Pirate with a Scarf (voiced by Martin Freeman) and Pirate Captai Pirate with a Scarf (voiced by Martin Freeman) and Pirate Captai
Feature FilmStop Motion

Box Office Report: Aardman’s Weakest US Debut

Aardman’s latest feature The Pirates! Band of Misfits, directed by Peter Lord, debuted in second place in the US with $11.1 million. It’s Aardman’s weakest opening ever in the US. However, it was considered on a par with studio projections, and the film should end up with a respectable run, especially considering that no other animated films are set to be released in May.

For comparison, here’s how other Aardman features have opened in the US:

Chicken Run (2000): $17.5 million
Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005): $16 million
Flushed Away (2006): $18.8 million
Arthur Christmas (2011): $12.1 million

  • Yeesh, it’s a shame Aardman’s films don’t do as well as the other big studios. Can’t understand why, though.

    • Mike

      Between the British humor (humour?) and the claymation (or claymation-esque) style, Aardman’s a hard sell to lowest-common-denominator masses weaned on shiny CGI and fart jokes. It IS a shame.

      • bones

        I didn’t see one trailer that explained any semblance of story or character. All I saw was FUCK YOU PIRATES GO WATCH IT

      • See, but I’m not so sure about that. I mean, “Chicken Run” made over $100 million here in America when it was released. It’s still the most successful stop-motion animated film of all time.

        Something else is going on.

      • Sarah J

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Chicken Run had the backing of Dreamworks, which meant more advertising and whatnot.

    • CJ

      I think it’s a mix of things to be fair.

      I personally liked the film but felt as though the plot was a wee thin. Sure we don’t need something like Inception to have a great film, but the plot or maybe the execution of it could have been better.

      Plus I think the lower advertising didn’t. But I still hope this film makes a good profit so we can continue to see stop motion. :)

      • I really don’t think the quality of the plot has anything to do with the box office. Were that the case, the Transformers movies would be huge box office failures.

  • It’s also worth nothing that the highest opening for a stop-motion animated film is Corpse Bride with $19 million. For some reason, they tend not to have big openings, but hold up pretty decently. I can see Pirates getting to or slightly above Curse of the Were-Rabbit’s domestic numbers.

  • Quiet Desperation

    Maybe the ads? I’m a pretty big Aardman fan, but the trailer for this did nothing for me. Maybe I’m all pirated out, like how I haven’t been able to watch anything involving zombies since the early 00s. Stuff just gets old.

    • Same with me, I’ve always enjoyed Aardman films but the trailer only turned me off the film. Like Quiet Desperation I think I’m just burnt out on Pirates and Zombies.

    • Sarah J

      I think you’re onto something, I remember seeing the trailer and then hearing a description of the plot in a video review and I thought “The trailer made NO attempt to tell us what the plot was!”. I guess they thought some generic swashbuckling would market better.

  • Rezz

    it’s truly a shame but I’m sure it will do well over sea.

  • James Fox

    I guess Hollywood still fancies CG films

  • Toonio

    Well is no secret Dreamworks and Aardman parted ways from their 5 movies deal due to their first 3 movies together box office performance. And not because the movies were bad or anything. It is just they didn’t fit into the American culture. (Start you American audience perception banter here is you want).

    Even Miyazaki has fallen victim of this particular conundrum Aardman is facing in the US. And maybe it will be for the better.

    MAYBE we’ll get early Aardman Blu-ray/DVD releases instead of sending the movies down the Theaters grinder(which BTW IMHO doesn’t help the U.S. economy at all, but that is part of another discussion), but you know, easier said than done.

    And it doesn’t matter what the box office says.I’ll have the worst Aardman movie against the best Pixar movie any day of the week, even if the latter was for free. Because stop motion has the texture and appeal no CGI has shown (yet).

  • wever

    And this coming week, The Avengers is released.

    UH OH.

    • Funkybat

      I dunno about the rest of you, but I see this weekend as an optimal time to go see “Pirates!” While everyone else is seeing Avengers, I’ll have my pick of seats and showtimes for “Pirates!” I figure the only inconvenience will be the lines at the concession stand. Avengers can wait, it’ll still be crowded for the next couple of weeks, let’s all go see “Pirates!”

  • Sarah J

    That’s a shame. Pirates! was a very good movie and you can tell the studio worked VERY hard on it. I partially blame the advertising and promotional material. They didn’t show anything about the plot of the movie, they just threw in some generic swashbuckler shots.

  • Beautifully animated. Very much enjoyed it. Congrats to all involved.

  • Dan Kyder

    Had no idea these films got such comparatively low returns when compared to the GCI releases.

    Its pretty annoying to think something like BEE MOVIE can get three times the box office. Urgh

    Oh well, the opening isnt the end-all.

    • wever

      To distributors and investors, it is.

  • Seems changing the US title to one without the word “scientists” in it didn’t help much!

    • Ergo

      Should’ve stuck to the original title… and the original voices! I can’t believe they had the nerve to dub over some of the characters!

      • Who did they dub over? Which characters?

      • Funkybat

        The Albino Pirate and The Pirate that Likes Sunsets and Kittens were redubbed by Anton Yelchin and Al Roker, respectively. It seems kind of pointless to me, as Americans would no doubt accept British voices for pirates.

      • Russell Tovey did an amazing job on the film re-dubbing him IS pointless.

  • Lets all stop sticking nails in the coffin and just go watch the bloody thing at the cinemas! You will not be disappointed!

  • Murray Bain

    the trailer doesn’t show enough of queen Victoria, who is an amazing villain. It’s a really fun movie, if you like the monkey island game series it feels like a more epic version of that.
    Really fun movie, with a breathtaking attention to detail, a fully developed and brilliantly nuanced funny world. I guess that may be it, the general audience doesn’t appreciate craftsmanship in north america, CGI is the slick “ipad” stop frame is the “leatherbound edition”.

    Stop motion makes people foam at the mouth for toy versions, as they are basically living toys,(look at all the Rudolph stuff they continue to make) but the Wallace and Gromit toys were just well made statues(and not widely available). They could totally make a mint with very pose-able (soft vinyl with a wire armature?) toys.
    Cars is the real success story, box office, shmox office.

    • Kade

      Practically every Pirates! tv spots or more have the Pirate Captain fighting the Queen. How much more of the Queen do you want?

      • Murray Bain

        TV spots NOW do, the earlier ones didn’t,but some of her dialog would be nice! or that multi-trap door gag would of been good, as it’s pretty cliche, but shows her mr. burnsian demeanor.

        The “pirate of the year” contest seems to be the main plot, but the scientist of the year quickly takes it’s place.”in an adventure with scientists” still should of been in the title in America.

  • ken kahn

    Even if you normally don’t, try to stay for *all* the closing credits. There’s not a special ending scene like some movies have, but the credits themselves are worth watching. Pay close attention to the backgrounds throughout the credits; they’re worth the admission. Also pay attention to the very last credit, the one that normally says something about “no animals were harmed…”.

    The whole thing reminded me of one of the great Monty Python credit scrolls.

  • Gorblum

    Well, I had the choice of seeing this or The Avengers on my day off. Sorry Aardman!

    • Inkan1969

      Surely “The Avengers” will still be in theaters by the time of your next day off, won’t it? :-)

      • You actually expected people to wait in order to see The Avengers??

      • Chris Sobieniak

        Well I have all the time in the world, really!

  • Scott B.

    You mean, this movie opened this weekend? Why didn’t someone tell me?!!

    Seriously, I had no idea that “Pirates” had premiered already. I’ve been nose to the grindstone at work recently, but I’m nonetheless aware of other contemporaneous movies hitting screens (5 Year Engagement, The Raven, Avengers). Clearly, there hasn’t been enough spent on advertising it. That could be the main problem right there.

    • Sarah J

      Most of the advertisements were on kid TV stations like Cartoon Network, so unless you were watching those you wouldn’t have seen many ads.

  • Nicholas S.

    There was a lot of advertising, particularly on channels like Cartoon Network, Disney XD, and the like. The reviews were pretty good, too. Let’s face it – the Aardmann stuff is just “too British” for the American market. If they couldn’t hit it big with Wallace & Gromit (and they couldn’t), then this was bound to fail. I couldn’t interest my two young daughters in it – even though Daddy wanted to see it!

    • I don’t buy that Aardman’s “too British.” Aardman’s analogous to their brand of stop-motion animation the way Hammer Films is to Gothic horror. So far, The Pirates! Band of Misfits has earned a worldwide gross of $75 million on a $55-60 million budget, so the title could end up making a modest profit.

      What I don’t see mentioned is the performance of Think Like a Man, a success no one aside from Kevin Hart fans and Steve Harvey devotees saw coming. Granted, The Avengers will probably steamroll through next week’s box office, but Think Like a Man was a low-budget (by Hollywood standards – $12 million budget) title that appealed to both black moviegoers, and the general public. I’m not quite sure if Aardman has the same crossover appeal as Kevin Hart in 2012.

    • Bobby Bickert

      My 5-year-old nephew loves Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep.

      • Your 5-year-old nephew is awesome.
        Help him remain that way.

      • John

        I love Wallace and Gromit, and Shaun the Sheep… and I’m old enough to be someone’s grandfather. Maybe even great grandfather.

  • James E. Parten

    Aardman’s pictures too British? Gimme a break. . . and, while you’re at it, check the oil!

    If anything, effort was made to avoid obvious Anglicisms that would not have been widely known to us gormless Yanks! Thus, there was no aubergine (eggplant) on the table on Ham Night; the characters were not told they were riding in a lift (elevator), nor did they put on their braces (suspenders) nor their pyjamas (pajamas), etc, etc, etc.

    And as for changing the title for the American market, that is traditional, too. Remember “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, and that change (to “. . . Sorceror’s Stone”) was made when the book was published here, before the movie came out!

    Some observers think that “Pirates” will have “legs” (staying power) at the box-office, as there is nothing remotely aimed at the kids until “Madagascar 3” comes out, and that’s more than a month off.

    • Funkybat

      A nice thought, but most boys over the age of 6 will be clamoring to see The Avengers. The only thing that wold route them to “Pirates” instead would be either parents who don’t want them to see Avengers, or a personal disinterest in superhero action on the part of the kid. I see “Pirates” sticking around a while, but it probably won’t do “Coraline”-level business.

  • It’s a movie called “The Pirates” starring a character called The Pirate Captain. I’m sure the generic quality is supposed to be a joke (in the original books, it seems to be)—but I think it’s had a very negative effect: until one actually sees it, it sounds deadly boring.

  • Charles Keagle

    Saw the movie this weekend and thought it was great. The trailers for this movie were terribly bland and unexciting. I loved the direction the story took. I think a mass American audience can laugh at the humor in the film without getting every single reference, but the marketing isn’t going to get them off the couch and into the theater.

  • James

    Remember, the budget for this film is “only” $55 million–significanly lower than most CGI animated films.

    In its first week it has already made more than that, so I doubt low US will be much of a detriment.

  • Mac

    I hope this film makes enough money and is popular enough for the sequel to go ahead. I don’t care if it’s not to everyone’s taste or if other people didn’t get the jokes, I loved it.

  • I didn’t find anything particularly “British” about the humor, I just think most of the gags kind of missed the mark. The film is not really as funny as it could have been, and most of the jokes pretty much play it safe. This is a pirate movie after all. Maybe it could have used some G-rated sexual innuendo ala Curse of the Wererabbit, with lines like,”Victor’s never shown any interest in my produce.” Now that’s very British. :)

    • Chris Sobieniak

      And all I can think of is the one distressed parent who complained on Amazon about a tape of Aardman’s earlier shorts from the 80’s/90’s where we can see a person’s genitals in plain sight (from the 1991 short “Adam”). This is what we’re dealing with!

  • Jorgen Klubien

    Just haven’t been advertised enough is my guess… + kids are still in school.

  • It’s a gorgeous movie, but a handful of lazy story problems and lackluster voice acting make it less than it should be. Cute, and I don’t regret seeing it, but not what I was dreaming of.