“Epic” Box Office Plummets in U.S., Slow Abroad

In its second weekend at the U.S. box office, Blue Sky’s Epic plummeted a troubling 50.4% for a take of $16.6 million and a fifth-place finish. The week two drop is far more substantial than other recent animated originals like Wreck-It Ralph (-32.7%), Hotel Transylvania (-36.4%), and The Croods (-38.8%). Even the DreamWorks dud Rise of the Guardians only dropped 43.7% in its second frame. In the States, Epic has grossed $65.1 million and could potentially end up as Blue Sky’s lowest-grossing domestic feature.

The LA Times notes that Epic has also struggled to connect with overseas audiences. Craig Dehmel, a Fox v-p, suggested to the Times that, “Epic is unique and a more complex story than much of the typical animated fare and that can sometimes make it more challenging for international audiences to discover.” The film expanded into 57 international territories last weekend, but managed to pull in just $28.5 million for a fourth-place finish. Its foreign total is now $86.3 million.


  • feep

    Yet again, an animated movie that has surpassed its production budget and continue to do so is chastised. Are live action movies held to this scrutiny? Why is it so easy to label a lower grossing animated movie a flop if it’s made back it’s budget? Why do we expect all of them to be $500 million+ earners?

    • jamil

      How else do you expect them to own private jets?

    • Scott550

      Sorry–but it’s got another $70 million to go to break even (conservatively).

    • Marie

      Exactly. The film business as a whole needs to rethink its definition of success.

      • Funkybat

        More like the film business needs to rethink its methods of distribution and marketing. So much of what is done is a waste that adds almost nothing to a film’s chances of success int he marketplace. Epic had ads all over the place. So did John Carter. So did a lot of movies that failed to connect with audiences, that that includes movies that had interesting marketing.

        In the age of online media, plastering 100 million bus shelters with a tagline and a character’s face is inefficient at best. Most traditional advertising just becomes white noise to the average person. Word of mouth (both actual and online) and other more “organic” methods of spreading awareness stand a better chance of working. My criticisms extend to the live action film biz as well.

    • AnimBiz

      If you break even, does that mean you made a profit? I dont think thats how economics works… The profit has to be decent for the film to be called a success. Major animation studios have a lot of overhead. You have to sustain the studio even when projects are being developed. There is a lot more to it…

    • https://vimeo.com/channels/wharton Brett Wharton

      You have to subtract 40-55%, which is the cut taken by the theaters that show the film, then subtract the 10% cut for the distributor (Fox), then subtract the advertising costs (50-70 million on a major film). That’s why a film needs to gross roughly double it’s production budget before it breaks even.

      • Jeff

        My understanding is that theaters don’t make anywhere near that cut anymore. Their profits are based mostly on their concession sales.

        • Animator606432

          That could explain what a bucket of popcorn cost an arm and a leg. Still, why do the consumers have to suffer because the theaters are getting less of a cut?

  • http://www.elliotelliotelliot.com ElliotCowan

    “Epic is unique and a more complex story than much of the typical animated fare and that can sometimes make it more challenging for international audiences to discover.”

    HAHAHAHAH!
    Because typical American audiences prefer something more sophisticated and challenging?
    I think the real issue here is that Epic is a boring rehash of something audiences have seen 35 times before,

    • Roberto Severino

      Elliot Cowan dropping truth bombs I see.

      This is why I don’t go to the movies anymore. Many of the stuff being made now, especially in animation, seem to be based on an existing franchise like The Hangover or the ideas have been ran to the ground repeatedly.

      These companies don’t understand that there’s a growing amount of people who want to watch content on their own time without having to pay 11 or 12 dollars for a single movie ticket or pay enormous amounts for cable or satellite!

      Live action seems to be waking up and the nature of that business is slowly changing for the better. Look at the success of the new Arrested Development season exclusively posted through Netflix. I predict that direct to streaming kind of movies are going to become big and possibly drive out a lot of the theaters and even some of the major studios out of business if they don’t adapt and change.

      Animation as a whole needs to jump on board and stop being so stagnant and reluctant to change. Kickstarter has at least gotten some ground and more animators are motivated to make their own films and post them online, but it’s only a start.

    • http://the-animatorium.blogspot.com/ Natalie Belton

      So in other words, it was an epic fail. (Sorry, that was bad).

    • Cheese

      They should have kept the name “Leaf Men” instead of changing the name to attract wider audiences since Disney changed the name from “Rapunzel” to “Tangled.” But for the record, it’s a “Ferngully” rip-off.

  • Alberto

    “Epic is unique and a more complex story than much of the typical animated fare and that can sometimes make it more challenging for international audiences to discover.”

    How patronizing is that?? In Fox’s eyes only Americans are intelligent then?

    How about “We are tired of being sold the same story over and over again”?

    Idiot executives.

    • jmahon

      I think it’s the lack of proper advertising that killed it. They should’ve billed it as what it was- a more magical, majestic sort of tale, about the beauty of nature. The first trailer they came out with had no dialogue at all and an ethereal sort of feeling was really really amazing and sold me on the film right away, I thought “this is going to be beautiful! I’ve wanted Blue Sky to make a more serious film for ages!!” But the rest of them were all gag trailers about those stupid slugs that were not even an asset to the movie whatsoever.

      I held out that it was just a case of bad advertising and that the movie WAS what the first trailer portrayed it as- something with a big overarching dare I say “epic” idea and beautifully rendered animation. I was right, and I think that was the problem.

      • Funkybat

        I wouldn’t say “lack of proper advertising” per se. If they had kept at it with the “majestic grandeur” approach to seeling them film, I would have felt very shortchanged after seeing it. I would say the bus shelters showing the slugs with the tagline “Slug Life” pretty clearly prepare you for what to expect, at least with the side characters.

        This reminds me of how I felt with Disney’s Dinosaur. They had this teaser that made it look like Disney was about to go in a fascinating new direction, something epic and transcendent, even more than Fantasia. Then we got a boring talking dinosaur movie that was more depressing than uplifting. I feel like Epic isn’t that big a disappointment, but it was not exactly a classic either.

    • FigmentJedi

      I’m pretty sure the “International Audiences who don’t get it” Fox is referring to are the guys overseas who were dumb enough to give $700 million dollars to Ice Age 4 versus the 160 million it got in America because apparently we’re finally getting sick of it.

      In comparison to the rest of Blue Sky’s work, Leaf Men is unique and complex.

  • FigmentJedi

    Maybe if they didn’t give it a generic as hell title and just kept it Leaf Men that’d help it’s marketability.

  • Norman

    The terror implicit in such box office numbers is that the golden goose that is Hollywood CG animated feature film may finally be showing signs of overexposure. With Disney’s recent announcement of a clogged slate of multiple CG animated feature releases per year, such news potentially bodes ill. What Hollywood hates more than anything is having to come up with more than a quick fix because they have seldom been good at it.

    • Ed

      Does that mean we’re going back to traditionally-animated features (crosses fingers)?

      • Animator606432

        We already see that happening with Stop-Motion. I mean, didn’t we got around 3 last year? Only ONE of them being from Tim Burton as well.

  • Dana B

    Damn…

    I guess the Bill Joyce “curse” is the real deal then :(

    I don’t understand why people tend to shy away from animated fantasy, even animated sci-fi films for that matter. Animation is all about bringing fantasies to life! Do people get confused about what/who the film is targeting in terms of demographics? Or do they think the film comes off as taking itself too seriously, i.e., the film looks boring? I wish I knew…

    Epic was a breath of fresh air for Blue Sky, and yet it ultimately fails to live up to it’s potential. A real damn shame.

    • Funkybat

      Epic was a film with beautiful visuals, rather bland-looking humanoid characters, and simple story. It also felt kind of “old school” as far as it goes with character development and range. The main protagonists grow, but really just a bit. The side characters are more two-dimensional and predictable. The villains were pretty much one-dimensional, and the attempts to add depth to their motivations seemed half-hearted at best. The good guys were good Because, and the bad guys were bad Because. I know the film was aimed at kids, but a little more sophistication would have been welcome. It may have had fantastic 3D graphics, but it felt like a kids movie from the early 90s (and that’s not even in reference to the similarities to Ferngully, a similarly pleasant-but-unambitious film.)

      After movies like Kung Fu Panda, Wreck-It Ralph and Tangled, audiences expect more complex character development and storytelling. I worry that a few more animated features like this will put feature animation back to where it was in the late 90s, with great animation and average-or-less story and character.

    • canimal

      I dont think people are shying away from this film simply because its animated fantasy, even though that might factor in. Seems more like the problem is that it just doesn’t have an interesting story.

    • Inkan1969

      I’m a huge fan of “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore”. How is it that films of Joyce’s work can’t come out nearly as good?

    • http://pickledperfection.blogspot.com/ Andrea K Haid

      Is it true that audiences aren’t interested in seeing animated fantasy or sci-fi??? Why not?

    • SarahJesness

      I love animation and fantasy, and putting them both together makes me go nuts. But I’ve stayed away from this movie because it just doesn’t look very good. I don’t have much money so I don’t spent $10 on a movie ticket unless I expect the film to be very good.

  • Alejandro Garcia

    I don’t understand this quote mentioned in the article: “Epic is unique and a more complex story than much of the typical animated fare and that can sometimes make it more challenging for international audiences to discover.” Is the LA Times implying that non-US audiences are stupid? Seems kind of racist to me.

    • ergh?

      Wait… so non-US = non-white? Does that also mean that US = all-white?

      Seems kind of racist to me ;)

      • Alejandro Garcia

        Let’s be generous to Mr. Dehmel and assume that he was simply being culturally parochial. But whatever the reason, the industry, which is now global in both the production and consumption of animation, is not well-served by such small mindedness.

  • jhalpernkitcat

    I’m not surprised that it’s so slow to catching on–after all there was a snail and a slug in that movie…

  • otterhead

    A poorly marketed, horribly-titled, generic-looking movie surpassed its $100+ milllion production budget within its first two weeks of release… and that’s disappointing?

    Let’s manage expectations a bit better. Epic is sure to profit (considering that it’s already broken even and is still #4 in theaters).

    Dubbing “Rise of the Guardians”, a movie that made a healthy profit, a “dud” is a bit silly.

    • jmahon

      You remember the first trailer Epic came out with? It was completely, totally different to the rest of them. It looked really beautiful. The rest of the awful trailers made it out to be a comedy. Nobody got what they wanted. Don’t sleight the film- the film is great! However everything surrounding it dragged it down.

      Rise of the Guardians got the “this is a mostly serious, dramatic thrilling adventure, not a silly gag-filled comedy romp.” advertising treatment and people saw it and loved it for that. Epic got shafted. I felt this was really, really unfair, because they were definitely on par together.

      • otterhead

        I’m very much agreeing with you — Epic was marketed as, essentially, Ferngully 2013 for some reason, and given the most generic title possible. (Were “Comedy” or “Romance” other titles in consideration before they settled on Epic?)

    • Inkan1969

      The ads shouldn’t have put so much emphasis on the comic relief slugs.

      • Epi

        Maybe the movie shouldn’t have put that much emphasis on the slugs. The movie was okay but the worst part about it is those slugs they never leave the movie and break the tone of the film. Epic is only doing as well as it is because it’s using notable names hopefully this won’t be the case this movie should have bombed harder.

        • SarahJesness

          Of course, the big names probably caused the film’s budget to go up significantly. Cutting them out probably would’ve made making the profit a bit easier.

  • Jeff

    Perhaps they would have made a healthy profit if they didn’t have such a huge line up of untalented actors/actresses.

    • George_Cliff

      I think it would also have helped if their film wasn’t set in the Uncanny Valley.

  • Aaron Mincey

    I think the problem is that they are casting these big celebrities as voices who can’t even act. Also there is always some sort of comic relief animals in an animated feature which is done one to many times. I mean the snail and the slug are just so much cliche that its not that much different from other films character wise. But overall the story was different, but it needed to push itself moderately more to get people to go and see it. It was like a version of the wizard of oz. I was under the impression that this was going to be better than turbo but who knows

  • killercharlie

    There was nothing “unique and more complex” about Epic. Just an opinion from someone who has seen the movie and is not from North America.
    Maybe international audiences knew that and decided to watch something else.

  • canimal

    Word of mouth usually helps poorly marketed animated films that start off slow (How to Train Your Dragon comes to mind) but in this case I don’t think that’ll be true. The most common thing I keep hearing about this movie is “it was just ok”, which is, in my opinion, a nice way to put it.

  • Ara

    The only thing I want to say about all this is that I agree that the advertising for the film certainly did not help draw out audiences. Beyond spewing on about how many celebrities we’re in it and the stupid “edgey” gags, the ads (besides the first one) kept me away from this one. Which is sad: the animation looks beautiful, and I feel for the animators (of any animated feature actually) who spent many long hours working on this film, only for it to be screwed by a horribly cliche storyline and executives who want to shovel the same old crap out to movie-going audiences.

    P.S. There is nothing complex about this film (with it’s re-hashed plot and all), so maybe international audiences knew better and stayed away from this one. The fact that Fox’s VP even said that is insulting to the intelligence of movie-going audiences abroad and at home.

  • DT

    Good luck trying to sell charlie brown’s humour around the world

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alex-Dudley/39610885 Alex Dudley

      Peanuts is really popular overseas. The movie will undoubtedly perform well, if the CGI look doesn’t scare people off.

  • Alê Camargo

    I haven’t seen the film yet, but I don’t think the generic and bland title “Epic” helped it at all.

  • Josh

    I realise everyone else has already slammed the breathtakingly stupid comment from the Fox representative but BOY. What a laughable statement!

    This big budget family animated film with a decent enough marketing campaign was hard to discover? The problem was that it was too unique and complex? Tell me another!

    The general movie going public who don’t care about the artistic merit of a movie but merely want something fun and entertaining for their kids, even they regonize how rote and formulaic this movie is.

    It looks like ‘Quest for Camelot’ with a CG finish. Anyone remember that grab-bag of “uniqueness and complexity’?

  • bob

    A significant drop is not unusual for animated films: http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=weekend&id=rapunzel.htm

    http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=weekend&id=croods.htm

    http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=weekend&id=guardians.htm

    http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=weekend&id=howtotrainyourdragon.htm

    Animation is funny, because making 150 million in 10 days is a “failure.”

    And if you guys are just catching on to the derivative nature of film in Hollywood, you’re either just catching on in terms of education/ experience or just, in general, ignorant in terms of film. Yes it had similarities to Ferngully, but the only people calling that out are 20+ animation geeks… who are not the targeted demographic.

    Calm down and let it run it’s course…

  • SarahJesness

    I’m not too surprised. I haven’t seen the film itself, but the trailers, whether or not they’re accurate, just don’t paint it in a good light. It just looks extremely generic. It’s very pretty and I might rent it from RedBox later for that, but the characters and story just don’t seem interesting at all.

    But from what I have heard about the movie, it’s lack of success probably isn’t because the film is too deep or complicated or unique or thought-provoking… Just sayin’…

  • SarahJesness

    Dehmel’s comment about the film’s lack of success with foreign audiences seems pretty… patronizing.

    If the trailers and reviews are anything to go by, this isn’t a particularly complex or unique movie.

  • Mitchekie

    Making such uncouth excuses such as claiming that the film is “too complex” for international audiences is a poor coating in an attempt to disguise what is simply a mediocre film, and I’m being kind when I describe it as mediocre. Aesthetically, “Epic” is one of the most beautiful computer animated films I’ve ever seen. My hat goes off to the lighters, animators, set designers, and overall visual crew of this production, because it is drop dead gorgeous to look at. The whole idea of the film was interesting. The problem was its execution, for we’ve seen the same cliche film one too many times to count and I, at least, am tired of seeing it. They shove a million relationships between characters in your face and expect you to care for each without getting to really know them that well. The jokes are rehashed, the situations generic, and the dialogue recycled and even a little forced. The only epic thing about this film is the pure look of it, and if I never see it again it will be too soon. I understand that it’s extremely difficult to make a well-directed, well-scripted story, but it seems like studios are relying too much on neat visuals, big names, and cliche jokes and situations (basically coasting on the safe route) instead of focusing on what’s really important: character development and story. But this has been going on for years, and it will continue to go on, so I’m just stating the obvious really.

  • Jerrett Z.

    I haven’t seen the film, but perhaps we need to consider the quote from a different perspective than many have suggested.

    “Epic is unique and a more complex story than much of the typical animated fare and that can sometimes make it more challenging for international audiences to discover.”

    Instead of thinking of “complex” and “challenging” as references to intelligence, perhaps we need to be mindful of one of the most difficult hudles in international media: culture.

    If Epic features story elements and characters that are more bound to American or Western culture or language than other recent Hollywood-produced animated films, then perhaps the plot, situations, or character nuances don’t translate effectively, either culturally or literally (such as in subtitling or language translation.)

  • kader

    i watched the movie, and basically, epic wasn’t.

  • Pock C

    I don’t understand how this film could be considered as unique or even complex…..
    Arthur and the Invisibles has exactly the same plot, and if the sequels are boring the 1st film was nice. But sorry guys, it’s already done.

    Maybe Arthur is foreign so they haven’t seen it and prefer to say that the foreign audience needs some time to acclimate to this story so new

    It’s so presumptuous, they should read Brian MacDonald’s Invisible Ink or some other book, we always tell the same story to make it universal, why do they pretend to re-invent everything ???
    they just had to do something great and it would have worked.

  • Eric Stevens

    ‘Epic’ was always a terrible title
    choice, and that is certainly biting Fox back in most reviews, did this
    ever not seem obvious to them?
    On top of that, the marketing
    campaign is appalling, it portrays a bland funny talking animal movie.
    They shaped the trailers into what they think the audience wants,
    instead of trusting their judgement, and that’s never a good idea.

    “Stick all of the movie’s jokes in the two trailers and give it a short dumb title.”

    Well that doesn’t seem like such a great idea now, does it?

    That’s what I think is hurting the movie the most, because on the other hand, we have the movie itself, and it is incredible!

    It’s
    probably one of the most beautiful CG animated movies ever made, it’s
    got that old school adventure movie feel to it (in the good way), and
    the humor is just right and never too intrusive, even the snail and slug
    characters’ jokes are cleverly written into the story and never get in
    the way of it.

    Most
    people who actually go see the movie come out surprised that the film
    is actually good, Fox marketing made a good job of lowering everyone’s
    expectations, making many of them stay at home instead of going to the
    theater.

    When
    they say the story is complex and that’s what’s making it difficult to
    sell they’re talking crap, it’s most likely quite the opposite, they
    took a more “complex” movie (it’s still a family movie) and sold it as a
    dumb movie, and that’s what’s making people stay at home.

    My
    advice is, forget all that marketing crap, go see the movie, and just
    enjoy the ride, it’s a pretty good one and I wouldn’t be surprised if it
    becomes one of those cult movies that weren’t very successful when they
    first came out.

  • George Comerci

    sheesh, i didn’t think epic was that bad…

  • http://pickledperfection.blogspot.com/ Andrea K Haid

    I think an appropriate and clever ending to this film would have been
    for the pod to have bloomed in semi-darkness so that it would bloom as a
    hybrid of growth and decay. Then the new heir would represent balance
    in the forest.

  • mpf101

    Jeez, I’m a pretty hard sell with animateds not from Pixar or Studio Ghibli. But I enjoyed this one…a lot. Some serious flaws I could write essays on, but still an intelligent, involving, bold film. Sorry it failed to find an audience.