Dumbo, the first of four Disney live-action adaptations this year based off its animated vault, is set to take off this weekend, though not with the stomp of its previous uber-hits, Beauty and the Beast ($357M worldwide debut), Alice in Wonderland ($210.1M WW start) or even 2014’s Maleficent ($170M opening).
Dumbo, directed by Alice‘s Tim Burton, is a different type of movie, based off a much older Disney 1941 release than recent remakes. While Burton brought punch and snap to Alice and a groovy absurdist musical take to Warner Bros.’ Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was further accentuated by Johnny Depp’s uncanny Michael Jackson-like take on Willy Wonka, Dumbo is slower, old-fashioned family movie. A global opening between $137M-$155M is what we’re hearing at this point in town with overseas between $80M-90M and domestic projections literally wild: Disney thinks it’s in the $50Ms, others in the $60M-$65M range, but after today’s Rotten Tomatoes score of 51% Rotten, we’re figuring $57.5M on the low end at 4,200+ theaters (comprised of 2,900-plus 3D locations, 400 IMAX auditoriums, 650 Premium Large Format screens and 250 D-Box/4D locations. U.S./Canada previews start 6pm on Thursday.
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Stateside, Dumbo‘s opening is tracking to be lower than the $100M-plus openings we’re use to with Beauty and the Beast and Jungle Book, and also below Maleficent‘s ($69M) and Cinderella ($67.8M) debuts, yet just around where Burton’s Charlie began at $56.1M.
Dumbo is the only major studio release this weekend, not counting indie wide entries, Unplanned from PureFlix and NEON’s Harmony Korine-directed SXSW premiere Beach Bum, both expected to do low single digits, and as one film finance insider tells Deadline “it’s a great weekend for Dumbo” as far as its launch goes. Spring break levels are still healthy for the biz with 23% K-12 schools off on Friday, and 13% colleges moving to respectively 17% and 7% per ComScore by Monday, April 1. Don’t forget, Universal’s Us is going to nab about $35M in weekend 2, the Jordan Peele’s current B.O. at $77M through four days.
In like-for-like markets and at current rates on the best Disney comps, Alice Through The Looking Glass, which Burton produced but did not direct, bowed to $75M abroad while Cinderella did $89M. Respectively, they finaled at $212M and $322M abroad, again at today’s rates. Also a comp, Burton’s last directing effort, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, had a staggered release so the opening is not apples-to-apples. It ended its run at $209M overseas with decent play in SE Asia.
The top overall offshore markets on ATTLG, which fared much better abroad where it took over 74% of its box office, were China, Japan, the UK, Mexico and Russia. For Miss Peregrine they were France, Korea, China, the UK and Russia which contributed to the 71% international haul for the film. Cinderella scored 63% of her box office from offshore turnstiles, led by China, Japan, the UK and Mexico/Brazil.
While France and Japan are considerable Burton markets, Europeans are familiar with the story of the flying elephant and Latin America leans into this kind of family fare, the swing, as noted, will be Asia. There is understood to be less traditional awareness of the character there. However, the 1941 original does have an 8.1 on China’s review aggregator Douban.
We hear the Dumbo trailers have gone down a charm in the Middle Kingdom, and Disney recruited local talent Zheng Yunlong to sing the Chinese theme song for the movie. He performed it at a screening last week at the Shanghai Disney Resort. In the Middle Kingdom, Dumbo could flap up to $10M+ in its first weekend, though we’ve heard as high as $20M. Word on the ground is that it is facing a similar issue to Disney’s The Nutcracker, at least in terms of timing, given there appears to be a lot of anticipation for next Friday’s opener, New Line’s Shazam!, which hits on Tomb Sweeping Day.
Last year, Nutcracker opened on Nov. 2, grossing $12M in the first weekend and ultimately taking just over $16M through the China run with a 6 on Douban. Venom the following week opened to over $107M with a 7.2 on Douban and a 9.4 on Moayan. Neither Shazam! nor Dumbo‘s scores are posted yet. Despite a lack of overwhelming buzz, the film does boast family values which are appreciated in China, and has 3D and IMAX in its favor. But, Dumbo will also face competition from Zhou Sun’s anticipated local 2D title, The Human Comedy.
In total, there are no major holidays this weekend overseas, but Dumbo will play into many throughout Europe in the following weeks, so there is space ahead in the family arena.
Promotional efforts have been wide while Burton and the cast have been globe-hopping to trot Dumbo out to international audiences. Local premieres included a Mexico press tour with Danny DeVito from March 5-7; the Tokyo premiere, press junket and fan event with Colin Farrell and Burton from March 12-15; a gala screening in Paris and press junket with Eva Green and Burton on March 18 and 19 (and including key influencers); and the London premiere and press junket from March 20-22 with Burton, Farrell, DeVito, Green, Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins.
Today, the film will premiere in Rome along with a press junket, and tomorrow Burton will receive the David Di Donatello Award for Cinematic Excellence at Italy’s equivalent to the Oscars.
Elsewhere, there were lifelike Dumbo sculptures available for photo ops in various theaters, malls and events around the globe including Disney’s own El Capitan (those at last night’s screening literally lined up for a photo op with the baby pachyderm. Along with China’s Zheng, the iconic “Baby Mine” song was covered by music artists locally in five other countries. Further, several immersive Dumbo-themed exhibits were shown off, including large-scale mall takeovers in Times Square Hong Kong, the Mundo E mall in Mexico City and across China’s tier 1 and 2 cities. In Paris, the Eléphant Paname put on an immersive exhibit featuring the world of Burton and Dumbo from March 19-24. Earlier, in February, there was also a fan event in Japan centered around Burton and Dumbo’s universe which was hosted by local celebrities and live-streamed via YouTube and Periscope.
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