s, and younger baby boomers, from seeing “The Artist” let alone taking their children to see a Tim Burton animated movie. (The hard sell of “The Artist” is an observation based on numerous movie related conversations I had with older movie-going adults that went under reported during Oscar season.) I understand that Disney couldn’t open Frankenweenie around Halloween because their other animated movie, “Wreck it Ralph”, is opening the first weekend in November.


I get the feeling that Disney’s poor showing this past weekend was their own doing. These bad release schedules is a real botched opportunity with both “Frankenweenie” and “Wreck It Ralph” and there’s no doubt that a movie like “Frankenweenie” needed to open around Halloween. A Christmas release for ‘Wreck it Ralph’ would be better and would make logical sense, to me anyway, because it looks like a christmas release with the bright vibrant color pallette the film utilizes. There was lots of opportunity to market this film as a Christmas release as there are very few children’s movies releasing this year around that time. Disney decided to release “Monsters, Inc” in 3D as their Christmas movie.
November will be cluttered with “big adult movies” which might distract older adults who take their kids to the movies and those parents might opt to see “Flight,” “Skyfall,” or “Lincoln” immediately after the release of “Wreck it Ralph” effecting its potential for long legs at the box office. Again, Disney decided to release “Monsters, Inc” in 3D as their Christmas movie.


Wait, what!?!?


3D reboots typically open during weak periods of the release schedule like September, and not on one of the biggest movie weeks of the year such as Christmas. These re-releases are a desperate attempt to make money during a slow time of year but with this logic, maybe we could expect a 3D version of “The Incredibles” to open on Memorial Day or the Fourth of July!?! Of course, this wouldn’t happen during the summer, but its pretty much what happened during the Holiday movie season this year.
This was a lackluster decision and Disney’s problem that they created for themselves. Release schedules can make or break a movie and someone at Disney should’ve paid attention to the tracking for “Hotel Transylvania” weeks ago and played fast with the release dates. With so much money on the line, studios need to be careful and think these choices through carefully.

About Kenny Miles

Whether something is overlooked by Hollywood or whatever business trend has captured the Entertainment Industry’s attention, Kenny Miles loves to talk about movies (especially the cultural impact of a film). He covers various aspects of movies including specialty genre films, limited release, independent, foreign language, documentary features, and THE much infamous "awards season." Also, he likes to offer his opinion on the business of film, marketing strategy, and branding. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado and is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society critics group. When he isn’t writing, Kenny channels his passion for interacting with moviegoers (something most movie pundits lack) as a pollster for the market research company CinemaScore and working as floor staff/special events coordinator in the film community. You can follow him on Twitter @kmiles723.