Moana's Box Office - What is going on?

10:06 AM

A resolution for me this year when it came to blogging was to write more than just film reviews - towards the end of Spring last year, I decided to remove the box office reports as they were becoming quite repetitive I wasn't enjoying writing them anymore. That meant that it was rare for me to write a post that was not a film review. In 2017, that is going to change.

This post is going to be all about why Moana is underperforming at the international box office and whether it will improve. As soon as Disney fast-tracked Moana after the mega-success of Frozen, everyone has been excited for the film. This is Disney's first princess film since the sisters of Arrendale and while the film has actually received even more critical acclaim than Frozen, audiences just haven't connected with Moana in the same way. Let's have a closer look at this problem....

Currently (as of January 8th 2017), Moana has grossed $450,094,182 worldwide - that is not the kind of number Disney is used to for their recent animated pictures. Frozen grossed almost $1.3 billion and Zootopia also managed to cross the billion mark (and Zootopia was meant to be their wild card for this year!). Moana has also opened in 84% of its markets which means that there are only 9 countries left for it to open in - Japan, Argentina, South Korea, Turkey, Hong Kong, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland. In this case study, the film's I will be comparing Moana to are Frozen, Big Hero 6, Tangled and Zootopia. From the countries I just listed, they made up 29% of Frozen's total gross, 19% of Big Hero 6's, 12% of Tangled's and 13% of Zootopia's - this suggests that not much more money will be made from these new markets. Japan and South Korea are the most promising so if Moana connects well in those territories, the film could go on to close with over $650 million worldwide - this would be in the same range as Big Hero 6. Disney would be disappointed with this total as Moana was expected to be a billion dollar picture and...well, it's not!

If you look that the chart above, I have taken note of how much the most recent 4 Disney animated pictures have grossed in each of the territories and have found the average. If Moana was to maximise it's potential, it could go on to make around $175 million from the new markets bringing it's total to at least $625 million which does not take into account the extra money the film could bring in from its current markets. However, those averages are impacted slightly by the mega success of Frozen so realistically, Moana should be bringing in at extra $110 million from these new markets. 

So what went wrong? The film hasn't had bad reviews so there is no reason for audiences not to be going out in their masses to see it. The biggest reason is that it is definitely not a Frozen - Frozen was pretty much revolutionary for a Disney film - the heart of the story were two sisters and any love interests took a back seat. I think this special connection between relatives may be what set Frozen aside. Even though Moana is a strong, independent female character too, she doesn't have that extra edge to touch the hearts of audiences. Some may say the connection with her grandmother or the fact that she is a dreamer but these are all qualities we have seen in animated film before, Moana wasn't as refreshing to audiences.

The soundtrack is liked by those who have seen the film but there has been no standout song and it hasn't actually performed too well. So far, the album has peaked at number 5 on the Billboard 200 and it should have gone to number 1 if Moana was a new phenomenon. I honestly think this is a rare case where Disney has got all the ingredients for a mega success but something unknown happened in the oven and it turned out just mediocre. Another reason could easily be over saturation - Zootopia, Finding Dory, The Secret Life of Pets, Sing, Trolls, Kung Fu Panda 3 are just some of the mainstream animated features that have performed solidly this year and even though Moana would make the list, it is towards the back of the pack - once again, unusual for Disney. Moana was one of the final animated releases of 2016 so audiences could have spent all their money on other things.

Moana's marketing campaign was also pretty light - I think it focused too much on Maui and should have made the film feel like an 'event movie'. I was always excited for the film but the actual marketing didn't make me excited until the final trailer.

So Moana's $450 million may be a little lacklustre for Disney but I think that should improve by the time the film has been released in Japan in March so hopefully this special flick will be able to rise (like the tide) to the $650 million mark. Who knows...maybe the final 9 markets will really connect with it and the film will have a resurgence in its current markets - hopefully we haven't seen the last of this film as it really is going out on a weak note. The good news is though, it has made enough money to at least break even so anything from now onwards is profit for Disney. However, let's not pity Disney too much - they had a cracking year!

Click here to read my review of Moana!

1/2 UPDATE - So almost a month later, let's look where Moana stands. The film still has 5 markets to open in - the spotlight is on Japan. So far, Moana has grossed over $533 million worldwide - it will probably close with or just shy of $600 million. This is a similar performance to Tangled so Disney shouldn't be too upset.

See You Soon!

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