Martin Grove’s Hollywood Report 06-11-12

“Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted”

“Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted”

“BRAVE” Merida (voice by Kelly Macdonald) ©Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved

“BRAVE” Merida (voice by Kelly Macdonald) ©Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved

“The Oogieloves in the BIG Balloon Adventure” – In theaters August 29th

“The Oogieloves in the BIG Balloon Adventure” – In theaters August 29th

Family fun: Last weekend’s chart topping launch for “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” hammered home once again the big boxoffice advantage family films have thanks to their broad playability.

Although the media envisioned a neck-and-neck race between DreamWorks Animation and Paramount’s PG rated 3D animated adventure “Madagascar 3” and Fox’s R rated 3D sci-fi horror thriller “Prometheus” from director Ridley Scott, insiders figured the family film would finish first.

As it turned out, both movies performed way better than anticipated, boosting last weekend’s boxoffice by nearly 30 percent over last year. In fact, 2012’s total boxoffice is now about 10 percent ahead of '11. But last weekend’s greatest strength was shown by “Madagascar 3,” which like all family films was driven by ticket sales for Saturday and Sunday matinees.

The secret of “Madagascar 3’s” success is that it tracked best with over-25 women — moms-with-kids, the audience family films must connect with. That connection translates into selling three or four tickets to a family unit rather than one or two tickets to an individual or couple — and it adds up. The “Madagascar” franchise, for example, has grossed about $434 million in domestic theatres, including last weekend’s lively launch of episode three to about $60 million.

Meanwhile, there also was boxoffice gold for “Prometheus,” which tracked best with 25-plus men and enjoyed an out-of-this-world blast off to about $50 million. Both films will certainly make the most of having great summer playing time ahead of them.

Throughout this summer those moms-with-kids who just saw “Madagascar 3” will be targeted by Hollywood marketers who want them to buy tickets to other family fun films. Here’s a quick look at four upcoming family appeal releases that will be filling the multiplexes this summer:

“Madagascar 3” will have family audiences to itself for the next two weeks – until June 22 when competition arrives from Disney and Pixar Studios’ PG rated 3D animated action adventure “Brave.”

“Brave” is directed by first time feature director Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman (“The Prince of Egypt”) and co-directed by “Brave” co-screenwriter Steve Purcell. “Brave’s” voice stars include Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson.

Set in Scotland in a rugged mythical time, “Brave” revolves around Princess Merida (Macdonald), an aspiring archer and impetuous daughter of royalty. After making a reckless choice that unleashes unintended peril, Merida’s forced to set everything right, reminding herself that she “must be brave.”

“Brave’s” tracking best with under-25 women and almost as well with 25-plus women and 25-plus men, reflecting the broad playability family films typically enjoy.

Pixar’s animated films have, of course, been a major magnet for moviegoing families for many years. Some of the studio’s past hits – both franchise episodes and originals like “Brave” — that arrived in mid-to-late June are:

  • “Toy Story 3,” which opened June 18, 2010 to $110.3 million and grossed $415 million domestically.
  • “WALL-E,” which opened June 27, 2008 to $63.1 million and did $223.8 million domestically.
  • “Ratatouille,” which opened June 29, 2007 to $47 million and took in $206.4 million domestically.
  • “Cars 2,” which opened June 24, 2011 to $66.1 million and went on to do $191.5 million domestically.

Fox and Blue Sky Studios’ PG rated 3D animated comedy adventure “Ice Age: Continental Drift” drifts into multiplexes July 13, making it a lucky Friday the 13th for families ready for more summer fun at the movies.

Directed by Steve Martino (“Horton Hears a Who!”) and Mike Thurmeier (“Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs”), “Ice Age 3’s” voice stars include Ray Romano, Denis Leary and John Leguizamo.

In this fourth episode of the franchise, which has already grossed $568.3 million in domestic theatres, Manny (Romano), Diego (Leary) and Sid (Leguizamo) are back for a new adventure when their continent’s set adrift. Sailing on an iceberg, they encounter sea creatures and do battle with pirates while exploring a new world.

It’s too early for “Ice Age 3” to be showing up on tracking reports, but when it does about three weeks prior to opening we should see it resonating best with the moms-with-kids crowd.

Fox’s PG rated live action comedy “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days” from Fox 2000 Pictures and Color Force hits theatres Aug. 3 just as the so-called dog days of summer get underway. Years ago that was when Hollywood dumped films it didn’t think were good enough to open in June or July, but that’s no longer the case. Last Aug. 5, for instance, Fox launched its big reboot of the “Planet of the Apes” franchise, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” to a mighty $54.8 million. It ended up grossing $176.8 million domestically.

Directed by David Bowers (“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules”), “Diary” stars Zachary Gordon, Robert Capron and Devon Bostick. The franchise’s first two very low-budget episodes grossed nearly $117 million in domestic theatres.

This time around, school’s out and Greg (Gordon) is ready for the summer when all his plans suddenly frizzle. The big question: What can he do now?

Capping this summer will be the pre-Labor Day weekend launch of the G rated live action interactive family adventure “The Oogieloves in the BIG Balloon Adventure,” from Kenn Viselman Presents.

The independently released “Oogieloves” arrives Oogust 29 at about 3,000 theatres backed by a hefty marketing budget to spread the word. The film’s trailer, in fact, is already playing in theatres so all those families hitting the multiplexes from now through late August will know “Oogieloves” is coming soon.

Directed by Matthew Diamond (“So You Think You Can Dance”) and produced by Viselman (“Teletubbies,” “Thomas the Tank Engine”), “Oogieloves” stars Toni Braxton, Cloris Leachman, Christopher Lloyd, Chazz Palminteri, Cary Elwes and Jaime Pressly. Co-produced by Angela Rivet, it was executive produced by Michael A. Chirco, Scot J. Moceri and David R. Schwarcz.

“Oogieloves” is the story of Goobie, Zoozie and Toofie, three unique young friends living in Lovelyloveville, who go on an unforgettable adventure when their plans for the best surprise birthday party ever go awry. It’s the first episode in Viselman’s planned franchise of three features with “The Oogieloves in the BIG Family Adventure” and “The Oogieloves in the BIG Holiday Adventure” to follow.

Unlike the summer’s earlier family films, “Oogieloves” is G rated and designed to play to young kids. In fact, there’s prompting at key times for kids to stand up at their seats to interact with the movie.

The nice thing about Aug. 29, the Wednesday before Labor Day, is that it’s a great springboard to the long holiday weekend. By then, all the summer’s earlier family films will have had their moment in the boxoffice sun, leaving an open track for “Oogieloves.”

Viselman’s been a force in children’s entertainment for years with blockbuster TV shows like “Teletubbies” and “Thomas the Tank Engine.” In an interview this spring I asked him why he decided to open “Oogieloves” in late August.

“I don’t want the film to get lost. You try to put an independent film up against any of these blockbusters that are opening in the summer and you’re going to get lost,” Viselman replied.

“So we looked at it saying, it’s still summer, it’s still beautiful (weather). For the kids that aren’t in school, what do they have to do? What are young kids doing while their older siblings are in school? We looked at the idea that people use Labor Day weekend (as something to plan for, asking), 'What are you doing on Labor Day?' And I want them to say, 'We’re going to see the 'Oogieloves.'”

And after Labor Day, he added, “when the soccer moms are taking their kids to school and (their friends ask), 'What did you do Labor Day weekend?' I want them to say, 'We went to 'The Oogieloves in the BIG Balloon Adventure.'”

To read my interview with Viselman click here.

Bottom line: With the economy still far from robust, for many families a few trips to the movies this summer may take the place of a vacation. It’s a trend that should help make this a terrific summer for Hollywood.