×

‘Oogieloves’ a self-distribution adventure

Investment is a long-term bet in ancillary revenue

Interactive kid romp “The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure,” launching today at more than 2,000 U.S. locations, is the most ambitious self-distributed family film ever to hit plexes. Looking only at modest pre-weekend tracking of $5 million-$6 million, the $55 million production and marketing investment from producer Kenn Viselman and backers might look like a candy-colored albatross.

But given the high upside for franchise and downstream prospects, the large-scale investment is more of a long-term bet. Viselman, a marketing exec on “Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends” and a producing partner on “Teletubbies,” is counting on more than just a few weeks at the box office.

Family film B.O. is difficult enough to predict. Prospects for “Oogieloves” add another level of complexity: “Nobody tracks 3- to 7-year-olds,” Viselman said.

“Part of the process is really having to explain to theaters the tracking numbers,” Viselman said. “It is a leap of faith for them (to believe) that I really am spending the money that I am.”

Studios initially showed “mild interest” in his creation, Viselman said, but demanded distrib fees that were just too high. So at a time when Hollywood is uniformly cowering at risk, the family-market guru chose to independently market and distribute “Oogieloves” via his Kenn Viselman presents banner.

He hired Orion Pictures veteran Robert Schwartz to spearhead distribution, which included a service agreement with Freestyle Releasing. The team brokered individual playdates directly with exhibitors by selling “Oogieloves” as the first installment in a long-term franchise.

Viselman also brought on marketing firm Pulse for the film’s $40 million campaign, which included an eight-figure TV buy that started Aug. 22 — considered a very late start. Viselman stressed that “kids don’t decide which movie to see weeks in advance. They’re impulsive,” he explained.

“Oogieloves” is a live-action pic that incorporates on-screen cues, encouraging tots to sing and dance in the aisles. Filmmakers concocted devices to instruct kids who aren’t yet able to read.

In an attempt to attract parents (and the growing number of word-spreading mommy bloggers, specifically), Viselman and his team created a Twitter campaign — hashtag #RatedGGG — meant to build localized buzz for the film. The movie’s Twitter handle, @TheOogieloves, has more than half-a-million followers — an enormous number even for a major studio film, though a good portion of those are self-described “brand ambassadors,” mostly moms who tweet and re-tweet links to giveaways, coupons and other deals in exchange for free stuff and are sometimes paid to attend or write about promotional events.

The film’s outdoor campaign and in-theater marketing materials went up weeks ago to take advantage of heavier summer theater traffic. But Viselman said he always was determined to release the film over Labor Day.

Pic’s midweek launch should draw in the tiniest preschoolers and older kids still on summer vacation leading into the holiday weekend, and many theaters across the country are hosting an “Oogieloves”-themed day this weekend.

The only other competition for families this weekend is Focus Features’ “ParaNorman” — and that pic, entering its third frame, now may be attracting more adult auds who shy away from opening weekends.

“I believe that while everyone is looking at the tracking, all I’m interested in are the children and their caregivers,” Viselman said. “If you’re a mother and don’t know about my movie, then I’ve really screwed up.”

Though theatrical grosses are important predictors of downstream success, family films often see outsized returns from homevid, especially ones, like “Oogieloves,” targeted towards younger kids who watch more at home than in theaters. BBAM — a split ownership between creatives and investors — has rights to the “Oogieloves” property, and Viselman said he currently is weighing several options for downstream deals.

Regardless of the film’s financial prospects, Viselman said he plans to move forward with second and third installments. In fact, there’s a late-October start date for production on the sequel.

“This movie was never about the box office,” Viselman said. “It’s always been about introducing kids and families to the Oogieloves characters.”

More Film

  • Jennifer Lopez Owen Wilson

    Jennifer Lopez-Owen Wilson Film 'Marry Me' Moves Back to Universal From STX

    The Jennifer Lopez-Owen Wilson romantic comedy “Marry Me” has moved from STX back to its original home, Universal Pictures. STX previously took over the project in April. Kat Coiro is directing from a script written by John Rogers and Tami Sagher, with a rewrite by Harper Dill. Colombian singer/rapper Maluma has joined the cast and [...]

  • Austin Butler to Star as Elvis

    Austin Butler to Star as Elvis in Baz Luhrmann's Biopic

    Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis Presley biopic has found its king of rock ‘n’ roll. After numerous screen tests, Austin Butler has been tapped to play Elvis Presley in Luhrmann’s next feature film for Warner Bros. The studio tested with a handful of actors in full hair and make-up at the end of June to see who [...]

  • 'The King's Man' Trailer Debuts With

    'The King's Man' Trailer Showcases Secret Service's Origins

    Disney is promising plenty of sword-fighting, gunplay and devastation in its first teaser trailer for the Fox spy comedy prequel “The King’s Man.” The studio unveiled a first look Monday that sets the stage for an origin story of the private British  intelligence service, portrayed in the two previous films in the franchise: 2014’s “Kingsman: The [...]

  • Emma Stone Damien Chazelle Babylon

    Emma Stone Eyes Damien Chazelle's Next Film 'Babylon'

    “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle is heading back to Hollywood for his next feature film “Babylon,” and Emma Stone is in early talks to star. Sources say Chazelle has met with a handful of suitors over the past couple weeks, and Paramount and Lionsgate are both vying to land the project. While Chazelle previously [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez

    2019 Imagen Awards Nominations: Jennifer Lopez, Antonio Banderas and More

    Jennifer Lopez and Antonion Banderas are among this year’s Imagen Awards nominees, which span a range of categories including informational programming, on-air advertising, outstanding individual performances and prime time programming in film and television. The Imagen awards were first established in 1985 upon recommendation from TV veteran Normal Lear in an effort to recognize more [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content