The summer blockbuster season has already seen several record busting films, not the least of which included a superhero reunion (Avengers: Age of Ultron) and a musical encore (Pitch Perfect 2). Unfortunately, Walt Disney Studio’s high concept, big budget film Tomorrowland (read: not a sequel) failed to draw the same applause and appeal, opening to a soft $42.7 million over the long Memorial Day weekend.
And who could have seen it coming (aside from the futuristic members of the titular world)? With Brad Bird as director, George Clooney as the star, and a considerably intriguing concept, the film seemed fully prepared to launch into the box office stratosphere. Unfortunately, with competition from other films (read: sequels), weak reviews out of the gate, and a concept that many feel is surprisingly sour (and relies too much on a political agenda), Tomorrowland became the Mouse House’s first major financial and creative failure since The Lone Ranger misfired two summers ago.
Sources courtesy of THR indicate Tomorrowland could lose anywhere between $120 million and $140 million once it finishes its global roundabout. So far, the film has grossed $76.4 million domestically and $93.5 million internationally for an overall total of $169.9 million. Compared to the $180 million budget – plus marketing efforts that cost $150 million – its highly unlikely Disney will earn enough back to cover its expenses.
And with Tomorrowland joining the ranks of 2012’s John Carter and 2013’s The Lone Ranger, Disney does not boast a particularly reliable track record right now when it comes to launching new big-budget franchises – without a built-in fan base, that is. Additionally, the futuristic flop marks the third original tentpole of 2015 to bomb after Jupiter Ascending and Seventh Son. So what does that mean for original filmmaking, in general? Industry analyst Eric Handler of MKM Partners addressed this issue while speaking to THR.
There’s a reason you’re seeing more sequels, prequels and known properties because you never know how films like Tomorrowland or Jupiter Ascending are going to turn out.
We recently discussed the same problem as well, arguing that original movies are not necessarily a hard sell in this day and age, as long as they’re marketed effectively. Posters and trailers – even trailers for trailers – have become vital in garnering early buzz and attracting audience attention. That said, Tomorrowland most likely misfired because its marketing misfired first.
It’s interesting to consider how the film would have fared if the teasers had taken a different approach – perhaps focusing less on Clooney’s character and more on Britt Robertson and Raffey Cassidy. Unfortunately, we can’t travel back in time to save the film, but hopefully future original efforts by Disney and other big name studios learn from previous mistakes.
When all is said and done, though, the Mouse House will be alright. As Handler puts it, “Yes, they took a miss with Tomorrowland, but there are so many things working for Disney. And coming up, there’s Inside Out (June 19), Ant-Man (July 17) and Star Wars (Dec. 18).” Okay, more than alright.
Tomorrowland is now playing in theaters.