Despite an expensive marketing campaign and web-fuelled hype Kick-Ass under performed at the US box office this weekend.
There had been expectations that it would hit the Number 1 slot and could have a $30 million opening, but it failed to hit the top slot which was instead claimed by the DreamWorks animated film How To Train Your Dragon, which is in its fourth week of release.
* UPDATE 19/04/10: Variety are now reporting that Kick-Ass was the Number 1 film of the weekend as Lionsgate opened it early on Thursday and are counting those grosses in with their final figure. This allows them to claim the weekend, although the figures are so narrow I still think the studio are going to be disappointed with this opening. *
It is worth pointing out that Kick-Ass was an interesting case study as it was funded outside the studio system and was a rare example of a high profile indie film having a shot at making some decent cash.
Things looked promising as it was being released by Lionsgate (the only major distributor outside of the big six major studios) and they have a strong track record in releasing edgier films – like the Saw franchise – to a wide audience.
Kick-Ass seemed to be tailor made for them: it looked like a superhero movie; it had lots of carefully cultivated buzz on the geekier websites (AICN, CHUD); and it was a film that directly appealed to a hipper, younger audience.
This meant that Lionsgate felt they had a potential breakthrough hit on their hands and they spent heavily marketing the film. Some have speculated they acquired it for $25m and $40m on prints and advertising, including TV ads like this.
Going in to the weekend it had decent reviews (76 on Rotten Tomatoes, 67 on Metacritic), online buzz, awareness and it was on a load of screens with little in the way of serious rivals (the main one being the US remake of Death of a Funeral).
All this boded well and some Hollywood observers were even expecting it to make $30m.
By the end of the weekend it had only grossed $19.7m and had been (narrowly) beaten to the top slot by an animated film that had already been out for three weeks.
Why did it under perform?
My guess is that it played well to the male-skewing fanbase but just didn’t connect with the wider audience due to the violence, the in-your-face tone of the film and the fact that it was not a conventional super-hero movie at all.
Distributor Lionsgate’s exit polling indicated that 60 percent of those who saw Kick-Ass audience were male and 50 percent was under 25 years old.
In essence, the geeks raved and went to see it but the wider audience didn’t.
Given that the accepted formula for a film’s theatrical gross is to multiply the opening weekend figures by 2.5, this would suggest Kick-Ass is only going to gross around $65m.
This might seem a respectable number for an independent production but in order to greenlight a sequel and build a franchise, they’d be looking for a higher number.
Although the film had created levels of hysteria amongst fanboys not seen since Watchmen, it is a salutary reminder that creating a genuine mainstream hit outside the studio system remains difficult.