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Mortal Engines could lose over $100 million at box office

From the moment the first images and trailer dropped for the Peter Jackson-produced MORTAL ENGINES the prospect of its success as a new YA franchise were, to say the least, up in the air. The lack of major stars and a confusing premise made this one a tough sell, and despite having “from the producers of LORD OF THE RINGS” on the posters the movie came behind others at the box office this opening weekend and is now looking to lose as much as $100 million by the end of its run.

Weekend estimates for the movie were always on the low side, as they often are for movies during the crowded holiday season, with movies benefitting more from a long game than a big opening. Still, the numbers we extra low for ENGINES. But this last weekend the movie went up against SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE, THE MULE, and returning champs THE GRINCH and RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET and floundered with $7.5 million – the low end of low expectations. That’s coupled with an unimpressive international outing, where it’s made $35 million overseas from most major markets (sans China), for a total of $42 million worldwide.

As Variety reports, this comes from a budget of over $100 million, plus dozens of millions more in marketing, meaning it would have to make hundreds of millions around the world to be a successful venture. Unless a strong outing in China (think Universal’s WARCRAFT) bulks up those numbers, it could struggle to even reach the $100 million mark globally once movies like BUMBLEBEE, AQUAMAN, and MARY POPPINS arrive next week. As a result, some analysts are saying it could lose even as much as $125 million.

Jeff Block, an analyst for Exhibitor Relations told Variety, “This is a true Christmas disaster and a lump of coal for Universal. They took a big swing, and they struck out.”

The movie has been a project of love for producer Peter Jackson for some time, with him handing the reins to frequent collaborator and first-time director Christian Rivers. No doubt meant to be a new franchise geared towards the YA crowd, the movie about roving “predator cities” sported no major stars outside of Hugo Weaving, making it a tough sell on the surface. As well, the YA franchise has hit a snag since the days of TWILIGHT and HUNGER GAMES, with franchises like MAZE RUNNER and DIVERGENT ending with a whimper (the latter didn’t even get a proper finale). To make matters worse, the movie is getting run over by critics, with it having a current score of 28 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. 

Universal, who put up 30 percent of the cash for the movie, has had a great year at the box office otherwise, with movies like THE GRINCH, JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM, HALLOWEEN and MAMMA MIA 2. Much like the bombing of SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY for Disney, the loss looks minimal compared to the hits from elsewhere in their 2018 catalog. Still, this will be a big, embarrassing loss for everyone involved. The visual effects extravaganza was clearly made with big dreams attached, and now it will go down less like HUNGER GAMES and more like THE DARK TOWER.

Source: Variety

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