Remember when ‘experts’ said Disney would lose money on Maleficent?

Who’s smiling a wicked smile now? Just 3 months ago, financial experts were predicting doom and gloom for Disney’s Maleficent. On April 1, Wall Street analyst Marci Ryvicker wrote that Maleficent “is maybe too dark and scary to be profitable… expectations for a Maleficent write-off seem relatively widespread.” Another analyst said, “It’s definitely in the ‘not a sure thing’ bucket.”

And you want to be my latex salesman?

Fast forward to July 28. Maleficent has already earned $715 million worldwide and it’s just getting started in Japan (where Frozen earned $254 million). Maleficent is within a few million of passing X-Men: Days of Future Past to become the 2nd biggest movie of 2014. X-Men has yet to open in Russia but Maleficent is currently raking in 3 times more per week than Marvel’s mutant cluster-folk. Sure, Maleficent is rumored to have cost as much as $180 million but that’s starting to look like money very well-spent.

Maybe giant CGI dragon lizards aren’t so awful after all. Maybe we need to stop pigeon-holing movies as “targeted at children, targeted at teens, targeted at women, targeted at adults.”

The most successful movies don’t get this close to a billion dollars unless they entertain all kinds of people of all ages. At this level of bank, it’s silly to claim any credit for catering to a narrow demographic.

Maleficent’s audience is 60 percent female and 51 percent over the age of 25. Families account for 45 percent of attendance. Yes, it’s great that 6 out of 10 people in the audience are female. Brava! But do the math. Without men buying tickets too, Maleficent would have only earned $427 million. And then the Wall Street analysts would have been right: It would have lost money. A lot of money.

The same way Godzilla would have bombed without the 42% of its audience who are women and 60% of its audience who are older than 25.

I wish we could please stop talking about movies being made for teenagers or made for males. Stop talking about movies made for women or made for adults.

The best movies are made for movielovers. If they’re not, they crash and burn. Movies that are made for everyone can sometimes earn a billion dollars. I have trouble understanding why that’s a problem for some people.

27 Comments on this Post

  1. I thought it would be her biggest hit. When do I get to be an expert?

  2. Bill W.

    Will box office = nominations?

  3. It surprises me that Angelina Jolie will rule the summer of 2014

  4. The Great Dane

    To be fair, if we’re not supposed to talk about films being made FOR woman, why is it so important to keep talking about films being made BY women?

    If great films are great films and if great successes are great successes, it doesn’t matter who they’re made for, right? Then it shouldn’t matter who they’re made BY either.

    Just putting it into perspective. I know how people keep talking about the importance of films being made by women (and I wish more American women were able to break into the movie business – here in Denmark half the films released every year are by female directors) – but we can’t just say that we shouldn’t be talking about who films are made FOR and then at the same time say it’s important who the films are made BY.

    :)

  5. Bryce Forestieri

    Indeed a very good year for those movies that aspire to have widest possible appeal. I can’t be half as enthusiastic about MALEFICENT because I didn’t even like it. However, my question is, don’t we -including us regular Americans in NC & TX- get *theatrical* access to 50-60 “adult” films of relative quality on a yearly basis? I mean we did get BEFORE MIDNIGHT and we did get CERTIFIED COPY and we did get THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES? And I can go on for a while. So why they didn’t make a billion dollars beats me and frankly doesn’t worry me in the least. My facile conclusion? There aren’t that many smart sensitive people with great taste like me. And I know A LOT of people. There just aren’t. There never were and there never will be. And for the foreseeable future, that answer will satisfy me. Smart “adult” moviegoers will not suddenly multiply in great numbers if and when “the studios” go back to making two Jill Clayburgh movies every year — because let’s be honest, *that is* what they mean by the “good old days of adult movies” and not so much CHINATOWN and THE GODFATHER. And frankly, how many of those are truly memorable or actually intelligent films? How many are worth recommending? My opinion is not favorable.

    As I’ve aid before, it’s not the lack of quality “adult” stuff that bothers them, it’s the immense demand, fun and noise that the “kids stuff” generates. They can’t stand that so many people are having a good time because they miserably fail to appreciate what the fuss is all about, but most importantly they cant stand the noise. My advice to all the “serious” journalists, cinephiles, and critics: Stop following every goddamn geek blogger on twitter. Write a piece as to why the latest Kim Ki-duk was marginalized from competition at Venice just because P.T. Anderson’s fluffers haven’t stopped babbling ever since 2012. Write an open letter asking for forgiveness and committing to rectification for those stinking reviews you wrote for THE COUNSELOR and TO THE WONDER. How about an outrage piece directed to whoever the fuck at WB still gives Clint Eastwood $40 million twice a year to come up with his latest “adult” dreck? So many wonderful movies out there to write about, but no, they keep mad because the apes and the giant lizards and our most jingoist superhero are the diversion of the day…of the world. So please, be sure to include a brilliant reasoning about how also the current tastes are a sign of how fucked up the times are as opposed to how amazing the world used to be back when you were having fun.

    As for me, Columbia Pictures, please I’d much rather have you carry on with 23 JUMP STREET than cast whoever fits the bill of Barbra Streisand of this generation for THE WAY WE WERE because I don’t ever want to be bored like that again.

  6. The Great Dane, I think what I’m saying is simply this: whether it’s a male director or a female director, if a director is making a movie FOR teenagers, then it’s not for me. If they’re making a movie FOR women then that movie is not for me either.

    I think it would be very very very weird and sort of sick if ANY director said: “I’m making this movie FOR women.” Ugh, good luck with that. Good luck with your dimwitted Sex and the City sequels.

    I have no use for any director who doesn’t make movies that all kinds of people can enjoy and appreciate.

    But to answer your other point, the reason we talk about women directors is the same reason we talk about black directors and Asian directors and gay directors, etc.

    We should be glad to see that diversity on the creative end, yes? Because don’t we get bored with the white male point of view all the time? I know I do. I bore the fuck out of myself.

    And that diversity? I like to see that same diversity in the audience all around me.

    I swear to god, when I saw Midnight in Paris every other person in the audience was 55, 60, 65, 70, older. I knew from the crowd it attracted that I was going hate that movie. And I was right, I did.

    Even at Magic Mike, when the audience was 90% female. I was worried about what that would be like. Worried for good reason too. Some of the ‘ladies’ around me yelled and hooted and hollered at the screen during the stage show scenes. Some of the women in the audience behaved like they were at Chippendales. It was creepy. I didn’t really enjoy Magic Mike until I was able to watch it at home, months later.

    I figure Soderburgh knew he was playing to a mostly female audience, but it was a weird thing to attempt, in my opinion. He pulled it off (so to speak) but it was dicey. He’s Soderburgh, so I cut him a lot of slack.

    But, no, if a director is just making a movie FOR kids and kids alone, then we end up with Yogi Bear (2010). And I pity the parents who had to sit through that.

    But a smart director knows how to make a movie that kids can enjoy and adults can enjoy too. And that’s when we get movies like WALL-E or Ratatouille.

  7. it’s not going to pass X-men worldwide, FYI

  8. Bryce Forestieri

    By the way my comment was triggered by both with this post and that other bit of commentary Ryan earlier adhered to the MOCKINGJAY trailer.

  9. Possibly tech nominations, but the field seems so crowded with promising movies that I think Maleficent won’t be much of an Oscar contender in any area.

  10. “X-Men has yet to open in Russia but Maleficent is currently raking in 3 times more per week than DC’s mutant cluster-folk.” Not to be the superhero nerd around here, but X-Men is Marvel :) Having said that, I do admire the massive success of Maleficent thus far.

  11. Walker

    Well bob, whether it’s going to pass X-men a lot is still questionable. Maybe yes or maybe no.
    Nonetheless the final box office of this 2 movies will be very close FYI
    Anyway, why does it bothers you so much about whether Maleficent pass X-men or not?? lol
    X-men has its advantage being one of the many blockbuster that is a franchise and sequel.
    That movie have already done very well , it passed franchise sequels Captain America and Amazing spider-man 2 .

    Off I go from here.

  12. BEFORE MIDNIGHT and we did get CERTIFIED COPY and we did get THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES? And I can go on for a while. So why they didn’t make a billion dollars beats me

    Bryce, I can answer that rhetorical question. :) There are not more than 20-25 million people in America who have the desire, patience, attention span, free time, (or frankly, the intelligence) to sit and watch a movie like Certified Copy or even a movie like Chinatown.

    How many people would you guess paid to see Chinatown in 1974? 17 million. That’s it. a paltry 17 million.

    Meanwhile in 1974, 48 million Americans paid to see The Trial of Billy Jack.
    and 62 million people paid to see The Towering Inferno in 1974.

    How about The Conversation? a little over 2 million Americans paid to see The Conversation.

    So I’m not going to mince words: There were not enough smart, thoughtful, patient, sophisticated people in America to make Chinatown earn more than $29 million. But there were lots more middlebrow Americans who could enjoy The Towering Inferno and turn it into a $120 million box-office phenomenon.

    Not to say that smart people can’t enjoy The Towering Inferno too.

    But the reverse is not true. There’s no way in the world you can find 60 million people in America to sit down and concentrate on Tree of Life. 60 million sophisticated adults do not exist in America.

    The proof is right there in the box-office numbers. Only 1.6 million Americans bought tickets to Tree of Life.

    That’s roughly the same number as had the patience for The Conversation 40 years ago.

    Q: How many people would you guess paid to see Annie Hall?
    A: 17 million Americans bought tickets to Annie Hall.

    17 million Americans went to see Chinatowm
    17 million Americans went to see Annie Hall
    15 million Americans went to see The Wolf of Wall Street

    the number of people inclined to buy tickets to that kind of movie is really remarkably consistent over the past 40 years.

    If more than 25 million Americans buy a movie ticket then that movie has an action/thriller/crime/sex element.

    If 30-40 million Americans buy a movie ticket then that movie is a fantasy, CGI, superhero, monster, or some other genre that does not require a lot of deep thinking.

    Because there are not 40 million deep-thinking Americans who exist.

    sure, you can all think of exceptions. Gravity for example. 34 million tickets sold in America (many of those tickets sold to the same people who saw it 2 or 3 times) — but Gravity could be enjoyed on multiple levels. Mindless thrill ride for the mindless moviegoer. Profound experience for the brainier moviegoer.

  13. Bryce Forestieri

    Pretty clever all around! I was thinking much along the same lines, but I wasn’t familiar with the numbers to back it up.

  14. Not to be the superhero nerd around here…

    Rich, we need somebody to be the superhero nerd around here. I’m clearly not equipped. Thanks!

    I won’t fix the post. I’ll just leave it, to represent my dunce hat.

  15. Bryce, I’ve had a 150-tweet discussion with Mark Harris about this issue for the past 2 hours, so I already did the ticket-price/box-office math to use as ammunition in that brawl (friendly brawl).

    (I fixed my Gravity math. I had first (wrongly) calculated the worldwide ticket sales. So I changed it to just account for domestic box office)

  16. All good points (except regarding MIDNIGHT IN PARIS. I love that movie now and loved it when I was 21). Great storytellers are thoughtful enough to understand that interesting narratives don’t fall into bland gender/racial/sexual stereotypes unless they’re being consciously subverted. Even a male-centric filmmaker like Scorsese nails the women that do appear on screen because they’re drawn as PEOPLE with needs, fears, motives, desires as opposed to ladies with “lady problems” whatever the hell those may be.

    When I saw MAGIC MIKE in a theatre near UCLA, the crowd was composed of about 80% women, mostly middle-aged. During the first strip show, one audience member made some “Whoooo!” noise and another lady yelled “Oh, grow up.” Thanks to this hero, the rest of the showing was fairly quiet and I could enjoy it.

  17. Jingle Bell

    Actually, Xmen DOFP debuted in Russia last month. It has earned over $24 million dollars over there.

    I think Maleficent has a good chance knocking Xmen out of the #2 spot worldwide.

  18. Jingle Bell

    Correction: over $22 million not $24 million.

  19. Bryce Forestieri

    Excellent, yes GRAVITY is in the vein of such classics like RAIDERS and NORTHWEST that work on different levels one of which is being highly entertaining to a whole bunch of different people. Whether it achieves that stature over time is another business.

    I, also as preposterous as it sounds, propose that serious cineastes have nowadays even more choices at “adult” films. Rise of VOD, for instance, that was the way I saw BLUE RUIN, JOE, ENEMY, BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO seeing PALO ALTO that way tomorrow; anecdotally what seems to me like a wider availability/distribution of foreign films theatrically and even easier mechanisms to import home-video well before certain films even debut here (MAPS TO THE STARS will be out on blu this September in France while it doesn’t even have a US release date, I am frankly tempted), but back to the former, I was able to see films like AMOUR, THE SKIN I LIVE IN, A SEPARATION, WHITE RIBBON, BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR, NO, THE GREAT BEAUTY in theaters around the corner. Now, I wasn’t around then, but I have serious doubts JOJIMBO or NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE were shown anywhere near where I live in the 60’s and 70’s respectively.

    Point is American productions of a certain high profile and pedigree, like TWO LOVERS, have now more competition than in the “golden age” for that limited audience you so astutely identified. That golden age which I’m sure is any time in history before Bryan Singer’s X-MEN (2000).

  20. filmboymichael

    I’m with one of the earlier posters – when do I get to be an expert??? Time and time again, I see trailers for movies that have a significant amount of buzz and I sit on my couch, or in front of my computer thinking or saying “meh” – those movies typically fail. I’m rarely wrong. I saw the trailer for Maleficent and after that iconic “Well, well….”, I thought, this is going to be huge….it was. And deservedly so…..despite its mixed review, it’s a great film that will probably age very well. I don’t think it’s awards bait, save for perhaps an in the wrong category Golden Globe, but I do think it’s a good film….

  21. Frozen earned $254 million in Japan, not $54 million. Third biggest film of all time, there, after Titanic and Spirited Away.

  22. I have relayed this information back to Maleficent and you know what she said?

    “How wonderful”

    I bought so many Maleficent tickets to support this film. I NEVER….EVER doubted that this movie would be a blockbuster. As I have said in another article on this website, Angelina Jolie lives and breathes life into Maleficent as a character so beautifully that, in effect, it attracts moviegoers to see her exquisite performance. Clearly, it worked. Point. Blank. Period.

    Oh, and her porcelain smile and laugh *faints* during the christening scene. Oh. My. Goodness. #Bless She’s so beautiful, I need to say it again: Maleficent is so beautiful!

  23. unlikely hood, thanks for the fact check! even more reason to think Maleficent has only just begun making bank in Japan (whereas X-Men has already seen its Japanese box-office peak and decline)

    Jingle Bell, thanks for the fact check!! I was looking at the wrong chart. that’s more good news for Maleficent though, yes. It means the X-Men totals we see already include Russian ticket sales, so its not going to get much more additional boost in Russia.

  24. Ligaya

    Jesus, you probably didn’t buy as many tickets as me. ;-) You could say I’m an extreme repeat viewer.

  25. Maleficent was Diet Avatar. I loved Avatar. I liked Maleficent just fine.

  26. Bob Burns

    good to see Ellar Coltrane on the BA tracker. Hawke should be on the BSA tracker, too. If Boyhood is a contender, they are, too. There is a chance that Boyhood becomes a box office phenom and that its studio makes enough money to give it a real marketing campaign and a real awards campaign……. “one of the most beloved movies of all time” marketing.

    Greek Wedding opened lower and went on to make good money for 40 weeks.

    So far its making money off of sophisticated audiences, Great. But it could easily play big to general audiences….. a must see date movie for all ages.

    Nobody knows its final number now…….. $11M, $55M, $175M? Who can say?

  27. Q Mark

    Wow, that’s a lot of money. Now just imagine if the movie was any good!
    Why are we wasting time with any posts about this forgettable movie that will be (justly) omitted from any major Oscar nominations? If Maleficent scores even one random tech nod, I’ll be surprised.

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