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Box Office Report

‘The Star’ Is Sony’s Weakest Animation Launch Ever; ‘Loving Vincent’ Is An Indie Hit

Sony Pictures Animation (SPA) and Affirm Films (a faith-based film label owned by Sony) opened their birth-of-Jesus cartoon The Star this weekend with an estimated $10 million, good for sixth place. It’s among the oddest titles that SPA has ever put its name on, and it’s also the worst opening ever for a SPA film.

The film was launched in less theaters than any previous Sony animated film, but it was still a fairly wide release on 2,837 screens. For example, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009) debuted on 3,119 screens – just 282 screens more – with over $30 million. Cloudy had a per-screen average of $9,716, while The Star took just $3,525 per screen.

Looking more closely at the per-screen average, The Star barely beat out the SPA release of the Aardman film The Pirates! Band of Misfits, but was still outperformed by all other Sony animation titles.

The launch is, in fact, very similar to the recent My Little Pony: The Movie, which opened with $8.9M from 2,528 locations, for a $3,515 per-theater average. But whereas MLP has petered out around $22M – a weak animation box office multiplier of around 2.5x – The Star should get a boost from the ongoing holiday season and potentially surpass $30M.

The upside here is that the Timothy Reckart-directed film should end up being a minor success for Sony, especially once it hits streaming services and home video. That’s because the film was made on a fraction of the budget for a typical Sony Pictures Animation film – around $20 million according to Box Office Mojo.

Pre-production for The Star was handled at Sony Pictures Animation in Culver City, California, followed by production at Cinesite Studios in Montreal, Canada. Cinesite, traditionally a vfx shop, has made an aggressive entry into feature animation. They’ve also animated the upcoming Gnome Alone, while its Vancouver division (the former Nitrogen Studios) is making a cg version of The Addams Family.

Here’s a more impressive box office story: Good Deed Entertainment continues to reap solid numbers from Loving Vincent, the Oscar-contending oil-painted film that is a co-production from the U.K. and Poland. In its 9th weekend, the film about the mystery surrounding the death of Vincent van Gogh grossed $393,247 from 212 theaters, lifting its overall total to $4.6M. (The film is currently at its peak theater count.)

Loving Vincent will hit $5M in the next week or so, and when it does it will become only the fourth animated feature rated PG-13 or R in the last five years to earn $5 million-plus in U.S. theaters. The other three films are Sausage Party, Un Gallo con Muchos Huevos, and The Wind Rises.

Cartoon Saloon and GKIDS’ much-buzzed-about The Breadwinner opened in 3 theaters in LA and NYC with $19,530, a $6,510 per-theater average. It’s too early to make guesses about how the film will perform in the U.S., but for comparison, Loving Vincent in its second weekend played in four theaters with a significantly-higher per-theater of $13,869.

  • Pedro Nakama

    Box office on The Star may pick up in the next few weeks.

  • The Star looks like it was made 15 years ago. That didn’t help. Nor did opening opposite of Justice League.

    • Barrett

      Yeah, that’s one of the two big strikes against it for me.
      #1: It’s a “faith-based” movie i.e. Christian proselytizing in the form of a kids’ film. Not. Interested.

      #2: The visuals look cheap and out of date. Of course, that doesn’t mean the artists who worked on it are un-talented – Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur had rather bleh character designs that seemed too basic to match the environments, but it was a (poor) aesthetic choice on the part of the “braintrust.” Something similar might be the reason for “The Star” looking like something from a small studio circa 2005.
      All I know is, even though some very talented people I know worked on this, I have no interest in ever seeing it, even at home.

  • Ben Reynolds

    Still a bit early for a Christmas movie, I’m sure it will have better numbers in December.

  • Jonathon Asuna Leafa Richards

    The Star honestly looked better then The Emoji Movie

    • Barrett

      ANYthing would. I’d rather sit through a Jesus movie for kids than watch the literal talking pile of sh*t Emoji Movie. Really disappointed that T.J. Miller went in for such a crappy low-rent production.

  • A2VL

    The Star should have strong legs. The reviews are fine for a religious animated film and it just looks like it should play well during december.

  • My Name is Rio

    “The Star should get a boost from the ongoing holiday season and potentially surpass $30M.”

    Sorry but with Coco around, The Star will fade very quickly.

  • Just got home from spending 9 hours behind a cash register. Exhausted and cranky, I fire up my computer and see what’s happening in animation. I see “Loving Vincent”, a traditionally animated artsy biopic where each frame is literally a painting, is a box-office success, and my spirits raise. It’s so encouraging to see that despite how crap the industry can be, artists can still be rewarded for pursuing their own unique creative vision. It gives hope to all up us seeking to make our own work full-time.

    • Inkan1969

      Of course, back in the days before computers, every frame in every animated feature was a painting. And LV is actually painted rotoscoping.

  • Strong Enough

    i got this confused with the other up coming disaster from Blue Sky

  • Linda Brangenberg

    The opening of Loving Vincent is something that I have impatiently waited to have come to the screen in my Midatlantic region. It still is nowhere within reach. The closest theatres are over an hour to three hours away from where I live. Is it just scheduled in “art theatres” in inner cities? When will it be in suburban or rural theatres, to satisfy the art lovers that are anxiously awaiting this unique film.

    • Polecat

      Ugh. I was in a similar situation when “Persepolis” came out. So far “Loving Vincent” is not really on the mainstream circuit, AFAIK, but it ought to be. Sorry.

  • Inkan1969

    I remember that “The Polar Express” looked dead on arrival after a poor first boxoffice week. But evangelical audiences latched onto that movie and the film went on to a strong box office, even with competition from “The Incredibles”. It remains to see if “The Star” follows that same pattern.

  • Polecat

    Go see “Loving Vincent” if you can. It’s very worth it, and truly fascinating.

  • Jason Carden

    I don’t have cable, but advertisement seemed kinda lax, I first heard about this movie a little over a week ago listening to NPR one night. Then I saw the poster at the theater when I went to see Justice League.