Jungle Book, a hyper-realistic remake of the Walt Disney’s animated film, grossed an estimated $103.6 million in its opening weekend.
The Jon Favreau-directed adventure movie taken from a Rudyard Kipling classic is the story of a boy who is raised by wolves in a jungle. According to USA Today, the weekend result beat all expectations, leading the film to become the second-highest weekend grosser ever for the month of April.
— IGN (@IGN) April 18, 2016
No one expected that Jungle Book would be such a huge hit at the box office, and the analysts’ forecasts continued to build throughout the weekend. Although a remake of a children’s film, Jungle Book isn’t just playing for kids and families but is entertaining audiences across all age groups, much like an action adventure. USA Today reported that according to surveys, 49 percent of the sales were attributed to movie-goers who were over 25 years of age and 51 percent of the sales were attributed to audiences in the under-25 age group. And audiences in the age group of 18 to 24 led to 33 percent of ticket sales.
The jungle world, created by the 3D CGI technological wizardry, and its intricate animals, such as Bagheera the panther (voiced by Ben Kingsley), Baloo the bear (voiced by Bill Murray) and Shere Khan the evil tiger (voiced by Idris Elba), have enthralled critics and audiences. The movie scored a 95 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an “A” audience grade on Cinema Score.
Movies like Jungle Book, which are based on a cartoon musical and a classic book, do not sell by themselves. Jungle Book’s success couldn’t have been achieved without Disney’s marketing tactics, which caused the seats to fill on the opening weekend. Realizing this, Disney used a number of tricks to move the masses. In August, Jon Favreau showed sneak-peek footage of the Jungle Book at a 7,800-seat arena at a Disney fan convention in Anaheim, California, where thousands of posters were distributed. He arrived with three Jungle Book actors on stage, including Neel Sethi, who plays the protagonist Mowgli. According to the New York Times, this marketing stunt cost roughly $175 million to execute, but judging by the opening weekend ticket sales, it clearly was a successful endeavor.
The animal characters were deliberately created with a realistic look, and not in a cute and cuddly cartoon-style as with the original animated Jungle Book film, in order to target older moviegoers. Additionally, the movie was targeted towards teenagers by packing the first trailer with scary scenes like pouncing panthers, snarling tigers, and stampeding buffalo. The idea was to target teenagers who would then influence their younger brothers and sisters to see the film.
— Jillyan Antusch (@NoMoreDuds) April 18, 2016
To increase the appeal to adults, Disney circulated dramatic photographs that paired voice actors with their onscreen characters.
— Shemal Jayasundera (@shemjay93) April 6, 2016
Additionally, the movie was aggressively and repeatedly pitched to male audiences. Commercials on ESPN created the perception that the Jungle Book movie was not coming from the studio that made Cinderella but from the studio that produced the Pirates of the Caribbean series. An extended 3D trailer for Jungle Book was played during the showing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, of which the majority of the audience was male. Disney also rolled out an action-packed trailer during the Super Bowl.
Additionally, Disney’s marketers targeted the Hispanic audience by teaming with Univision, the American Spanish-language TV network, for a five-week stint that brought Jungle Book characters and clips to various shows and sports telecasts.
— Univision (@Univision) April 7, 2016
The Disney empire left no stone unturned in their promotion of Jungle Book, with Disney theme park theaters in Florida and California offering sneak-peek previews, with several theme park stores selling Jungle Book merchandise before the film had even been released. And Disney even exhibited photogenic Jungle Book sand sculptures at its theme parks in Florida.
In addition to the Disney marketers, the actors who have lent their voices to various characters in the Jungle Book have done their best to drive the success of the movie. According to the Journal Gazette, Lupita Nyong’o, the Academy award winner who voiced the adoptive wolf mother Raksha, says that she channeled her own mother into the character by concentrating on portraying the fierce and unwavering motherly love of the on-screen adoptive wolf.
Ultimately, the actors, the characters, the cutting edge visual effects, and Disney’s marketing efforts have brought the world of Jungle Book to life, and their combined efforts are driving massive sales at the box office.
[Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images for Walt Disney Studios]