As the motion picture industry looks to get back on track at the box office, and avoid being the laughing stock of streamers, the latest question begged is: What was Sony thinking when they decided to move Hotel Transylvania: Transformania onto the Oct. 1-3 opening weekend of MGM’s Addams Family 2?
Both Halloween-centric animated movies are aimed at the same family audience, and frankly, it’s a set-up ripe for cannibalization. I understand United Artists Releasing, which is handling Addams Family 2, has no plans of moving the Greg Tiernan-Conrad Vernon directed pic as a result of Hotel Transylvania 4‘s weekend invasion. Period.
At the same time, Sony is looking to capitalize on all offshore markets being open in time for its prized family franchise; something Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway didn’t have. I also hear Sony’s decision to take Hotel Transylvania: Transformania to Oct. 1 is not part of some new theatrical-streaming release plan with Netflix. This new box office face-off speaks to a dilemma that a lot of studios are facing with the two-year backlog of film product.
Any major studio who prioritizes theatrical releases should be working in harmony with its competition, particularly one which believes in the same mission, right? Why are the major studios creating chaos as the pandemic slows?
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Sony recently hop-scotched Peter Rabbit 2 around the summer calendar, and in the end didn’t get stellar results with the younger-kid skewing IP posting a $10.1M opening last weekend after a low TV spot spend of $8.7M per ISpot. The frequent jumping of movies around the calendar only sends mixed messages to moviegoers, especially on long-lead campaigns. Peter Rabbit 2 is up to $20.3M domestic, $90.8M WW.
On its previous date of July 23, Sony’s Hotel Transylvania: Transformania was in a tricky spot in the wake of Warner Bros.’ long-awaited Space Jam 2 on July 16 and ahead of Disney’s Jungle Cruise on July 30.
But there are other dates on the 2020 sked where Hotel Transylvania 4 could go: It could have taken over the spot Sony has reserved for Screen Gem’s Don’t Breathe 2 on Aug. 13, or Oct. 15 as counterprogramming to Blumhouse/Universal’s Halloween Kills. The first two Hotel Transylvania movies played late September in 2012 and 2015. The threequel in 2018 played mid-July, so it’s not just an autumn anchored franchise.
The domestic openings for the Hotel Transylvania movies have held steady, in sequence $42.5M, $48.4M and $44M. All three movies in the Adam Sandler-Selenz Gomez voiced franchise have totaled $1.3 billion WW. Sandler isn’t voicing Dracula in the upcoming installment, nor is he involved as a writer or EP. Addams Family opened to $30.3M over Oct. 11-13, 2019 and ended its run at $100.7M stateside.
The last time Sony came close to a blinking contest was the first weekend of November 2019. After Warner Bros. pulled Wonder Woman 1984 out of that spot, Sony promptly scheduled Charlie’s Angels. But then Paramount moved Terminator: Dark Fate onto the Nov. 1-3 span and Sony had to push Charlie’s Angels to Nov. 15 that year (Neither title opened well with Terminator at $29M and Charlie’s Angels at $8.3M stateside).
Addams Family 2 vs. Hotel Transylvania 4 is not the only case of overcrowding on the future theatrical release schedule, which is a result of the pandemic. Other tentpole blinking contests include Memorial Day 2022 where Lionsgate has John Wick 4 against Paramount/Skydance’s Mission: Impossible 7, and July 29-31, 2022 where New Line’s Black Adam is in competition with Lucasfilm’s untitled Indiana Jones installment.
When it comes to two studios squaring off against each other with similar movies aimed at largely the same crowd, it pays to look back at the weekend of June 20-22, 2008. That’s when Warner Bros. and Paramount each had a big-star comedy, and decided to open against each other: the former with Steve Carell’s Get Smart and the latter with Mike Myer’s The Love Guru. I remember at the time one studio defended that each movie was targeted at different demos. To this day, I still think that argument remains hogwash. Get Smart was dominant in its opening and legs with $38.7M and $130.3M domestic, $230.7M WW. Love Guru wound up the loser with a No. 4 debut of $13.9M and a final domestic of $32.2M, $40.9M.
Get Smart and Love Guru remain a cautionary tale in what double dating can get you.