Box Office Report

‘The Nut Job 2’ Records Worst All-Time Opening For A Film In 4,000+ Theaters

It was clear from the trailers that The Nut Job 2 was aimed at very young children, and the problem with aiming a film strictly at six-year-olds is that they can’t drive themselves to the movie theater.

The result: the worst opening in film history for a movie released in 4000-plus theaters, with an estimated weekend launch of $8.9 million. There’s nothing even remotely close on the record books for an opening this pathetic. The previous lowest-grossing launch in over 4,000 theaters was none other than Sony’s The Emoji Movie, and that film opened with over $15 million more than Nut Job 2.

So the big question: why was a film with such a clearly limited (and car-less) audience released in over 4,000 theaters to begin with? First, it was opportune timing: Hollywood has faltered every step of the way this year, creating few summer blockbusters that audiences want to see, leaving plenty of empty movie screens.

Second, until last week, the film’s distributor, Open Road Films, was a 50-50 venture between America’s two largest theatrical exhibitors, Regal Entertainment and Chinese-owned AMC Theatres. In other words, if there’s any distributor that has access to screens, it’s Open Road. (Last week, a Chinese company Tang Media Partners purchased Open Road, though the new owners plan to continue working closely with Regal and AMC.)

Open Road was hoping for something closer to the original Nut Job, which launched with a confounding $19.4 million in January 2014, on its way to $64.3M domestic, becoming the highest-grossing independently-distributed cg feature in U.S. history.

The original had a multiplier of 3.0x; if the sequel is lucky enough to have even that, it’ll end up with around $27 million, which would still be a big disappointment for its makers: Korean studio Redrover Co. Ltd, Canadian’s Toonbox Entertainment, China’s Shanghai Hoongman Technology Co., and Gulfstream Pictures.

Open Road thought they had a hit, too. Variety reported that the distributor has spent around $20 million on tv spots. Deadline has a more detailed rundown of the film’s marketing campaign, which targeted Hispanic families, and included partnerships and integrations with Nick.com and the Angry Birds mobile game.

But families couldn’t be bothered to see the film, most likely because adults weren’t convinced that they could enjoy the film with their kids. American animation producers have learned this lesson well, and in recent years, they’ve stopped producing strictly “kids’ films” in favor of “family films,” which ostensibly spread out the entertainment to both children and adults.

This the reason why animation producers go out of their way to “age up” children’s films, peppering them with questionable content like urine-gargling, shit gags, and almost F-bombs. They’re desperate to convince adults that the film is for them, too.

Nut Job 2, directed by Cal Brunker (Escape from Planet Earth), had none of those elements. It wore its kiddie badge on its sleeve, and adults kept a safe distance.

Then, let’s not forget The Emoji Movie, now in its third weekend. The film took fifth place with an estimated $6.6M, boosting its overall total to $63.4M. All things considered, the film is showing stronger-than-expected box office legs. Combined with an early foreign box office of $33.6M, the film’s global is $97.2M. Not exactly a hit, but not exactly a flop either.

And then there’s that Illumination juggernaut, Despicable Me 3. The film added $18.1M this weekend from global plays, and its worldwide total has climbed to $920.3M. It is currently the year’s third top-grossing film; animation-wise, it is all but guaranteed to finish the year as the top-grossing animation pic.

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