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The Surprising Reason RoboCop Might Be a Winner for Sony

By Tim Beyers – Feb 19, 2014 at 7:51AM

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A poor start might not cuff the "RoboCop” remake after all.

Joel Kinnaman assumes the titular role in the remake of RoboCop. Credit: Sony Pictures.

Turns out I was wrong about RoboCop in at least one way. Sony (SONY 0.07%) and MGM spent less on the remake than I'd thought: $100 million instead of $120 million.

Why should you care? Box office math is geometric. Every dollar of production budget spent demands two dollars in box office gross. Thus, the profit threshold for RoboCop is at least $40 million less than I'd expected, and well within spitting distance of related remakes and February action releases.

What's a good list of comparables? I picked three:

Metric
RoboCop (2014)
A Good Day to Die Hard
Total Recall (2012)
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Domestic gross

$30.01 million

$67.35 million

$58.88 million

$51.77 million

International gross

$69.90 million

$237.30 million

$139.59 million

$80.79 million

Production budget

$100 million

$92 million

$125 million

$57 million

Estimated break-even

$200 million

$184 million

$250 million

$114 million

Rotten Tomatoes ratings (critics / audiences)

48% / 65%

14% / 42%

30% / 47%

17% / 32%

Sources: Box Office Mojo, Rotten Tomatoes.

Both A Good Day to Die Hard and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance were timed for President's Day weekend releases. Len Wiseman's Total Recall remake screened in August but is similar in that it offers a new take on a treasured action classic from the late '80s and early '90s.

Now, given that, here's the good news for Sony and MGM:

  • Of the four films listed, RoboCop gets the highest ratings from both critics and audiences.

  • Both President's Day films -- A Good Day to Die Hard and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance -- were profitable despite terrible reviews.

  • Total Recall also suffered bad reviews, but strong competition may have been a bigger factor. (The Bourne Legacy would open the very next week.)

  • And finally, outside of the Kevin Costner thriller 3 Days to Kill and the historical epic Pompeii, there isn't much competition for RoboCop until Time Warner (TWX) brings 300: Rise of an Empire to theaters on March 7.

All in all, the odds seem to favor Sony and MGM at least making back their production costs while DVD, Blu-ray, and on-demand rentals and sales provide a small profit.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. Have you seen the RoboCop remake? If so, would you see a sequel? Leave a comment in the box below to let us know where you stand.

RoboCop started slow, but there may be just enough callbacks to the original for the film to turn a profit. Sources: Sony Pictures, YouTube.

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 Apple, Google, Netflix, and Time Warner at the time of publication. 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.

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