MovieFone: Here’s Why Legend of Tarzan Beat Expectations at the Box Office


No wonder box office analysts expected “The Legend of Tarzan” to be a costly flop, along the lines of “The Lone Ranger” a few years ago. It’s based on an ancient franchise that modern-day viewers don’t seem to remember, much less care about. Unlike “Lone Ranger,” the new “Tarzan” didn’t even have the saving grace of an A-lister like Johnny Depp in the cast. So predictions for the expensive tentpole’s opening weekend were modest: it would gross between $20 and $25 million and debut in fourth place, behind returning hit “Finding Dory” and newcomers “The Purge: Election Year” and “The BFG.”

But “Tarzan” surprised everyone by doing nearly twice as well as expected, with an estimated $38.1 million through Sunday, with a second-place finish well ahead of “Purge” (an estimated $30.9 million) and “BFG” (an estimated $19.6 million). While those figures are better than expected, Warners should hold off on breaking out the champagne: “Tarzan” will need all the overseas money it can get if it wants to recoup its rumored $180 million budget. Here are some reasons why it was premature to count Tarzan out, and why the movie’s perceived weaknesses were actually strengths.

Read the full article at Moviefone

Word of warning — there is one bit in the latter part of the article that is just bad math:

“The movie will have to gross about $720 million worldwide to break even.”

That’s insane and bears no relationship to any rational analysis of what’s needed. I’ve gone through this before, but I’ll go through it again.

First — if you want to read a good article that includes an actual studio participation statement — check out this link.

One simple statement from the article:

So how do you know if the box-office gods have smiled enough on your favorite movie that studios are likely to greenlight similar films? The short answer is, it depends on a number of factors, but a rule of thumb seems to be that the film needs to make twice its production budget globally. For the longer answer, read on.

Note that it says “twice its producton budget globally” . . . . Also note this does NOT mean the film becomes profitable from the box office gross only at that point. It doesn’t. But a film with that much theatrical gross will, when all the other income streams have time to come in, (blu-ray, digital, pay cable, free cable, broadcast TV, ancillary) make a profit.  So the 2x is just a shorthand, nothing more.

Is 2x  gospel? No.  You will sometimes see 2.5x production budget, or 2x “production plus marketing budget”.

But if we take the worst case — $180M production budget and let’s call it 60M marketing budget – -that’s $240 so — $480 worldwide gross.

Not $720M.