Pacific Rim is the next Battleship? A recent headline at film and TV trade publication Variety predicted almost precisely that. Trouble is, traditional film tracking isn't as reliable as it used to be.

Look at World War Z. Most prognosticators predicted disaster for the disaster film starring Brad Pitt. Instead, at $271 million in worldwide grosses just two weeks into its theater run, Viacom's (NASDAQ:VIAB) Paramount Studios has a sequel-worthy hit on its hands. Can Pacific Rim defy expectations similarly?


"Jaegers" take on aliens in Pacific Rim. Source: Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures.

For answers let's turn to Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL), which says search data does a better job of predicting box office performance. If true, then the Internet's appetite for all things Pacific Rim could offer clues about what to expect at the movies next weekend. Here's a closer look at Guillermo Del Toro's monsters vs. giant robots mashup as seen through the lens of Google's Trends tool:

Source: Google.

A couple of things should stand out in reading this chart. First, Despicable Me 2 is every bit the winner I thought it would be. Second, enthusiasm for Pacific Rim tends to come in waves. That the tide is rising again -- the weekend before the film's July 12 debut -- is a good sign for co-financiers Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros.

Meanwhile, what about Variety's take? What does Google data say about the run-up to and through Battleship's May 2012 release? Have a look:

Source: Google.

See the difference? After a brief bump in search interest in early April, Battleship fell off of fans' radar. The prior graphic suggests Del Toro's fans won't allow Pacific Rim to suffer the same fate.

History may also be instructive here. Del Toro has proven to be an adept director of monster and horror films over the past decade:

Guillermo Del Toro's Films
Rotten Tomatoes
(% Fresh)
Production Budget
Box Office

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)


$85 million

$160.39 million

Pan's Labyrinth (2006)


$19 million

$83.26 million

Hellboy (2004)


$66 million

$99.32 million

Blade II (2002)


$54 million

$155.01 million

Sources: Rotten Tomatoes, Box Office Mojo.

Pacific Rim isn't that far afield from Del Toro's niche, with the notable difference being the film's reported $180 million to $200 million budget.

Legendary Pictures has the most to lose if the film proves to be a flop. Co-producer Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) put up just 25% of the film's production costs, leaving its partner to shoulder the remainder.

Legendary is famous for a long string of successful arrangements with Warner and its DC Comics properties, having helped to produce all three of Christopher Nolan's Batman films plus Man of Steel. But now the two appear to be parting ways. Legendary is in talks to add either Sony or Universal as its new distribution partner, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

How good a production and distribution deal the studio secures depends, in part, on whether Pacific Rim sinks the Battleship comparison. I think it will. Do you agree? Will you plan to see Pacific Rim next weekend? Leave a comment to let us know what you think.

Pacific Rim opens on July 12. Sources: YouTube, Warner Bros., Legendary.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Google, Netflix, and Time Warner at the time of publication. He was also long Jan. 2014 $50 Netflix call options. Check out Tim's web home and portfolio holdings or connect with him on Google+Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.The Motley Fool recommends, Google, and Netflix.

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