"Pacific Rim": Why Legendary's Monstrous Bet Should Pay Off

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
Worldwide
Box Office

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)

87%

$85 million

$160.39 million

Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

96%

$19 million

$83.26 million

Hellboy (2004)

81%

$66 million

$99.32 million

Blade II (2002)

59%

$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.

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Read/Post Comments (5) | Recommend This Article (4)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On July 07, 2013, at 10:57 AM, Willis37 wrote:

    Cox and Crendor 2016!

  • Report this Comment On July 07, 2013, at 11:31 AM, Batotahell wrote:

    You failed to explain the "Lone Ranger" having what looked like good Google search levels and doing so poorly.

    As for "Pacific Rim", my son and I have been watching everything released about this movie on the internet for over a year in anticipation of its release. I believe the fanboy/geek crowd will turn out in force for this movie. I also think a lot of people who haven't been exposed to this kind of story through Japanese anime will give it a try on the big screen. Plus if you have been paying attention to box office reports over the past year, international box office numbers are playing a much larger role than they used to and I think that worldwide this movie will be a huge hit.

  • Report this Comment On July 07, 2013, at 11:56 AM, GondoX wrote:

    As @Batotahell wrote, your analysis doesn't

    work in the context of Lone Ranger. Thousands

    of articles and blogs were written about this $300M

    Western yet it's limping to a 5-day opening in the $40M range. Buzz does not equal butts in seats.

    Just go ask Scott Pilgrim, Sucker Punch and Snakes

    on a Plane. Scott Pilgrim was trending on Twitter in the US but that didn't translate to actual ticket sales. If buzz literally equaled butts in seats then we'd have different outcomes at the box office each weekend.

    Pacific Rim would have a better chance at the box office had its title been more specific and targeted - "Mecha Warriors" or something more straight forward.

  • Report this Comment On July 07, 2013, at 12:21 PM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    @Batotahell and @GondoX,

    >>You failed to explain the "Lone Ranger" having what looked like good Google search levels and doing so poorly.

    Actually, I'd say just the opposite.

    The data shows virtually zero build-up for "Lone Ranger." The film was still stuck at 14 -- tied with Pac Rim! -- the weekend before release, even as "Despicable Me 2" was surging. Only in the final three days before opening did search interest improve, and even then at a much slower rate than its competition.

    By contrast, Pac Rim is well ahead of "Grown Ups 2" and still gaining with a week to go. Expecting a blowout box office would be silly, but going by the data, I think there's every reason to expect Pac Rim to outperform "Lone Ranger."

    One final point for testing Google's usefulness in this area. Here's three month data for "Scott Pilgrim" and its chief competitors: "The Expendables" and "Eat Pray Love."

    http://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=scott%20pilgrim%20vs%...

    FWIW and Foolish best,

    Tim

    --

    TMFMileHigh in CAPS and on the boards

    @milehighfool on Twitter

    http://about.me/timbeyers

    http://timbeyers.me

  • Report this Comment On July 07, 2013, at 4:53 PM, swocrates100 wrote:

    I think it is going to do very well. There was a sneak preview yesterday at the Navy base on San Diego. Every seat was full and a ton of people were turned away, including my son and I.

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