“Guardians” Getting The Last Laugh

A funny thing happened to Dreamworks’ Rise of The Guardians on its way to box-office oblivion – it’s quietly becoming a hit.

In its third weekend in release, 19 days at the box-office, Guardians was the number #2 film in the U.S. (grossing $10.5 million, with a total come of $61.9 to date), behind James Bond’s Skyfall, and ahead of Twilight Breaking Dawn 2, Lincoln, Life of Pi and Wreck-It Ralph (who’s $164.4 million gross is nothing to sneeze at).

The Hollywood trade press once again reveals its strange double standard when reporting on animated films. Unless its a blockbuster – animated films aren’t worth talking about. This article in today’s L.A. Times, a survey of the weekend box office, doesn’t even mention the number #2 film, Rise of The Guardians, in its text!

Deadline Hollywood was quick last week to report on Guardians causing Dreamworks stock to drop, quoting a Wall Street insider who called it “one of the most disappointing releases in the company’s history”. But this week the blog barely mentions Guardians rise to #2 – still calling the film a “disappointment”.

Apparently it’s not a disappointment to family audiences worldwide – in fact, The Associated Press reports Guardians is currently the #1 film in international markets, with a box office gross last weekend of $26 million. The combined US and international gross for the film in less than a month in release is over $152 million – and counting.

This post isn’t about the pros and cons of Rise of the Guardians itself – and perhaps the film isn’t doing the numbers Dreamworks hoped it would. This post is about the hypocrisy (and perhaps conspiracy) of industry reporters who continue to treat animated films as second class citizens. Unless it’s a blockbuster or has a director too big to ignore, animation doesn’t fit into the glamorous scenario the Hollywood reporters wish to spin – audiences and box office grosses be damned.

(Thanks, Nick Bruel)


  • Oh come on!

    There’s no “hypocrisy” amongst industry reporters on this issue. They’re like sharks – quick to smell blood when a big movie flops, animated or otherwise. Ask the producers of Killing Them Softly or Playing For Keeps.

    • Funkybat

      The thing is, this movie is NOT flopping. Unlike “Killing Them Softly” or “John Carter” the opening weekend numbers are not an automatic death-knell for this film.

      This is all going pretty much as I expected after the initial story. Guardians opened decently, and has continued to draw steady business as we got closer to Christmas. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s #3 after Hobbit and Skyfall next weekend, since nothing else is coming out and Twilight Fever has about run its course.

      This movie will be profitable for Dreamworks, and more than that, it is beloved by a lot of people. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it get a sequel, though next time releasing it closer to Christmas might help with the whole “opening weekend numbers” game.

      • Oh come on!

        You’re delusional. It is a huge loss. You can bet that DW have chalked it up to experience and are concentrating on getting The Croods marketing right.

        • http://www.caricaturesbydave.com Dave Stephens

          When it hits a half billion and makes it to the top 20 in all time rentals, are you still going to call it “a huge loss?” Because if it is NOT obvious to you that this film has that kind of potential, then you are correct: somebody is delusional indeed. I’m calling it now, December 11, 2012. Lets see how this “huge loss” actually turns out, shall we?

          • Oh come on!

            It’s already over Dave. : ((

          • jdklajd

            Umm… It beat Skyfall in the UK and ROTG is chilling at #1 right now…. I don’t think this is the end.

          • Oliver

            E. Aster Bunnymund himself will sooner pop out of Gordon Ramsey’s wok than ‘Guardians’ makes $500m.

      • Funkybat

        Well, I was wrong, ROTG wasn’t #3 this weekend, it was #2! I suspect it will still be doing well next weekend, before the after-Xmas drop-off. Between steady business through December and DVD-BluRay sales next year, it will most certainly not be a “flop” for DW.

  • Chris

    It’s also about lazy journalism. A few “experts” react negatively to the opening weekend grosses and write the film off, and in people’s minds the negative reaction gets passed around as fact. Just this weekend I talked to a film producer whose opinion of the film was that it must not be good because of its opening weekend grosses.

    I think Hollywood would be better off if they stopped using the reports on grosses as promotion to generate buzz. It’s not good in the long run for the movie business, not good for the art of filmmaking, and not good for the culture at large.

  • Brian Duffy

    I think it’s because articles analyzing box office reports are intended for stock traders, who are notorious for their impatience and attention deficit disorder.

    They’ve been convinced animated films are a hot ticket investment, but they’re treating each film like a web 2.0 startup. If it didn’t get bought out by google for $100m+ in its first 6 months, it was considered catastrophic failure in their eyes.

    These guys are only capable of caring about how much money something is going to make them in the next 3 days, hence the obsession with the opening weekend, and the consequent decision to sell the stock if the numbers are below estimates.

    The animation boom is relatively new, so it’s still seen as a kind of wild west where studios can live or die based on their next movie. The big monolith live-action studios are considered too big to fail. Animation studios are considered plucky and unpredictable.

    It’s like these investors are just waiting for a studio like Dreamworks to get into financial trouble so they can justify their MBA cynicism.

    • http://animationhardtofind.blogspot.com GW

      Animation’s boom isn’t all that new. Isn’t ten years enough for them to realize that animation’s going to be around for a while? I think that unlike 3D, animation’s been around long enough to show that it’ll be popular for the next twenty or thirty years. I say that long because musicals went out of popularity after a while.

  • Hannah

    Not surprising since Christmas is fast approaching.

    • Sam Schulz

      … and it’s the only thing even remotely like a Christmas movie being released this year. The grosses picked up when they started emphasizing the “Despicable Me” elves in the advertising – even though the movie concentrates on Jack Frost.

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/11158835@N04/ Oliver

        “…even though the movie concentrates on Jack Frost.”

        And that right there (along with its bland title of course) is the biggest problem with ‘Rise of the Guardians’!

  • tim

    It is not quietly becoming a hit.

    Its third week gross was down 40.7% from the prior week.

    It’s in second place because it was a slow week. It wasn’t mentioned in the article because it wasn’t news.

    Looking at the third week grosses for DreamWorks Animation films: at 61M, it’s the 7th lowest, just behind The Prince of Egypt (68M).

    • Jon H

      Seriously, I wish the people at Dreamworks all the best but the film looks like it won’t recoup production costs, not to mention advertising costs. A $10 million third weekend isn’t much to get that excited about when the movie cost close to $150 million.

      I mean, I’m very glad that the movie has some staying power but it still seems like it’s almost certain to lose the studio tens of millions of dollars, and it’s hard to see that as anything but a disappointment. Maybe not a John Carter level failure, but still a disappointment.

  • Matt Sullivan

    Guardians is so much better than the reviews dictate. I’ve seen it twice, and I’d like to see it again. The trailers made it look awful. But it’s not, it’s great.

  • Michel Van

    Hollywood industry reporters have become a
    Dangerous species of killers
    what ever they find for a movie, they ripped it in pieces.
    one of biggest victims so far this year was,
    “John Carter of Mars” what not so bad movie at all,
    But the industry reporters fell like hyaenas,
    Over the movie and ruin it’s reputation…

    Some of them try this also with “The Avenger” movie,
    but faced MARVEL Fans online rage
    Maybe the Animation fans have take same attune,
    let’s face those industry reporters our online rage?

    • Bud

      It’s ALWAYS been that way–from the 1920′s to today.

      But john carter was crap. It’s no wonder it bombed.

  • soldado

    animation is not popular on the news because the main actress cheating the main actor with the director is not possible…

  • Pedro Nakama

    “industry reporters who continue to treat animated films as second class citizens”

    It’s like Toon Town all over again.

  • Daniel M.

    Great post. Thanks Jerry

  • Glowworm

    These days, I don’t care if the movie I’ve seen made first place at the box office. I’m just pleased if I enjoyed it.

    Although I must say I was very happy that Twilight was no longer in the #1 spot.

  • http://www.infurnation.com Rod O’Riley

    At this stage of the game, make money or lose money, it’s looking unlikely that Rise of the Guardians will reach that “magic number” of $500 million world-wide that Dreamworks reportedly uses as a marker for when a film goes from being a one-off to being a franchise. Which is a pity, because it’s a wonderful concept, wonderfully made, and a wonderful film.

    [And oh BOY do I hope I'm proved wrong on this!]

    • Sarah J

      A lot of kids will be starting their Christmas break soon, if we’re lucky, the movie might still have a chance.

  • Bud

    Not quite a hit, and a very mediocre cartoon. It’s so noisy , obnoxious, and relentless, with a story that makes not much sense. I don’t mind that. What I do mind is that it carries no emotional weight or sincerity. It’s got quite a ways to go to break even ($300 million worldwide minimum), but I bet it’ll crawl across that line.

    • Blues

      Agreed. Saw the movie a few weeks ago and I have to say I was alarmed at just how poorly constructed the film was. I don’t think I’ve seen such a phoned in story since Meet the Robinsons. I mean, the “man in the moon”? It was pure nonsense.

      • wever

        The Man in the Moon as well as other elements were taken directly off of William Joyce’s children’s book. Granted, the movie only takes little off from the book anyway, resigning the characters, and recreating their personalities and back-stories, all of which are pretty much never explained to begin with. Joyce’s way of storytelling may not be the best to adapt into a film, since he seems to insert dreamlike elements that he simply expects children and their parents to take. A good amount of the movie’s theme is “believing in myths” that represent a virtue, but that doesn’t mean you can just make the Easter Bunny an Australian rabbit when rabbits are considered disease-carriers in Australia and where they never even celebrate Easter!

        • KC

          Just to clarify. Rabbit’s in Australia are considered a pest in some states because their burrows are a danger to livestock, and yes some of them are disease-carriers. However in other states they make for delightful pets. And I can assure you that Easter is a nationally recognised holiday in Australia. We have two public holiday’s for it and chocolate egg’s and bunny’s have been on sale since January. If anything, Easter is celebrated a little too hard. As for the movie, my sister and I loved it. It’s been the first movie in a long while to make me feel movie magic like a kid again. It was fun an entertaining, which is exactly what I payed to see.

      • Jolly

        The movie plot is based on William Joyces novels, Meet the Robinsons also. There is limited time in those type of animation, so its known that it won`t show everythin what is in the book. Thats why story may look poorly done, but the massage is clear- to search for center, never lose hope and faith. Also its different with movie since most pressured is visual side of it. Although story didn`t lost anythin from its charm. And with “man in the moon nonsense” I sense pure ignorance. For adult person whitout imagination it might be a nonsense, but not for little kid.

  • Chris

    This movie will be fine. Families will go see this because it’s the only family movie out, then kids will want it on DVD and they will release a short to go along with it and soon they will announce the sequel or tv show or this especially since dreamworks is dead set on making this into a franchise especially with shrek done and people losing interest in Madagascar crap

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002574140665 Kelly Tan

      A sequel and a series is quite a lot to assume, there’s been no confirmation of either, especially since it wasn’t the big hit they were hoping for. I’m actually championing this concept be given another chance, but I’m kind of glad for the lack of a tv show. Dreamworks tv shows are often a massive step down from the original films, and RoTG was problematic enough. Not that I wouldn’t want one if they decide to make it good.

  • http://ryuuseipro.blogspot.com/ John Paul Cassidy

    I’m seeing the same cynical crap on Box-Office Mojo as well! It can’t resist making at least one belittling comment:
    http://www.boxofficemojo.com/news/?id=3583&p=.htm

    (Emphasis in bold.)

    “In second place, RISE OF THE GUARDIANS eased 22 percent to $10.4 million. That strong hold is due to the movie’s Christmas connection, and it should continue to perform well through the end of the month. Unfortunately, it’s only made $61.8 million so far, and $100 million is still probably out of reach.

  • Jessica R

    All I can say is that at least they’re attempting new stories. We could be watching Ice Age or alternate universe Shrek over and over again. I realize that RotG had a fairly thin plot but I enjoyed the characters and the settings quite a bit.

  • Specboy

    Speaking of movie performance, why is Wreck-it Ralph’s foreign gross so low compared to other CGI movies. Shouldn’t it be as big as its domestic gross by now?

  • dan

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  • Occams Breadknife

    Box office Mojo sez :

    Rise of Guardians : 223 million as of Dec. 23rd. 80 mill domestic, rest overseas. Production cost : 145 million.

  • http://wreckitralph richard narayan

    wreck it ralph is totally awesome

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002574140665 Kelly Tan

    I thought the exact same thing. I enjoyed the movie even though it had flaws, but opinion on the movie aside, people saying it’s been doing abysmally at the box office seemed to contradict the numbers I look up at Box Office Mojo. How it did internationally is always overlooked, where it made much more than it did domestically.

    It is overly cynical and unfair to keep painting it as a flop. Not asking for unearned praise for a movie, just fair and objective reporting.