This past weekend, Kubo and the Two Strings failed to make an impressive debut despite positive reviews across the board (including from our own Trevor Jeffery). According to Box Office Mojo, the $60-million production opened with $12,610,000 along with an existing foreign gross of $900,000.
I’m not one to analyze dollar signs, but when the exceptional team at Laika is being smothered by mature fare like Sausage Party and Suicide Squad after offering audiences a brand new, meticulously made family film, I can’t help but worry and wonder.
I feel these results indicate that audiences are open for fresh films, but only if the movies don’t stray too far from familiarity. For instance, earlier this year, movie goers were treated to Deadpool. The unapologetic superhero flick was a long-developed project that appealed to movie goers who were growing tired of the current superhero phenomena. However, even though it poked fun at the sub-genre’s tropes, Deadpool still followed a basic formula. It was lucky enough to have its cake and eat it too, and the $58-million proceeded to gross $363,070,709 domestically.
After the success of Deadpool and Marvel’s significant Captain America: Civil War, audiences were already guessing how Suicide Squad – one of the most anticipated films of 2016 – was going to stack up against its competition. Due to the familiar property and bankable stars, the anti-hero action flick set an opening record for August releases at the North American box office with a $135-million opening weekend, and has led the U.S. box office for three consecutive weeks. While not as gutsy as Deadpool, Suicide Squad slightly flipped the script on its formula featuring blood-thirsty villains as hopeful vigilantes while also following a generic “save the world” story. This was apparent from the film’s brilliantly-edited trailer.
Kubo and the Two Strings has been described as a story of a hero, and while some recognized beats of its mythology through its promotional materials, the film couldn’t shape up to a breakout in terms of attendance. Possibly because its gorgeous previews were perceived as polarizing to other families uncertain if the film would be too dark for their young ones, or there wasn’t enough familiarity to garner interest from its intended demographic in the first place.
If that’s the case and families are feeling hesitant towards Kubo, it’s up to older audiences to give the film its legs. After all, with creepy films like The Boxtrolls, ParaNorman, and Coraline, it seems like Laika is trying to tap into a time when family films weren’t afraid to scare. That time may have passed for modern families, but those who still remember the early days of Jim Henson puppetry may be inclined to check out Kubo and the Two Strings sooner than later.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie