Warner Bros. Pictures and Harry Potter franchise director David Yate's upcoming Tarzan movie, The Legend of Tarzan, has long been regarded as a wild card in the 2016 summer box office derby. Movies featuring Edgar Rice Burroughs' Lord of the Apes have been around since the silent film Tarzan of the Apes was released in 1918; similarly, the Tarzan film franchise is one of the longest-running (and successful) series in Hollywood history. However, that was back in the 20th century, and the last major live-action Tarzan film release, 1998's Tarzan and the Lost City, was a box office bomb that grossed only $2 million at the U.S. box office.
Disney Animation hit it big with its own Tarzan film adaptation in 1999 (resulting in a $448 million worldwide take), but that was a while ago too - and the fact that WB spent a reported $180 million (not counting the marketing costs) on Legend of Tarzan means the studio could be facing a financial loss on the level of Disney's Lone Ranger, if audiences aren't interested in seeing this new adventure with the iconic ape-man. For those reasons, WB is expected to double-down on its efforts to promote Yates' Tarzan movie over the remaining two weeks before it reaches theaters, starting with the release of several high-resolution screenshots from the film.
Legend of Tarzan is based on a script credited to Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow) and Adam Cozad (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit). The story picks up with Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) years after he left the jungle, to go live with his wife Jane Porter (Margot Robbie) in England. Tarzan and Jane then decide to return to Africa to serve as trade emissaries, unaware that they are being manipulated as part of a scheme by the Belgian warlord known as Captain Léon Rom (Christoph Waltz). When Jane is then kidnapped by Captain Rom, it's up to Tarzan and his allies - including the U.S. Civil War veteran George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) and African chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou) - to save the day.
Check out several high-res screenshots from The Legend of Tarzan, below:
Variety is reporting that Legend of Tarzan is currently projected to make $25-33 million when it opens in U.S. theaters over the extended Fourth of July holiday frame. That number could rise (or fall) depending on how moviegoers respond to WB's final marketing push for the film over the next couple of weeks; not to mention, the impact that initial reviews and word of mouth will have on the movie's box office, both during its opening weekend and in the long-term. Legend of Tarzan's opening gross will also be affected by the turnout for Steven Spielberg's The BFG, which opens on July 1st too - and right now, is projected to go as low as $22 million or high as $32 million during that frame.
Last year, it was reported that WB studio heads weren't impressed with Legend of Tarzan during test screenings and that Yates starting production on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them before Legend of Tarzan had finished post-production may've negatively impacted the latter. On the other hand, the report about Legend of Tarzan's initial cut was released several months ago (October 2015, to be exact), so the film may have significantly improved since that time.
Early buzz aside, though, there simply isn't that much interest in Yates' Tarzan flick among U.S. filmgoers - meaning, it might be up to the international box office to save the film from becoming a costly misfire for WB (a la last year's Pan). Legend of Tarzan is the sort of big-budget, spectacle-driven, tentpole that tends to performs well around the world nowadays, as evidenced most recently by Warcraft: a video game adaptation that has made nearly 90% of its $313 million gross to date in non-U.S. markets. There may yet be hope for the Lord of the Apes' new movie (as far as the box office is concerned), for that reason.
The Legend of Tarzan opens in U.S. theaters on July 1st, 2016.