First the good news: Dreamworks’ Rise of The Guardians opened this holiday weekend, grossing over $32 million dollars in five days, coming in fourth place at the US box-office.

Now comes the bad: industry observers are already declaring it a failure; that it’s “underperforming” compared to previous Dreamworks releases. How can it be that a film grossing over $30 million in a few days is already being written off by Hollywood know-it-alls? The answer: because it’s animated.

If an animated feature doesn’t start out at #1 and go on to gross over $100 million dollars – it’s not only a disaster, but threatens to wipe out studios and halt future production.

But why is animation held to such a higher standard? Guardians did business any live action film would be envious of; but because it’s animated and didn’t achieve #1 status, it’s “underperforming”? Seriously?

I say hold on – let’s give it a chance. Playing in 3,653 screens, Rise of the Guardians is presently the nation’s number-one family film, was the top film with a PG rating (the three films that did better are more adult-oriented fare, rated PG-13) and running ahead of strong competition from The Life Of Pi and Wreck-It Ralph (in its fourth week and doing fine with $149 million already in the till).

Nikki Finke is still scratching her head. “There’s still the chance Guardians might build momentum the same way (How To Train Your) Dragon did as its coveted ‘A’ CinemaScore helps word of mouth,” she writes. “It’s hard to pinpoint what went wrong…”. The fact is, nothing is wrong. The film is popular with its target audience, and word-of-mouth may indeed propel it through the holiday season. It’s too early to say where it will go.

I’m not saying the film is perfect (though I dug it), nor am I an expert on the movie business (though I was a film distributor in an earlier life). Guardians may indeed “underperform” ultimately, but I wish industry reporters would at least give paying audiences a chance to see the work before declaring it a disaster – and without basing their opinions on the grosses of this family film’s first playdate (which in this case, last Wednesday, was a school day).

Jerry Beck

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