But here’s the thing: It’s hard to judge Spirit Untamed’s performance purely based on box office dollars. It’s a spin-off of a Netflix series, and Dreamworks obviously never intended for the film to be a blockbuster, spending considerably less on its production than a typical feature. Had a film like this gone straight to streaming, like so many other recent animated features, we wouldn’t even be discussing its box office performance. In fact, its box office earnings are something of a bonus, since the film will likely end up doing quite well when it lands on streaming.
However, it’s undeniable that the optics look bad here. Dreamworks has for the longest time been a prestige animation brand in the U.S. animation industry and having one of its films gross so little could potentially affect the public impression of Dreamworks and box office performance of its more lavish productions in the future.
Sony Pictures Animation avoided this dilemma by sending its 2021 slate of animation originals – The Mitchells vs. The Machines, Wish Dragon, and the upcoming Vivo – straight to Netflix, where box office is not a concern and even viewership numbers are a mystery. The only film it’s releasing theatrically this year is Hotel Transylvania 4, a tried-and-true franchise that should pull in respectable numbers. Similarly, Disney-Pixar’s two recent originals, Soul and Luca, are both streaming-only releases, thus sidestepping the issue of how well the films performed financially.
Speaking of Sony, the studio released Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway in theaters this weekend. It opened in third with $10.4M. That’s a far cry from the original’s $25M opening in 2018, yet it’s still somewhat impressive that audiences even knew the film was in theaters considering that it has had 10 different release dates:
Peter Rabbit 2 has already opened in many foreign territories and has grossed an additional $57.9M elsewhere, for a global total of $68.3M. It’s unlikely that it’ll ever achieve the box office heights of the original, which overperformed with $351.2M worldwide.