Tim Burton’s live-action Dumbo flew slightly below expectations this weekend, landing somewhat softly with an estimated opening of $45 million, Box Office Mojo is reporting. Despite what some other websites might report, that’s not a terrible debut, but it is much lower than the opening of Burton’s own Alice in Wonderland, which smashed records with a $120 million premiere back in 2010.
As is often the case with Disney, tracking was all over the place for Dumbo, with some being more conservative with projections of around $40 million while others were much more optimistic with predictions of $80 million. In the end, Dumbo took off more or less in line with where tracking had it months ago, which was within the $40-$50 million range. As an animated feature, Dumbo is not nearly as popular as films like Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast, which might explain why the remakes for those movies saw much bigger box office returns.
Another hurdle Dumbo had to overcome was a marketing campaign which, while very strong, was targeted largely towards adults. Trailers emphasized the nostalgia factor going for the film (if you were crying during those previews, you weren’t alone!), and focused more on emotion than spectacle. That’s great when you’re trying to bring mom and dad into the theater, but for children who may not have even heard of the original Dumbo, it might not be as much of a draw. Disney also faced competition from themselves in the form of Captain Marvel, which probably took away some of Dumbo’s family market during its fourth week of release. Next weekend, the flying elephant will face off against Shazam! and Pet Semetary–two potential blockbusters with huge promotional pushes behind them–meaning that the Disney fantasy will probably find itself in third place come this time next week. Production budget information on Dumbo hasn’t been released, but it’s been reported to have cost as much as $170 million, so time will tell if it’s able to stay in the air or will ultimately dive-bomb.
As has been discussed frequently by now, Dumbo is just one of several tentpole releases from the Mouse House this year, including the upcoming Avengers: Endgame, Toy Story 4, Frozen II, Star Wars: Episode IX and big budget remakes of Aladdin and The Lion King. Speculation has suggested that the reason Disney is sending out so many big movies in 2019 is to help bolster its streaming service with plenty of new content when it launches. 2020, by comparison, is looking a lot less busy so far, as most of Disney’s releases for that year are currently mysteries, with the only films that have “officially” been announced being Pixar’s Onward, a live-action Mulan and Dwayne Johnson’s adventure comedy Jungle Cruise.
Elsewhere at the box office, Captain Marvel continued to be huge, now standing with a domestic total of $353 million as it approaches the $1 billion mark worldwide. Wonder Park, meanwhile, is remaining somewhat underwhelming as it has yet to cross the $40 million mark after three weekends in theaters. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, by contrast, is quite healthy with a stateside tally of $152 million and more than $500 million globally. Whatever the future holds for the alliance between DreamWorks and Universal, The Hidden World has certainly been a solid start for the merger.
Final figures are due tomorrow.