Arriving in a slow period for family films, Arctic Dogs has a chance to do well at the box office when it debuts on Friday. Yet projections suggest that the film, which has been dogged by delays, will fall flat.

The film will open in 2,844 theaters, down from the 3,600 theaters in which it was originally expected to launch. According to Deadline, Arctic Dogs is tracking at a $5 million domestic opening; Boxoffice Pro predicts $6 million. The studio itself is more optimistic, and believes it could start at $10 million. Whichever way you cut it, it would be a mild start for a family-oriented cg feature. The film has a high-profile voice cast led by Jeremy Renner, and which also includes Heidi Klum, James Franco, John Cleese, Omar Sy, Michael Madsen, Laurie Holden, Anjelica Huston, and Alec Baldwin.

If anything can boost the film’s performance, it is the relative lack of competition. MGM’s The Addams Family is waning as it enters its fourth week, and Disney’s Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is underperforming. Frozen 2, another (more formidable) Disney sequel, is still three weeks off. Friday’s only major new release is Terminator: Dark Fate, which is aimed at older audiences.

Arctic Dogs tells the story of Swifty (Renner), an Arctic fox who discovers that an evil walrus (Cleese) is planning to melt all the ice on the North Pole as part of his scheme to take over the world.

One reason for the film’s lack of hype is that the companies behind it have no real brand identity. The film is financed by Ambi Media Group, a production/distribution consortium founded by Italian entrepreneurs Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi (of the rum empire). This is the first animated title Ambi has produced, although the company has signalled its intentions in the industry by setting up AIC Studios in Toronto, Canada; the studio handled the animation on Arctic Dogs.

In 2016, Ambi struck a deal with the Dubai-based Barajoun Entertainment to co-produce five family cg flicks in five years, although these have yet to see the light of day. At the time, it declared that the budget per film would be around $50 million — a sizeable sum for a foreign animated film with no major U.S. studio backing. The budget for Arctic Dogs is unknown. Ambi did not respond to Cartoon Brew’s request for comment.

The timeline of the film’s production history hints at setbacks. The project was first announced — under the title Arctic Justice: Thunder Squad — in early 2015, and its release was initially slated for January 2018. The reasons for the delay haven’t been confirmed, but the film’s first distributor, Open Road, filed for bankruptcy last year.

Arctic Dogs was subsequently picked up by Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures, the distribution arm of Entertainment Studios, a media company founded by American comedian Byron Allen. It, too, has little prior experience in animation. Allen’s company also acquired the rights to the independent cg feature Animal Crackers, though it has not released the film to date.

Arctic Dogs is directed by Aaron Woodley (Spark: A Space Tail), who wrote the story with Bob Barlen and Cal Brunker (the scribes behind The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature). Bryan Thompson also has a writing credit. Iervolino, Bacardi, and Graham Moloy are producing. Assemblage Entertainment, an animation studio based in Mumbai, India, is also credited.

Veteran animator Dimos Vrysellas (Shark Tale) worked on the film as director from 2014 to 2016. He described himself to Cartoon Brew as “a co-director,” but he isn’t credited in the film’s promotional material. “I had a blast helping to create the characters and world in which they lived, as well as shaping a fun story,” he said.

Arctic Dogs was not screened for critics prior to its opening. No major publication has reviewed the film at this time.

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