From Disney animated confections to NBC live musical events, Peter Pan has inspired several big and small screen productions over the years.
Some have been magical, others misbegotten. The latest trip to Neverland seems destined to fall into the latter category. “Pan,” an $150 million origin story about the boy who refused to grow up, is shaping up to be a painful flop. It is on track to follow the second star to the right and head straight on to a woeful $21 million this Columbus Day weekend across 3,515 locations. That means Warner Bros., the studio that greenlit the film with ambitions of turning it into a fantasy franchise, should brace itself for steep writedowns. In order for the studio to make a profit, a film like “Pan” will need to do at least $350 million to $400 million globally. A domestic debut on this level makes that figure unlikely.
“Pan” stars Hugh Jackman, Rooney Mara and Garrett Hedlund and was directed by Joe Wright of “Atonement” fame. Reviews have been savage, with critics handing the film a scrawny 38% “rotten” ranking on Rotten Tomatoes.
The studio is hoping that word-of-mouth will be more positive, but “Pan” faces stiff competition from “Hotel Transylvania 2,” which continues to draw family crowds, and next week’s “Goosebumps,” a loose adaptation of the R.L. Stine children’s books that has enjoyed strong reviews.
“It’s not an easy place to be,” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “After a drought of family movies, now there’s a rush of them. Someone is going to lose out.”
The film could do better overseas. It opens this weekend in 52 territories, representing about 60% of the foreign market. It includes such major countries as Germany, Russia, Korea, Mexico and Spain. “Pan” has also scored a coveted berth in China, where it launches on Oct. 22.
The holiday brings another struggling studio effort into focus as Sony’s “The Walk” tries to recover from a lackluster limited Imax and premium-large-format release. The biopic about performance artist Philippe Petit’s walk between the Twin Towers disappointed with $1.6 million in its debut. It now expands from 448 theaters to more than 2,500 locations where it should bring in between $5 million and $7 million. The picture was shot for a relatively economical $35 million, which mitigates Sony’s risk, although breaking even could be hard to achieve given the tepid reception that has greeted “The Walk” so far.
Then there’s “Steve Jobs,” an Aaron Sorkin-penned look at the life of the father of the iPhone that stars Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet. The Apple founder biopic arrives looking for Oscar love in limited release. “Steve Jobs” bows in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles and will expand to additional North American markets on Oct. 16 before going wide the following week. Universal spent $30 million to produce the drama.
With “Pan” and “The Walk” failing to make much noise, two holdovers should generate the most heat. Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” nearly overtook “Gravity” last week to set a new record as the biggest October launch in history. Rave reviews and strong exit polls signal that it’s settling in for the long haul. The film about an astronaut marooned on the Red Planet should pull in $30 million in its sophomore weekend. “Hotel Transylvania 2” will also perform well, bringing in roughly $18 million.