Poor Judge Dredd. Unlike Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, or any of Marvel's high-profile superhero team The Avengers, which brought parent Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) more than $1.5 billion in box-office receipts, its comic book popularity hasn't translated to big-screen success.
Last weekend, Dredd, a reboot of the 1995 flop Judge Dredd, brought in just $6.3 million in domestic ticket sales. Not only was that well off the $50 million Lions Gate Entertainment (NYSE:LGF-A) paid to produce the film, Box Office Mojo reports, but it was also about half the $12.3 million the original brought in during its opening weekend.
Dredd, a fictional Mega City "judge" who possess not only the power to arrest but also punish and even execute, first appeared in the British comic book 2000 AD in 1977 . He's starred in his own comic, Judge Dredd Magazine, monthly since 1990. A number of well-known writers and artists have lent their talents to the character. Meanwhile, moviegoers and critics like the film, rating it 85% and 77% fresh, respectively, at movie ratings site RottenTomatoes.com .
Not enough people have taken the time to see the film, which isn't just bad for Lions Gate. Dredd is a 3-D flick. Low box-office totals also speak poorly for RealD (UNKNOWN:RLD.DL), which has suffered ever since I predicted a windfall from 3-D showings of The Avengers. (Whoops.)
We've seen this pattern throughout the summer. Big-name comic book films continue to win, but 3-D, as a group, has lost its luster. Animated 3-D winners Brave, from Disney's Pixar, and Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, each barely managed to get a third of viewers to pony up for 3-D showings, trade journal The Hollywood Reporter noted in July.
Does this mean investors should steer clear of premium theater stocks such as RealD and peer IMAX (NYSE:IMAX), both of which are losing to the market so far this year? No, but let's also be realistic. Big names and bigger releases won't mean much without contributions from overseas markets, where 3-D is more of a novelty than it is here.