World Wrestling Entertainment (NYSE: WWE ) entered the multiplex ring this past weekend with a cinematic offering of blood and gore. It was a vehicle for superstar wrestler Kane, titled See No Evil; unfortunately, not as many people saw it as I would have predicted, judging by the relatively anemic box-office estimates. But hold on -- there are a couple of interesting statistics pegged to its performance.
According to Boxofficemojo.com, See No Evil, released by Lions Gate Entertainment (NYSE: LGF ) , ranked a dismal No. 6 on the top-10 list for the domestic box office marketplace, taking in an estimated $4.35 million. Now, we all knew it probably wouldn't have placed in the top slot, as that position was already owned by Sony (NYSE: SNE ) and its religious-themed juggernaut The Da Vinci Code. Likewise, DreamWorks Animation's (NYSE: DWA ) Over the Hedge was a shoo-in for second place (estimated to have grossed about $37 million).
Guess I was really out of whack with the mainstream this time, because I actually thought there was an outside chance that the film would have done at least three times the amount it ended up doing. Horror is always a popular commodity, especially teen-targeted ones; when they are married with slick marketing campaigns, they can do quite well -- witness Lions Gate's Hostel.
But does this mean the movie was a flop? In a word, yes. But there is something to consider here in terms of per-theater average. Estimates right now show that See No Evil's per-theater average of $3,460 was higher than the per-theater averages of the three movies above its rank. So, the film did better on this basis than Sony's RV, Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX ) disaster flick Poseidon, and yes -- believe it or not -- better than TomKat's goofier half; the average of Viacom's (NYSE: VIA ) third Mission: Impossible feature was about $3,200.
I find that encouraging; it denotes some strength. I admit, I am enough of a believer in this operation as a driver of future shareholder value. Boxofficemojo.com says the film cost $8 million to make. So even with marketing costs, I think the See No Evil experiment was a worthy risk -- the budget wasn't overly high, and the company has the opportunity to amortize costs through the DVD/pay-TV channels.
So what's the bottom line? See No Evil didn't fare as well as John Cena at the last Wrestlemania, but WWE should continue making films targeted toward a young audience. The company can eventually make a good deal of cash from a film library, and the operating segment will add diversification to the core wrestling business; if WWE can make enough low-budget, low-risk films, a few hits will surely arise. The synergy case between the wrestling platform and celluloid production is too compelling to shut down just because of a lukewarm response to this movie -- Linda and Vince McMahon won't be that easily dissuaded.
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