Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation of the Roald Dahl children’s novel The BFG — which stands for “big, friendly giant” — was undoubtedly an attempt at a kids’ movie summer blockbuster. Unfortunately, the film had a $140 million budget and only made $19.6 million in domestic sales in its opening weekend box office returns, according to the New York Times and the Associated Press (AP), putting it in fourth place. The BFG pulled $3.9 million in international sales, though it has only opened in Russia and Australia so far in addition to North America.
The BFG was purposely scheduled to open on Friday, July 1, to take advantage of the fact that the Independence Day holiday in the United States falls on a Monday this year, resulting in a long weekend for the grown-ups (most American kids are already out of school for the summer break). Any hopes for box office magic resulting from the long holiday weekend were dashed, however, as Pixar’s Finding Dory, the sequel to the beloved 2003 film Finding Nemo, won its third weekend in a row. The Walt Disney Company acquired Pixar Animation Studios for $7.4 billion in 2006, notably in between the release of these two films.
Finding Dory has made $41.9 million over the weekend so far, giving it a three-week domestic total of $372.3 million. This great success seems to have made it an outlier this summer, as the New York Times reports a Hollywood summer slump for big-budget feature films. Taking The BFG and The Legend of Tarzan together, the two films had a total budget of $500 million and only made $57.7 million in total ticket sales combined.
The BFG is, intriguingly, Steven Spielberg’s first film for Disney — and it’s another Disney film, Finding Dory, that is cutting massively into The BFG‘s box office sales, at least domestically. The Associated Press reports that Spielberg’s Disney milestone was introduced with much fanfare, including a red carpet premiere at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival in France, making it even more disappointing that it hasn’t done well at the box office this summer.
The Legend of Tarzan is a Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow production that reached second place over this holiday weekend after raking in a modest $38.1 million over the Friday through Sunday period. The New York Times reports that it cost “a jaw-dropping $180 million to make, not counting marketing.” This is primarily due to incredibly expensive visual effects.
The Legend of Tarzan is expected to fare better internationally over a longer period of time — or so Warner Bros. would have you believe, as their executive vice president of domestic distribution told the New York Times in a phoner on Wednesday that this is the company’s expectation.
“This property has always really been about the international opportunity. You can best assess it a month from now.”
The Legend of Tarzan‘s overseas release has been limited so far according to the Times, and the United Kingdom and China are extremely important markets that are in fact still to come. Warner Bros. is clearly hoping for some success in those markets to make up for the domestic box office failure.
Disney’s distribution head, David Hollis, also pointed to overseas markets when asked about The BFG‘s box office failure at home.
“We’re really proud of the film. We’re going to be reliant in a lot of ways on international.”
The BFG may not have made as much at the box office as The Legend of Tarzan, but film critics were much kinder to it. The New York Times describes the film reviews received by The BFG as “appreciative,” and it has an overall score of 71 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, giving it a “Fresh” rating. Reviews for The Legend of Tarzan ranged from lukewarm to vicious, resulting in an overall Rotten Tomatoes score of 35 percent, which earned it a “Rotten” rating.
The Associated Press reports that final four-day domestic figures for the entire long holiday weekend including Monday will be released on Tuesday.
[Image courtesy of Frazer Harrison/Getty Images]