The Golden Compass Bombs - Is This The Death of New Line Cinema?
Is New Line Cinema soon to become the next Orion Pictures or United Artists (before Tom Cruise bought it and started it back up)? They've had an incredibly bad year with every movie they've released and were relying heavily on The Golden Compass to perform very well, especially with its rumored $150-200 million (or more) budget. Unfortunately things aren't going so well - The Golden Compass is doing very poorly at the box office on its opening weekend. It's being referred to as a "disaster", but is it enough to bring about the eventual end of New Line? I hope not. But at least I'm brave enough to ask the question that everyone is thinking but is too afraid to say.
The Golden Compass opened on Friday (December 7th) in 3,528 screens but only made an estimated total of $8.8 million on Friday. The film is expect to top out at $27 million for the weekend. It's expect to be the #1 movie for the weekend, but it's a very weak opening for the second weekend of December. In comparison, here are the #1 movie's box office earnings for the second weekend of December for the last 10 years.
2007 - The Golden Compass ($27M expected)
2006 - Apocalypto ($15M weekend total)
2005 - The Chronicles of Narnia ($66M weekend total)
2004 - Ocean's Twelve ($39M weekend total)
2003 - The Last Samurai ($24M weekend total)
2002 - Die Another Day ($13M weekend total)
2001 - Ocean's Eleven ($38M weekend total)
2000 - How the Grinch Stole Christmas ($19M weekend total)
1999 - Toy Story 2 ($18M weekend total)
1998 - Star Trek: Insurrection ($22M weekend total)
1997 - Flubber ($11M weekend total)
Box office analyst Steve Mason writes at SlashFilm that "$100M domestic is now a longshot, and the movie will probably finish only in the $80M-$90M range." Quite a low amount, well below the "reported" budget, not even considering the excessive marketing they've done. I'm even worried if we'll even see a sequel now! SlashFilm's Mason also lists out New Line's very bad year.
Hairspray - $27.4M weekend / $118.8M total (~$75M budget)
Rush Hour 3 - $49.1M weekend / $140.1M total (~$140M budget)
Fracture - $11M weekend / $39M total
The Number 23 - $14.6M weekend / $35.1M total (~$30M budget)
Mr. Woodcock - $8.7M weekend / $25.8M total
The Last Mimzy - $10M weekend / $21.4M total
Shoot 'Em Up - $5.7M weekend / $12.8M total (~$20M budget)
Rendition - $4M weekend / $9.7M total
Code Name: The Cleaner - $4.2M weekend / $8.1M total (~$20M budget)
Martian Child - $3.3M weekend / $7.4M total (~$27M budget)
Love in the Time of Cholera - $1.9M weekend / $4.3M total (~$45M budget)
Every studio goes through some big downtimes, and maybe this is just New Line's. I can't imagine founder Bob Shaye giving up so easily nor can I imagine the studio that put out the cash-printing Lord of the Rings franchise to disappear so quickly. But if you aren't making money and don't have any left over in the bank, then there's no other choice. However, I'm hoping they'll recover strong in the next few years and improve some of the areas that they really lack in.
I hate to say it, but I think the blame for this lies in their marketing department. Just look at Snakes on a Plane. They had no part in the internet buzz, but then they didn't know how to take advantage of it. Then Warner Brothers markets 300 to a huge success which had as much if not more internet buzz than Snakes on a Plane. Beyond that, I just feel like their marketing really doesn't amount to anything, or is even sometimes non-existent. They don't have a solid grasp on how to market well to the right places and really get the word out. That's the first area I'd look to improve if I were Bob Shaye.
I really don't want New Line to go the way of Orion Pictures. I actually really like some of their films (look at Shoot 'Em Up or Hairspray or Rendition), and I think they've got a great Hollywood company. They just had an unlucky set of films that no one cared about this year (and couldn't compete with other big ones) and some poor marketing. If I could help them in any way to improve, I would, but it's not up to me and I don't work at New Line.
2008 is already looking like a better year for New Line, but if they continue with their poor marketing, some of these may end up being flops, too. They've got my upcoming fave Michel Gondry's Be Kind Rewind, Will Ferrell's Semi-Pro, the likely-to-be-huge Harold & Kumar 2, an attempt at a Nancy Drew-like franchise with Kit Kittredge: An American Girl, two Brendan Fraser-starring films Inkheart and Journey 3-D which both probably won't do well, the holiday comedy Four Christmases, a sci-fi The Time Traveler's Wife, and their possible savior for 2008 - Sex and the City: The Movie.
I hope New Line stays in the game, but if they keep releasing bombs like The Golden Compass, they're bound not to last much longer. And it's sad, because The Golden Compass is actually one of the better fantasy films out and is worth seeing, so what happened to all the moviegoers? Once they figure that out maybe they'll make a recovery.