“Playmobil: The Movie” will make box office history, but certainly not in the way it intended. STX’s animated adventure generated less than $1 million despite launching in 2,337 North American theaters and now stands as one of the worst opening weekends of all time.
“Playmobil” scraped together just $668,000 over the weekend, marking the third-lowest debut ever for a film that was playing in over 2,000 locations. The only movies to suffer worse fates were 2012’s “The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure” ($$443,901) and 2008’s “Delgo” ($511,920).
North American theater chains and regional venues offered the film for $5, significantly less than the average ticket price in U.S. of roughly $9. Children’s tickets can run up to $15 in major markets like New York or Los Angeles. But even heavily discounted prices weren’t enough of an incentive. Since it’s already a competitive time of year for moviegoing, the studio will struggle to hold screens in coming weeks as tentpoles like “Jumanji: The Next Level” and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” gear up for their big-screen debuts.
“This is a 52-week-a -year business and we were looking for an opportunity to utilize the early December play date,” said Kevin Grayson, STX’s president of domestic distribution.
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The studio plans to continue experimenting with variable pricing for theater tickets.
“Both STX and exhibition believed [the variable pricing model] would not only provide grosses, but also incremental growth,” he said. “Since this is the first time this progressive strategy was put in play on a wide release opening weekend, there were always going to be some bumps along the way. That said, we have already learned from this experiment. And we will continue to learn more and will tweak it for the future so it can be the benefit to the industry that we know it can be.”
In the wake of the dismal start, there was plenty of finger-pointing but very little acceptance of responsibility over the $75 million film that stands to lose tens of millions in its theatrical run. “Playmobil” was co-financed by Wild Bunch, Pathe, Dimitri Rassam and the Paris-based On Animation and distributed by STX in North America.
Sources close to the distributors say producers will bear the burden since STX kept marketing costs low and recouped money from TV sales. Sources close to the producers say the distributors in several countries will share the losses because the movie was almost entirely financed through presales. One thing is clear: Somebody lost their shirt.
“Playmobil” is an ignominious blemish that STX never wanted in the first place. The studio, which inherited the movie from Open Road after the company went bankrupt, pushed back its release multiple times. STX was contractually obligated to release the film in theaters but refrained from overspending on promotion after seeing how poorly it was received in Europe, where the toy company that inspired the cartoon originated. “Playmobil,” which first debuted overseas in August, ran out of steam with a dismal $12.5 million at the international box office. It’s still supposed to be released in China, however no release date has been set yet.
“Playmobil” follows a young woman who embarks on a mission to find her missing younger brother and features the voice cast of Anya Taylor-Joy, Jim Gaffigan, Kenan Thompson, Meghan Trainor and Daniel Radcliffe. Though reviews generally don’t hold much weight for family offerings, “Playmobil” was utterly panned by critics and holds a 19% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Variety’s Guy Lodge likened the film to a “feature-length” commercial for the Germany-based toy company and called it “disappointingly short on charm or smarts.”
“An attempt to do for the smiling, claw-handed Playmobil collective what “The Lego Movie” did for the humble plastic brick — but without that blockbuster’s dizzy, self-aware wit and visual invention — Lino DiSalvo’s hyperactive film never transcends its blatant product-flogging purpose,” Lodge wrote. Twisting the knife, he added, “Even the “Angry Birds” films found more scope for outright hilarity in their cynical framework.”
STX reportedly kept marketing costs around $3 million, which checks out considering hardly anyone knew the film was opening. Moreover, Playmobil is relatively unknown compared to a brand like Lego, which Warner Bros. successfully mined into multiple feature films. In hindsight, “Playmobil” hardly stood a chance against “Frozen 2,” Disney’s animated sequel that continues to dazzle the box office in its third weekend of release as it nears the $1 billion mark globally.
“Playmobil” ends 2019 on a sour note for STX, which fielded more misses than hits over the past 11 months. “Hustlers,” “The Upside” and “Countdown” were commercially successful, but “Poms” “UglyDolls,” “Best of Enemies” and “21 Bridges” were all financial flops.