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.

ZOOTOPIA
Disney

THE FILM

Next up on the profitability tournament at No. 5 is Zootopia. If you want to ponder why the first-dollar gross star business is dead, consider the fact that half of the Top 12 most profitable films of the year on Deadline’s list starred animated or computer-generated animals. It shows the importance of the family film business, and the effectiveness of lining up familiar-sounding voices (at discount) to the cartoon stars of the film. Nobody does this better than Disney and Illumination. The Walt Disney Animation film Zootopia is set in a world of animals, with a story line that plays on themes like bullying, stereotyping and prejudice. The heroine is a bright young female rabbit trying to make it as a police officer, and attempting to solve a crime involving a fox and other unsavories. Rather than clumsily detail the plot, suffice to say that Zootopia won the Oscar for Best Animated Film. Let’s see how the numbers look.

THE BOX SCORE

Here are the costs and revenues as our experts see them:

THE BOTTOM LINE

Zootopia opened early last March to a $75 million domestic bow, making it the Walt Disney Animation unit’s biggest opening grosser ever; it was also a March record for an animated film and easily beat its live-action competition. It opened earlier overseas, and, fueled by a near-perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes and an A Cinemascore, the film performed well for weeks in a dry spell on the release calendar. At the end, Zootopia grossed $341 million domestic and $446 million foreign, with a whopping $235 million in China — which, to put it in perspective, did better in the Middle Kingdom than Captain America: Civil War. The film did rise to the standard high production costs of Disney tentpoles, carrying a $150 million budget. A reasonable $35 million was expended in Participations and Residuals and Off-the-Tops. All this left Disney with total costs of $416 million, and global revenues of $711 million. According to our experts, Disney turned an eye-popping $294 million in net profits, and a Cash on Cash Return of 1.71. A note to incoming Paramount chairman Jim Gianopulos: start a family film division right away, with a visionary to run it like Chris Meledandri and John Lasseter (not that those guys grown on trees). Is there any doubt that a couple of skillfully made animated family films is the fastest way to turn around a sluggish studio?