By Ronald Grover and Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES, July 22 Universal Pictures' sci-fi
action comedy "R.I.P.D." and Dreamworks Animation's "Turbo"
opened with a thud in North American theaters this weekend,
continuing a Hollywood streak of weekly box office bombs for
films that cost more than $100 million to make.
"R.I.P.D.," starring Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds, cost
$130 million to make and tens of millions more to promote. It
opened with ticket sales of $12.8 million, seventh among films
in theaters this weekend, according to the box office division
The $135 million "Turbo," which was distributed by Fox
, collected $21.5 million in its first weekend, a
distant third behind the horror film "The Conjuring" and also
behind "Despicable Me 2," which continues to do well in its
third week in theaters.
"There are always going to be films that are green-lit two
years ago that aren't going to make it," Nikki Rocco, president
of Universal's distribution unit, said of "R.I.P.D." "There are
always going to be times when films just don't work. It's
Still, analysts say the misfires could prompt a parade of
film writedowns for studios - a black eye for an industry that
prides its public image nearly as highly as its private jets and
summers in Europe. Janney Montgomery Scott analyst Anthony Wible
says Disney will likely be forced to take a writedown
for the Johnny Depp western "The Lone Ranger," and Sony
for the sci-fi adventure "After Earth" with Will Smith.
Cowen and Company analyst Doug Creutz says a writedown is
possible as well for "Turbo," which he wrote in a July 17 report
could drop his estimated earnings for the company to $0.25 per
share in 2013 from his current $0.72.
"It's a little early. "We have a ton of summer play time
left," Chris Aronson, who heads Fox's domestic distribution
unit, said about "Turbo." The film got lofty scores from test
audiences under age 25, he said, "which bodes very well for
playability since that's our target audience."
Aronson said that Fox expects the film to sell well
overseas, usually a strong market for Dreamworks' films.
Writedowns are "fairly subjective," said Robert Willens, a
tax and accounting consultant and former Lehman Brothers
managing director. Studios assess the likelihood of a film
recovering its costs through future foreign, digital and other
sales before making the decision to write down the film.
The prospects for a writedown are still unclear for Sony's
"White House Down" and for "Pacific Rim," which was distributed
by Warner Brothers but produced by independent Legendary
Entertainment, which financed 75 percent of its $190 million
Both films have yet to fully roll out in foreign markets.
Representatives for Disney, Sony, Universal and Legendary
had no comment.
An unprecedented crush of big budget summer films this
season is the major reason for the crash and burn of so many
films, said Janney Montgomery's Wible.
"There are just too many films in theaters and they cost too
much, it's pretty simple," Wible said. "And there are more of
them this summer than ever."
"Turbo," for instance, will be harmed because it is one of
five animated films released over an 11-week period, said
Cowen's Creutz, including a sequel to Sony's 2011 hit "The
Smurfs" on July 31.
It's already being whacked by Universal's animated film
"Despicable Me 2," has played so well that it is siphoning off
viewers from animated films, Creutz said.
The big budget bombs come even as the summer box office is
up 9.9 percent, according to Paul Dergarabedian, president of
Hollywood.com's box office division.
Those films are losing out to smaller budget comedies that
are targeting the same demographic of moviegoers - teenage boys
and young men, he said. Among this summer's hits are stoner
comedies "The Hangover Part III" and "This is the End." Sequels
such as Universal's "Fast and Furious 6" are also doing damage
among the same moviegoers.
Hollywood marketing executives also say the plot for "White
House Down" - the taking of the White House by terrorists - is
much the same as "Olympus Has Fallen," distributed in March by
independent Film District.
"After Earth" is similar to the plot of the April release
"Oblivion," Tom Cruise's sci-fi post apocalyptic movie, they
say, and the cartoonish villain creatures in "R.I.P.D." are
reminiscent of those in Sony's "Men in Black" sequel "MIB3" last
"When people pay their hard-earned money, they like to see
something new and different," Dergarabedian said.