July 18, 2013

SHOWBUZZDAILY’s State of the Studio: 20th Century Fox


Our parade of studio summers continues. We’ve reviewed Disney, Warner Bros, Paramount, and Sony, and today’s focus is on 20th Century Fox.

Fox has had a distinct strategy this summer, counterprogramming with comedy and animation while all the other studios were duking it out with massive action movies, and holding its own spectacles for late July and August.  It’s had uneven success so far, although its biggest bet is still to come.




Estimated Cost (including Worldwide Marketing):  $250M

US Box Office Thru 7/14:  $105M

Overseas Box Office Thru 7/14:  $136M

Box Office Total Thru 7/14:  $241,000,000

Epic still has some major Asian territories left to open, but while those might boost the movie to breakeven, it’s still a major disappointment.  The movie just never seemed to catch on, even though it seemed like a smooth segue for the team that gave Fox its gigantically successful Ice Age franchise.  Unlike The Croods, which more than doubled its US return overseas, Epic hasn’t flown high anywhere.


Estimated Cost (inc Worldwide Marketing):  $180M

US Box Office Thru 7/14:  $43M

Overseas Box Office Thru 7/14:  $25M

Box Office Total Thru 7/14:  $68,000,000

That foreign total will rise somewhat, but it won’t make any meaningful difference.  The studio gambled that the Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson combo still had value 8 years after The Wedding Crashers, and they were wrong.  (This came after Fox also lost big on Vaughn in The Watch, which should teach the studio something.)  The script felt antiquated and vaguely offensive in its exhaustive product placement for Google, but none of that would have mattered if audiences wanted to see the stars together again.  They didn’t.  Not a giant money-loser by Lone Ranger standards, but still a whiff in the prime of the summer season.


Estimated Cost (inc Worldwide Marketing):  $165M

US Box Office Thru 7/14:  $116M

Overseas Box Office Thru 7/14:  $16M

Box Office Total Thru 7;14:  $132,000,000

That’s more like it.  Overseas release has just started, and although The Heat probably won’t have a huge foreign multiple, it should still do healthy business, making for robust profits.  Two stars people wanted to see, a moderate production budget, enough laughs to make for a fun night at the movies, and voila–a potential franchise.  Melissa McCarthy is busting past being the most bankable female comedy star around and becoming simply one of the biggest comedy stars, period, and this is the second-biggest comedy of Sandra Bullock’s career, behind The Proposal.


Estimated Cost (inc Worldwide Marketing):  $275M

US Box Office:  n/a

Overseas Box Office:  n/a

Box Office Total:  n/a

Turbo just opened yesterday, so there aren’t any numbers available yet.  In any case, though, it’s a DreamWorks Animation production, on which Fox just serves as distributor for a piece of the gross.  The tracking has been soft (Mitch Metcalf has it estimated at $35M in its first 5 days of release, compared to $143M for Despicable Me 2 and $53M for The Croods), so this may be another project that needs major enthusiasm overseas–but in any case, Fox won’t be on the hook for any losses on the production budget, although it may face some risk on marketing costs.



This is the studio’s biggest summer event, and despite the venerable franchise and Hugh Jackman in the lead, it carries a great deal of risk.  Needless to say, it’s massively expensive, and yet the first try at a Wolverine standalone, X Men Origins: Wolverine, made only a moderate $373M at the worldwide box office.  Also, the recent failures of movies like Lone Ranger and Pacific Rim suggest that some serious CG fatigue may be setting in for audiences.


One of the odder summer projects, because Fox has been down this road before, and it didn’t go well.  Percy Jackson & the Olympians made a not-so-Olympian $226M worldwide in 2010, and even if this one came in at a lower budget, it’s still going to need to attract more fans than the first one did if it’s to be any kind of success.



Fox has 3 relatively serious dramas for fall, starting with this gambling thriller starring Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck.  The idea seems to be to hit the mark that In Time did with Timberlake 2 falls ago (not much in the US, it almost quadrupled its business overseas), but this one lacks the high-concept futuristic tinsel.


A production dripping with class:  director Ridley Scott, screenwriter Cormac McCarthy, and a cast that includes Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz.  It’s a team that clearly has the talent to deliver a first-class adult entertainment, and possibly even an Oscar hopeful.


This feels more like a Fox Searchlight indie production than one from the mothership:  a World War II drama about a girl who steals and shares books while sheltering Jews in her home, with Emily Watson and Geoffrey Rush as the only “names”.


An unusual, and thus risky, animated adventure, more serious than the norm, which features narration but no talking dinosaurs, and no Ice Age type gags.  It could be a phenomenon, or it might feel like homework.


The studio’s big year-end bet, which after going through a blizzard of potential stars and directors ended up with Ben Stiller in both chairs.  Fox thinks it can be this year’s Life of Pi, a giant adventure that can work around the globe, and possibly even earn Oscar consideration.  Or maybe not.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."