‘The BFG,’ ‘The Legend of Tarzan’ Failing to Generate Much Box Office Heat

BFG Legend of Tarzan
Courtesy of Disney/Warner Bros

The BFG” and “The Legend of Tarzan” are set to do battle over the July 4th holiday weekend.

But what was originally supposed to be a clash of two of the summer’s biggest blockbusters, is shaping up to be something a lot less titanic. Both films are struggling to grab audiences’ attention and interest, despite their hefty budgets and the involvement of A-list directors such as Steven Spielberg and David Yates.

“The Legend of Tarzan” is on pace to debut to between $25 million and $33 million over the four-day holiday weekend, while “The BFG” is projected to launch to between $22 million and $32 million. That’s a weak result given that “Tarzan” reportedly cost Warner Bros. and co-financing partners such as Village Roadshow and RatPac-Dune $180 million to make and tens of millions more to market. For a film like “Tarzan” to break even and justify a sequel, it would need to do more than $400 million. Disney, which is handling the distribution of “The BFG” for Amblin Partners, did not provide a budget, but films of this size usually cost well in excess of $100 million.

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“The Purge: Election Year” is also debuting in wide release that weekend. The horror film is expected to do roughly $25 million for the four-day holiday, a strong result given its $10 million budget.

“The BFG’s” struggles are a disappointment for Spielberg. The man who ushered in the summer blockbuster era with “Jaws” hasn’t done as much escapist fare in recent years, preferring to spend his time on historical dramas such as last winter’s “Bridge of Spies” and “War Horse.” That may have been artistically fulfilling, but didn’t result in many financial windfalls. Of the director’s last four films, only “Lincoln” crossed $100 million at the domestic marketplace. His next project, “Ready Player One,” an adaptation of a best-selling science-fiction book, appears to be more mainstream.

“I’m not sure there’s a huge demand for ‘Tarzan,’ but I’m surprised about ‘The BFG,'” said Eric Handler, an analyst with MKM Partners. “When Steven Spielberg directs, people usually take notice.”

The failure of sequels such as “Alice Through the Looking Glass” and “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” has led some analysts to suggest that audiences are rejecting the overly familiar and are desperate for more original entertainment. That doesn’t seem to be helping either “The BFG” or “The Legend of Tarzan,” neither one of which hails from an existing franchise. Of course, neither movie is truly original. “The BFG” is based on a Roald Dahl children’s book and Tarzan has been swinging through the jungle canopy since the early days of film.

“It’s hard to understand the reason the marketplace is the way it is,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at ComScore. “Sometimes the zeitgeist embraces a certain movie and makes it a hit. Other times it ignores it and tosses it aside.”

Sources close to both films caution that the bulk of their advertising campaigns have yet to be unveiled and with two weeks left before the movies premiere, there’s an opportunity to make up ground. Last summer, for instance, “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” was struggling to find its footing leading up to its premiere, but it ultimately bowed to $55.5 million, aided by strong reviews.

“The BFG” could also benefit from having its trailers run in front of another family film, “Finding Dory.” The Pixar sequel hits theaters on Friday and is projected to gross a massive $115 million.

Both films may also find a warmer embrace overseas. “Tarzan” will launch in 16 markets on the same day it swings into North America, including such major territories as Russia and South Korea. The big prize for the film will be China, where it debuts in July. “The BFG” is also planning a massive global bow, debuting concurrently in the likes of Mexico, Australia, and Russia.

In an increasingly globalized film business, domestic results aren’t the final measure of success. Just look at “Warcraft,” which bombed domestically, only to break records in China.

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  1. Sonu Nigam says:

    BFG is an American fantasy adventure… and it’s global earned approximated $373.9

  2. Hani says:

    I think the tarzan movie has a same story as we know from years. The only change they have made a in movie is characters. From my childhood i know the story and its not encourage me to view it the same story i know very well.

  3. william says:

    When I read that they made BFG, I though they made Doom 2. Not Big Friendly Giant.

  4. VINNY says:

    Who’s the idiot at Warner Bros. that greenlighted a live action Tarzan movie with zero star power on a $180 million budget?? And the CGI giant for The BFG looks awful.

  5. grblade says:

    BFG is just a terrible title. There’s no way to know what this movie is about unless it is explained to you.

  6. goldenboy62 says:

    Nerd culture has certainly come a long way, when an adaptation of a Science Fiction novel is now considered “more mainstream” while biopics and historical dramas are not.

  7. Don't Mind Me Now says:

    These is the same sort of unjustified paranoia that was plaguing M:I-Rogue Nation last year pre-release. That movie still did fine. And Spielberg constantly makes movies of the kind that do good business without blowing up the Twitter-sphere. Proclaiming doom on the BFG just as its about to start it’s final marketing push (now that Dory is out, Disney can start devoting its full attention to BFG) is just silly.

    Tarzan’s dead in the water, though. You don’t need any social media statistics to know that.

    • Ronnie says:

      Looks like its the BFG that’s dead in the water now LOL. Tarzan is looking to pull in double of BFG’s 4 day weekend numbers.

  8. Chizz says:

    I’ve seen every Spielberg movie except Tintin. The BFG will be the 2nd one I skip. Why? It is clearly a kids-only movie. Even Hook tried to give somewhat of a adult entry point with Pan being grown up.

    But Mortara and RPO both sound good so I’ll be back for those.

  9. John says:

    The TV commercials for both movies have been dreadful.

    I think it’s impossible for any PC filmmaker to make an authentic Tarzan. Tarzan is a lot more than a “a man with ape powers.” The story hinges on British superiority of the male — you could plunge an English boy baby into the wild, and he, being of British noble blood, would rise to be King of the Jungle. Tarzan is supposed to be the ultimate Englishman.

    Burroughs’ “it’s all in the blood” viewpoint is condemned by moderns. I don’t see how you make a good Tarzan without some of that “British superiority conquers the savage wild” theme. If all they do with Tarzan is make him a handsome young guy in the 1800s in the jungle, there’s nothing to that.

  10. Bob Morton says:

    The last Spielberg film I was really looking forward to seeing at the cinema was a fridge-nuking disappointment. Senor Spielbergo hasn’t made a great movie in decades imo.

  11. Ben says:

    I do not know what studio moron greenlighted Tarzan, another movie like Ghostbusters that no one asked for. It also looks terrible, a desaturated green screen CG movie. we can only hope for a spectacular bomb to encourage studios to actually think before they spend $180 million on a reboot no one wants. They could make 3 original movies for that amount of money.

  12. Bob says:

    I don’t say this to be snarky in the least, but, having never heard of The BFG, the first thing I thought upon hearing the title was NOT “Big Friendly Giant.” I sincerely wonder if the name itself is a hindrance; I mean, it says absolutely nothing about what the movie’s about, unless you already are familiar with the title.

    • Don't Mind Me Now says:

      The trailer explains the name, and by and large the people who have a different conception of what BFG stands for are not the film’s target audience.

  13. Carlos Shabo says:

    These movies should not be coming out for the Summer. plain and simple.

  14. Eve says:

    Tarzan will do well internationally, in Russia, Latin America, Southeast Asia and parts of Europe. From what I see in the marketing, this version of the classic has a fresh attitude and a kickass Jane, might get a word of mouth boost stateside too.

    BFG won’t be big out of the gate but will have steady legs – unless mommy bloggers crush him.

  15. Chris says:

    The BFG looks pretty tame and uninteresting to me. Not surprised the tracking looks poor. Maybe if I or more people I know had read the book I’d be more excited.

  16. Fred Mertz Jr. says:

    It doesn’t help that the BFG kinda looks like Bill Murray, but sounds like Mike Meyers doing an impression of his dad.

  17. Robin says:

    My daughter and I can’t wait for the BFG movie to come out! She already read it for school last year, but we are re-reading it now in time for the movie. In fact, her whole class is looking forward to it.

  18. John Shutt says:

    BFG I think will do a little better but Tarzan is DOA. Either way, both films will likely lose to Finding Dory

  19. nobody says:

    Going to be neck and neck between BFG and Purge. Tarzan will come in third on low end of predictions. Wouldn’t be surprised if Purge actually takes the weekend.

    • Ronnie says:

      Tarzan is ahead of both of them.

    • Don't Mind Me Now says:

      I sincerely think marketing for BFG will amp up soon and it will pull ahead. Plus Purge will probably take a drop from its predecessor (though it’s election year gimmick will keep it afloat). Neither of them will be #1 though; most likely, that will be a wrestling match between Dory and ID4-R.

    • irwinator1992 says:

      I really despise the Purge films. They’re just another Michael Bay claptrap. They are diagusting, racist, misogynistic, overly violent, and narratively incomprehensible. And they’re shot in typical Michael Bay fashion. To hear that a Bay-produced “film” will out-gross a Spielberg film makes me sick to my stomach and lose faith in humanity.

  20. harry georgatos says:

    Just what the world needs another Tarzan movie. This is a never dieing brand name and there hasn’t been a Tarzan movie to take the box-office by storm. Studios are living in the past. THE BFG seems like a Spielberg film that would have performed better in the ’80’s. Seems to have too much sugar-coated sentimentality for my sensitive tate-buds. Hopefully the film is much darker then what the trailer seems like.

    • me says:

      Harry sounds like a barrel of laughs. Not to mention abnormally angry about something.

    • Billy says:

      Clearly never read the source material, one thing Roald Dahl doesn’t do is sugar coated sentimentality. If Spielberg stays even a little close to the book then there’ll be plenty of darkness and peril.

    • nobody important says:

      Because kids movies always need to be “dark” and “edgy”. Are you one of those people who can only handle “death” and “destruction” in your movies? No wonder the American box office is tanking. People are morons.

  21. MP Film Direcot] says:

    How can you “fail to Generate Much Box Office Heat” when the movie isn’t even out yet? Why waste everyone’s time writing an article like this? Wait until the films are out & then see how they perform.

    • EricJ says:

      Yeah, even for Brett Lang, I’m sort of…wondering that myself. (??)
      If it’d said “Not doing well in early UK release”, or some-such, okay, but there are problems with translating “Digital social-media tracking” voodoo chicken-bones into actual tomorrow’s-headline “facts” as if they’ve already happened. “Tracking” isn’t “Box office”, as many a studio has found out.

      Even so, NOBODY’S waiting for Tarzan…That much we do already know. Not even the Chinese.

    • Patrick Juvet says:

      Because studios pay big money to research firms to poll moviegoers and process the data on their upcoming releases. These numbers can tell their marketing teams who is responding and measure the effectiveness of their campaign. The studio insiders know well before opening day if they have a hit or a miss 95% of the time.

      • Doc Holiday says:

        This Tarzan may do well, most of those made over the years never came close to the wild man envisioned by Edgar Rice Burrows. If you read the books his Tarzan is bigger than life he is an ape with the brains of man. I hope they did this right if so (and 180,000,000 budget gives me hope) it could be a surprise KO at the box office.

      • Twila Hammond says:

        Sounds like it would be a good idea to change up their trailer and advertising, if financing allows.

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