Box office estimates are in for Abominable, the yeti-starring family feature from Dreamworks Animation and China’s Pearl Studio, which opened on Friday. Its domestic three-day total is $20.6 million, with another $8.8 million coming from 30 overseas territories.

There are two ways to view these figures. The positive spin: this is the best debut for an original animated feature in 2019. In fact, along with the live-action Us and Good Boys, it’s only the third original movie to open at the top of the U.S. and Canadian box office this year. All three films were released by Universal Pictures (Dreamworks’s parent company).

Abominable has yet to open in China, where it is expected to do well — after all, this is a Chinese co-production which tells the story of an epic journey across the Middle Kingdom. All in all, the film could perform well on its budget of $75 million, which is a modest sum for a big-studio cg feature.

Seen in another light, Abominable has got off to a lackluster start. Adjusted for inflation, its domestic opening is the second-lowest in Dreamworks’s history (after 2003’s Sinbad). Unadjusted for inflation, it’s still the studio’s worst opening since 2006’s Flushed Away. Where once the studio competed with Pixar in a class of two, the market for animated family features is now far more competitive, and dominated by sequels and franchises. Dreamworks’s last original film was 2013’s Turbo.

This is also the third major animated release in the last year about a folkloric ape-like creature in just over a year, following Warner Bros.’s Smallfoot and Laika’s Missing Link. Audiences may be experiencing a degree of Yeti fatigue.

This, in any case, is the logic regarding North America. Abominable is the debut feature from Pearl Studio, which put up the lion’s share of the budget. Pearl, which started life as Oriental Dreamworks before becoming fully Chinese-owned last year, is positioning itself as a prestige production company with a special insight into the Chinese market.

With its Chinese setting and characters, Abominable is pitched to appeal to audiences in a country where animation is enjoying something of a boom. It could perform very well in China, where it opens on Tuesday. Ticket sales in North America were driven by Hispanic, African American, and Asian viewers, who accounted for 56% of all moviegoers, according to Deadline.

Jill Culton, who previously co-directed Sony Picture Animation’s Open Season, wrote and directed Abominable, with Todd Wilderman (head of story on Dreamworks’s Home) serving as co-director. The producers are Suzanne Buirgy (Kung Fu Panda 2, Home) for Dreamworks, and Peilin Chou on behalf of Pearl Studio. Tim Johnson, Frank Zhu, and Li Ruigang executive produced.

In other news, GKIDS has scored an indie hit with Promare, the first feature from Japan’s Studio Trigger. The action-packed sci-fi film, directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, debuted in the U.S. with preview screenings on September 17 and 19, before opening on 30 screens on September 20. After its second weekend, it has taken an estimated $1.06 million domestically — the distributor’s second-highest gross, following 2018’s Mary and the Witch’s Flower, which earned $2.4 million.

Animation news you can use
Support independent publishing

Your membership will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you. Support Cartoon Brew for as little as $1 a week — the process is fast and easy.

Become A Member   

Latest News from Cartoon Brew