The character Marla in 'Playmobil'
STX Films, promotional photo of Playmobil movie
It seems Disney's reign over the animation box office continued this weekend. While "Frozen II" neared $1 billion during its third weekend in theaters, STX's "Playmobil" movie garnered less than $1 million in ticket sales over its opening weekend in North America.
STX, the distributor of the film, said Sunday that it expects the film will haul in $668,000 for the three-day weekend domestically. It is one of the worst openings in recent cinematic history.
Only "The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure," "Delgo" and a 10-year re-release of "Saw" had worse opening weekends.
Internationally, the film has brought in just over $12 million, but has stagnated since its August release in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. At this pace, it is unlikely that the animated flick will recoup the $75 million co-finaciers Wild Bunch, Pathe, Dimitri Rassam and On Animation shelled out for its production.
STX only paid to distribute the movie and does not have a financial stake.
"For STXfilms, Playmobil is a no-risk opportunity that allowed the studio to collaborate with key exhibition partners to offer a holiday movie for kids and families," the company said in a statement Sunday.
"Major exhibitors and regional chains were supportive about using a date traditionally not programmed with new first run movies and offering special variable pricing of $5 a ticket to experiment with the model and encourage and incentivize audiences to see the film, while allowing theaters to begin to explore value pricing for a first-run movie," it said.
Company representatives said that most of the film's marketing was in-theater and directed at moviegoers and loyalty club members. STX did not pay a minimum guarantee and only spent around $3 million.
"Big movie brands tend to rule with young moviegoers and familiarity is a strong currency, particularly with animated family fare," Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, said.
Disney has excelled with its franchise films. "Toy Story 4" has garnered more than $1 billion globally and "Frozen II" is well on its way to reaching that benchmark before the end of the year. Even Disney's new releases, stories from Pixar and its Walt Disney Animation studio that are unrelated to its previous properties, succeed. Of course, much of that has to do with Disney's reputation for stellar storytelling and emotional appeal to both children and adults.
Still, some rival studios have been able to make movie magic at the box office with their animated titles. Dreamworks' "Shrek 2" is currently the third highest-grossing animated film in North America and Universal's "Minions" is the third highest grossing animated film globally.
"Playmobil" seemed to suffer from poor marketing (few people knew the film was being released) and a weak connection between kids and the brand. Companies like Lego had a much easier time luring in moviegoers because of the universal, and global, appeal for the the brand.
While "The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part" didn't quite meet expectations at the box office earlier this year, especially in comparison to the first film, it still hauled in nearly $200 million in ticket sales globally.