It happens every year, when the NCAA kicks off March Madness. That’s when Deadline launches its own tournament to ascertain which film made the most money. Entry into the tournament is based on top domestic gross, and we count down from No. 20 all the way to crowning a champion. Even in a record-setting year in box office revenues like we saw in 2015, when it comes to evaluating the financial performance of top movies, it isn’t about what a film grosses at the box office. The true tale is told when production budgets, P&A, talent participations and other costs collide with box office grosses, and ancillary revenues from VOD to DVD and TV. To get close to that mysterious end of the equation, Deadline is repeating our Most Valuable Blockbuster tournament, using data culled by seasoned and trusted sources.
Like last year, we will run four films per day in separate posts, then name a winner and present the data en masse. This year, before the final film, we’ll run a group of films that didn’t make the tournament because they didn’t hit the gross mark, but did turn in extraordinary financial performances that deserve to be noted. The difficulty in ascertaining exactly what talent gets after cash break keeps this from being a perfect science. But it demystifies the process and makes it clear that bragging about a weekend win, when it’s a small portion of budget and other costs, is often a hollow victory.
We start off with an animated movie that didn’t make that much noise in the marketplace, but which certainly did turn in a strong performance for DreamWorks Animation when it needed it. The 3D computer-animated science-fiction buddy comedy was based on Adam Rex’s 2007 children’s book The True Meaning of Smekday. The film was full of familiar sounding voices, led by Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Steve Martin, Jennifer Lopez, and Matt Jones. Tim Johnson directed the script by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember. Aliens invade earth and a young girl escapes and goes on the run with a fugitive. The film was boosted by songs from both Rihanna and Lopez. The film turned in a $386 million worldwide gross to finish in 20th place.
THE BOX SCORE
Here are the costs and revenues as our experts see them:
THE BOTTOM LINE
Although the R&D on any animated film can create a gestation period longer than live-action films, these pictures are good business. The voice cast usually work for box office bonuses, and they don’t devastate the financials. And many times, the animators work in-house for the film companies, and they often work for salary and don’t even have agents. Add all that up, and it’s a win for DreamWorks Animation.