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Box Office Report

Box Office: ‘Spark’ Fails To Ignite At The Box Office

It’s no surprise that Spark: A Space Tail didn’t perform well, but this is box office bomb of historic proportions.

According to weekend estimates, the Aaron Woodley-directed film grossed an estimated $112,352 from 365 theaters, a per-theater average (PTA) of $308. To put into perspective how little that amount is, The Lost City of Z outgrossed Spark this weekend with $112,633, and that film was playing in just four theaters.

Spark had a PTA of only $72 on Sunday, which works out to around eight tickets per theater. Assuming that there were four to five screenings per day, most showings of the film played to empty (or nearly-empty) houses. Any way you break it down, it is among the weakest launches in the history of cg animation in the United States.

Of its 37 films that Open Road Films has released to date, Spark ranks as the distributor’s all-time worst launch based on PTA. Open Road, a joint-venture between cinema chains AMC and Regal, was clearly hoping to replicate the success of its earlier hit, The Nut Job, which had been produced by the same production companies. The monkey-in-space sci-fi genre even has a proven track record at the box office: Space Chimps grossed $30 million back in 2008. Instead, they ended up with a Delgo-level flop that will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Open Road will try again — and hope for better results — with The Nut Job 2 in August. The film is co-produced by the same team that made Spark: Korean studio Redrover Co. Ltd, Canada’s Toonbox Entertainment, China’s Shanghai Hoongman Technology Co., and Gulfstream Pictures.

While Spark is a certifiable flop in the United States, it’s important to remember that for foreign producers, U.S. box office doesn’t mean everything and the film could still perform well in other parts of the world. Double Dutch International (DDI), the international sales agent for Spark, successfully sold the film based on the reputation of The Nut Job and Spark’s celebrity voice cast, which included Jessica Biel, Hilary Swank, Patrick Stewart, and Susan Sarandon. DDI CEO Jason Moring told Screen Daily last November, “With the recent announcement of Open Road theatrically releasing Spark in the U.S. combined with the track record of these great animated producers and strong voice talent, we fully expect Spark to be sold out soon.”

Rights for Spark have been snapped up by Kaleidoscope (U.K.), California Films (Latin America), Eagle Films (Middle East), Fox International (pan-Asia pay TV), Captive Entertainment (Philippines), MVP Films (Vietnam/India), Sam Films (Iceland), Roadshow (Australia), Scanbox (Scandinavia), Baltic Top Film (Russia/C.I.S.), Best Film (Poland), Five Stars (Israel), Blitz (ex-Yugoslavia), and ATM Film (West Indies). China and South Korea also have distribution planned.

Other U.S. box office notes:

Dreamworks’ The Boss Baby slipped to second place, surrendering pole position to The Fate of the Furious. The movie has overperformed and continues to hold up well with $15.5M in its third weekend. It has banked $116.3M in the U.S. and $122.6M abroad for $238.9M global — and more to come.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast passed $1 billion in global gross at the box office last week. The film dropped to third place in the U.S. with $13.6M. Its total is now $454.6M stateside and $588.4M abroad for a grand total of $1.043 billion.

Sony Picture Animation’s Smurfs: The Lost Village dropped from third to fourth place in its second weekend, achieving just $6.5M. Its two-week total is $24.7M. Not counting the two Aardman films that SPA co-produced, Smurfs will end up as Sony Animation’s weakest film ever in the United States. The film has earned $70.3 million internationally, and has a global total of $95M.

GKIDS launched the American indie My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea by comic artist Dash Shaw in three theaters, pulling $15,215. The film had a decent $5,072 per theater average.

Funimation’s U.S. release of Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name did not report weekend totals.

  • GW

    I wonder what would happen if they released Uproar in Heaven in cinemas. If somebody did that we’d have a better idea of exactly why the audience stayed home. Was it the premise or the fact that the movie just didn’t look very good?

  • Cameron Ward

    I don’t know how long it will take to stop laughing at Spark’s failure. I’m laughing way too hard for my own good in how pitiful it’s doing. I’m sure there was “some” “effort” put into the animation, but man, Open Road might be up there with the Weinsteins and Lionsgate as the worst animation distributors. All I can say for this film’s failure is this

  • Edmund Paul Heaton

    Is there ANY OTHER PIECE of Chinese fantasy literature anyone ever wants to adapt other than Journey to the West? Seriously.

    • BurntToShreds

      Dynasty Warriors is great for its take on Romance of the Three Kingdoms, but that’s more like historical fiction. Really awesome historical fiction, though.

    • mushed potato

      JTTW is very fantasy-friendly and has a very recognisable and consistent crew. Every retelling has a monkey, pig, demon, and priest (and the oft-forgotten dragonhorse). It’s pretty ingrained by now.

      3 Kingdoms has been done to death in live-action, specially the Guan Yu bits.
      Water Margin was taken for a spin in Old Master Q.
      Red Chamber feels more like a slow 300-episode TVB drama.

      I find it surprising no one wants to touch Canonization of Deities, it has enough wriggle-room to go fantasy bonkers with equal parts grand arc (Daji’s story) and standalone chapters.

  • When I watched the trailer for the first time I got Treasure Planet vibes with the space travelling and main character and the trailer itself gave me some hope for it but apparently no one else thought so. IMO there was some heart put into the characters, locations and designs overall but when it flops it flops. Hopefully its another 9 years or more like with Delgo before something bombs this hard again and sets the bar even lower.

  • Tony

    If they were hoping to replicate the success of The Nut Job, they would have put it in more theaters and done more promotion (or ANY promotion, for that matter).
    ( sorry for the repeat post, the first was posted by mistake before it was finished.)

  • Doconnor

    I went to Your Name for a Good Friday matinee in downtown Toronto and the theater was more then half full. Interestingly almost all the showings are the subtitled version. The demographics was still very much anime geeks and their Asian girlfriends.

    I was thinking about going to My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea, but didn’t get around to it. I was surprised that it wasn’t mentioned on this site before. I guess there are so many animated features these days, you can get to all of them.

  • Inkan1969

    What surprised me the most was the small number of theaters. Why 353? I thought this was going to be a conventional wide release.

    • Jacob Smith

      I’d guess that Open Road realized that had a bomb on their hands and decided to minimize the damage as much as possible. Even if they gave it a wide release, and gave it as much promotion as they did for “The Nut Job”, it likely still would have been a big bomb. Sci-Fi animated movies have a pretty bad history at the box office (Treasure Planet, Titan AE, Delgo, Battle For Terra, Ratchet & Clank…) and nothing about this movie seemed to indicate it would escape that trend

  • I just wonder, do studios (some not most) really take animation seriously? Or take it as a get rich quick scheme. Animation is harder to do in both storytelling and performing, so I don’t get why some studios think anything will be plausible to offer to audiences.

    Just because it’s animated does not mean it’s worth seeing. You have to bring your A game from the jump if you want to even compete.

    • Mermaid Warrior

      Most animation (at least in the US) is made for kids, and a lot of studios have this mentality of “it’s for kids, it doesn’t have to be good”.

      • ea

        We should start a studio that makes animated features exclusively for mature audiences. Let’s get the rights to a popular novel or comic book that has family-unfriendly violence, swearing and sexual content. Voilà, lots of money and we prove that animation can work for any age-group.

        • Mermaid Warrior

          I’d do it if I had the money, ha ha.

    • Jer

      No animation is not taken seriously in the US.
      Pixar and Anime has done alot by making animations that both kids and adults can enjoy, but animation in the US is made for kids (mainly)

      For example, Ralph Bakshi (hope I got that last name right) Cool World was suppose to be about very adult and the studios mentality was … we want something our kids can see. So it became this hybrid mix that doesn’t work on any level.

      Also animations in the past have done poorly. It’s only fairly recently that animation has started pulling in money in the billions and that’s only 3D animation. God help you if you want to release something that’s Stop-Motion and most american companies won’t even give 2D animation a chance anymore.

      More to the point. There’s so much material out here all studios should bring their “A” game no matter what.

  • ea

    “My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea” sounds like one of those anime with overly-long titles.

  • KW

    Maybe its because I dont watch much TV these days outside of Netflix nor do I visit websites this might be advertised (aside from this one), but this is the first i’ve heard of Spark. Thats probably a good indicator of why it failed.

  • rubi-kun

    Your Name is now reporting $733,722 for the weekend (down 59.5% from last weekend). Not the word of mouth phenomenon I was hoping, but assuming it holds onto enough theaters long enough it has a chance of making it into the top 10 anime releases in America.

  • Cameron Ward

    Is there a budget estimation? I mean just production budget not marketing budget

  • Those are encouraging numbers for My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea. With the right kind of marketing to the right niche, it could be a model of success for smartly budgeted indie animated features for an alternative audience.

  • Mister Twister

    I watched it in New York, and liked it. Guess other viewers expected something absolutely mindblowing, or Pixar quality animation. If one can overlook the technical quality, it is a solid 7/10. The team who worked on it really cared, unlike he producers.