Columbia and Sony’s Lyle, Lyle Crocodile is the first major kid-friendly flick since DC League of Super Pets, but that wasn’t enough for the $50 million release to open terribly well on this grim weekend. Will Speck and Josh Gordon’s live-action musical (with an animated protagonist) earned just $3.525 million on Friday for what likely will be an over/under $11 million weekend. That’s on par with Peter Rabbit: The Runaway, which opened in June of 2021 under different Covid-specific circumstances. Alas, this seems to be a scenario where just because audiences wanted to see Peter Rabbit (a $25 million debut in early 2018) does not mean they were excited about another ‘animated animal interacts with live-action humans’ fantasy.
Based on Bernard Waber’s 1965 picture book of the same name, Lyle Lyle Crocodile doesn’t have the brand awareness/interest of something like Clifford the Big Red Dog or Paddington. While reviews were generally okay (68% fresh but 5.6/10 on Rotten Tomatoes, showing that the Tomatometer only tells half the story), it isn’t drawing anyone outside of the ‘kids and their parents’ demographics. That the film stars Javier Bardem and Constance Wu (who was on her way to becoming a butts-in-seats star before Covid) obviously didn’t move the needle, nor did new songs from Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. To be fair, having songs from the guys who did The Greatest Showman didn’t help last year’s Dear Evan Hanson.
I was hoping this one would ‘overperform,’ partially because both Peter Rabbit movies were pretty good and because there hasn’t been a big kids flick in two months. That said, it is the only specifically-for-kids flick in theaters between now and Walt Disney’s
20th Century Studios’ $80 million Amsterdam (review) outright tanked, earning just $2.6 million on Friday for a likely over/under $7 million domestic debut. It’s still a tragedy, no matter what you think about Russell’s on-set behavior (allegedly quite volatile) or whether you liked the movie. Disney spent the money and did the work. Its failure (however inevitable) won’t help in making formally-Fox anything more than a content mill for Hulu (save for a few franchises like Planet of the Apes, Avatar and Deadpool). I quite enjoyed this star-packed (Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Taylor Swift and Robert De Niro, among others) 1930’s comedy thriller. I’d argue it’s Russell’s best film since Three Kings.
However, I’m clearly in the critical minority (33% and 5.1/10 on Rotten Tomatoes). Moreover, this isn’t late 2013 when audiences will show up for a vaguely defined adult-skewing crime dramedy like American Hustle ($250 million worldwide) just because it looks snazzy and has lots of movie stars (Bale, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence, etc.). To be fair, American Hustle sold sex, while this one sells farce. The marketing was somewhat vague about the actual plot, partially because A) the movie bounces around in terms of past-tense and present-tense plot, and B) explaining what the movie is eventually about in terms of real-world history would be equivalent to giving away the core mystery.
Moreover, this is 2022, and audiences no longer go to the movies to go to the movies. Movie stars no longer propel audiences into theaters unless they are adding value to a franchise and/or playing a marquee character implicitly tied to their onscreen (Tom Holland in Uncharted = Peter Parker with guns) or offscreen (Joquin Phoenix in Joker) persona. Unless you’re Leonardo DiCaprio, Sandra Bullock or (if even ever opens a film theatrically again) Kevin Hart, you’re at best an added value element or part of a star+character IP package (Robert Pattinson is… The Batman). This is little different than the late-2021 failures theatrical of (offhand) The Last Duel, Last Night in Soho and King Richard.
Meanwhile, Bloody Disgusting unleashed Damien Leone’s Terrifier 2 (review) into 850 theaters for a Thurs-Mon theatrical engagement. The sequel to a cult killer clown movie was partially funded by an IndieGoGo campaign. It’s an unrated, 138-minute ultra-gory slasher epic that, yes, is better than its predecessor. It earned $480,000 on Thursday and nabbed another $320,000 on Friday for a $960,000 Fri-Sun frame and likely $1.1 million Thurs-Sun debut. It should make around $1.25 million over a six-day debut (generally playing just in one or two evening shows per theater) and gets a place in box office trivia as the film that knocked Tom Cruise’s Top Gun: Maverick out of the top ten. That’ll do, Art (the Clown). That’ll do.