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 for 2019, using data culled by seasoned and trusted sources.
The irony in the wake of DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls World Tour heading into homes last weekend due to COVID-19 (where it made an estimated $40M-$50M stateside) is that Universal’s most profitable movie from last year was How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, even though Fast & Furious spin-off Hobbs & Shaw grossed more worldwide at $759M, 45% higher than Dragon 3. The threequel’s success here underscores the financial upside of a theatrical release and its downstream window revenues. Questions surround Universal’s novel PVOD Trolls World Tour release: Without the full power of its theatrical window, will that diminish future monies in other windows? After How to Train Your Dragon 2 hit a franchise high at the global box office with $621.5M, a finale to the Dean DeBlois’ animation series, adapted from Cressida Cowell’s books, was always in the cards. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World was also an important title to kick off DreamWorks Animation 2.0 following Universal’s $3.8 billion purchase of the studio previously run by Jeffrey Katzenberg. Universal gave the threequel a big marketing push via its vertical-integrated Symphony program by publicizing Dragon 3 throughout its parks, TV shows, Xfinity cable systems and channels (only a handful of releases on the studio’s slate receive that type of platinum promotion). There was also a heavy play toward Hispanic families, who repped close to a quarter of the audience, and drove How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World to the highest domestic opening in the franchise of $55M over the Feb. 22-24 weekend. All in Hidden World took the Dragon franchise to $1.6 billion at the WW box office.
THE BOX SCORE
Here are the costs and revenues as our experts see them:
THE BOTTOM LINE
As opposed to the lofty-priced animation features during the Katzenberg DreamWorks era; Dragon 2 costing an estimated $145M, and the original 2010 version costing $165M before P&A, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World was, by far, the cheapest at $129M. No surprise, as Illumination’s Chris Meledandri, who was given grand oversight of DreamWorks Animation 2.0, is known for making animated pics at a budget —even the studio’s The Secret Life of Pets 2 turned a profit. Total revenues including theatrical, global home entertainment, and TV were $448M. Subtract total global costs of $318M, and Universal walks away with $130M.