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So what does Disney have in the works for the Muppets in 2012?

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So what does Disney have in the works for the Muppets in 2012?

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Okay. There are obviously a lot of people out there talking about "The Muppets" this morning. In particular how ticket sales for this James Bobin film reportedly fell off by 62% during its second weekend in domestic release.

But - to be fair here - given that the No. 1 film in the country, Summit Entertainment's "Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1" also experienced a pretty steep fall-off in ticket sales this past weekend (i.e. an estimated 60%), it wasn't as though "The Muppets" was the only film that suffered a post-Thanksgiving setback.

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In fact, given the number of people from Walt Disney Studios who deliberately reached out to me on Friday & Saturday to then explain that the weekend after Thanksgiving is traditionally the second slowest one of the year when it comes to movie ticket sales ... Well, it was clear that what just happened with "The Muppets" wasn't entirely unexpected.

Interestingly enough, the message that I heard -- consistently and repeatedly -- was that, in spite of whatever was going to happen at the box office this past weekend as well as throughout the rest of the month of December, the Company would continue to stand behind "The Muppets." That no matter what this James Bobin movie ultimately wound up earning between now and January 2nd (revised internal box office projections suggest that "The Muppets" will eventually pull in something between $80 - $90 million during its initial domestic run), Mouse House managers still feel that this film did a decent job of relaunching - more importantly, re-energizing -- the Muppet franchise.

The big question now is ... What should Disney do next with these characters? Mind you, you shouldn't expect to see anything of size done with the Muppets between now and the end of February. Given that the international roll-out of this Walt Disney Pictures release is still underway, there is weeks worth of promotional work that have yet to be done. But after that ... Well, the Company's primary focus - at least when it comes to when it will next attempt to put the Muppets back in the spotlight - will be late February / early March.

Amy Adams, Walter and Jason Segal in "The Muppets."
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"Why then?," you ask. Well, March is the month when the Blu-ray and DVD version of "The Muppets" is expected to hit store shelves (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has yet to settle on an exact sales date). It's also when the Disney Fantasy is due to head out for its maiden voyage. Which is when the general public will get its very first chance to play "The Case of the Stolen Show," that new on-board "Enchanted Art" adventure game which stars the Muppet characters.

As for late February ... Given that the Mouse will be looking to raise awareness of the soon-to-be-released Blu-ray & DVD versions of "The Muppets" right about then, look for Kermit & Co. to have a fairly high profile at the 84th annual Academy Awards. Which (not so-co-incidentally) will be broadcast on ABC on Sunday, February 26th.

Given that "Life's a Happy Song" (i.e. the original song that Bret McKenzie wrote for "The Muppets") is already getting Oscar buzz, Disney Studios is anticipating an Academy Award nomination for this particular musical number. And if that Oscar nod does in fact actually come through, expect the Mouse to stage a very elaborate, Muppet-heavy rendition of "Life" as part of this live broadcast.

(L to R) Kermit, Jim Henson, Cilia Van Dijk, Scooter and Richard Hunt at the 1986
Academy Awards. Copyright Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
All rights reserved

More to the point, look for Disney & ABC to lobby hard for Miss Piggy and Kermit to be allowed to present at least one award at the 2012 Oscars. Which - if the Company can actually pull this off - will be something of a coup. Given that the last time that Kermit appeared at the Academy Awards was back in 1986 (which was when he, Scooter and Jim Henson revealed the winner for that year's "Best Animated Short"category) while Miss Piggy hasn't been part of this awards show since March of 1996 (which is when this Muppet made a surprise cameo appearance, interrupting Whoopi Goldberg's video chat with the star of "Babe," insisting that she was still Hollywood's most famous hog).

And then - in support of the Blu-ray and DVD release of "The Muppets" - there will, of course, be the usual round of talk show and morning chat show promotional appearances. You know the drill.

But after that, things get kind of interesting for the Muppets. Given that the Company's future plans for this particular set of characters do kind of key off of how well "The Muppets" actually does at the box office ...  Well, that decision can't be made until Disney gets the final international box office tallies for this film.

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But that said ... If I were a betting man (and based on what I heard from Studio insiders this past Friday and Saturday), I'd say that it's far more likely that we'll see another Muppet TV-based project (like - perhaps - that previously-announced and now-long-delayed Muppet Halloween special) before we see these characters in a brand-new feature-length film production.

But what do you folks think? Does that sounds like a viable plan to promote the upcoming Blu-ray & DVD release of "The Muppets"? If not, what would you do differently to put these characters back in the spotlight?

Your thoughts?



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  • What you're saying, Jim, is that after the tepid performance of the Muppet movie after all of that hype and promotion, Disney isn't about to risk dollars on a second film. Got it. After all, a second film won't have the boo-hoo nostalgia angle (unless Disney waits, oh, about another 20 years to make it).

    It IS normal for movies to slide a bit at the box office after the big Thanksgiving holiday, but 62% is pretty steep, especially for a family film. Most of the media outlets admit that. Reportedly, Disney was expecting the movie to rake in at least $15 million, but it fell short. That's not good news however the company tries to spin it.

    The rest of what you're reporting has been reported elsewhere and was in place before the movie was released. I'm a Disney stockholder and I keep a finger on its pulse, so I know. And of course there will be some hype for the DVD. Disney has to recoup what it invested in the film somehow.

    All in all, the Muppets have proven to be a bad investment. They're not like Mickey and the Princesses, which are evergreen merchandising properties even if there's no film out starring those characters. (Speaking of which, I've heard rumors for some months that a Mickey Mouse movie is in the planning stages. Any word on that, Jim?)

  • I hated the film, but loved all the appearances they made while promoting it. A Muppet talk show would be great. Don't know how likely it is, but I'd definitely tune in.

  • What are you talking about "Gigglesock"? The Muppets (movie) being "tepid"???? Huh? It's #2 in the box office for the second week now. Granted, it had a loss of attendance, but most movies do after a week (or two). Nothing is wrong with the movie. Rotten Tomatoes has it at 97% (Fresh). It's rated highest on their list of movies out and coming out (as of Sunday night). It made 70 million the first week alone. It made it's money. Please rethink your terminology before belittling the Muppets.

  • "If we could do it all again,

    Just another chance to entertain,

    Would anybody watch or even care?"

    I guess now we, sadly, know the answer. My fiancee and I loved The Muppets. But we couldn't convince her teen siblings to see it, because they insisted "the Muppets are for little kids."

  • *What are you talking about "Gigglesock"? The Muppets (movie) being "tepid"???? Huh? It's #2 in the box office for the second week now. Granted, it had a loss of attendance, but most movies do after a week (or two). Nothing is wrong with the movie. Rotten Tomatoes has it at 97% (Fresh). It's rated highest on their list of movies out and coming out (as of Sunday night). It made 70 million the first week alone. It made it's money. Please rethink your terminology before belittling the Muppets.*

    70 million is incorrect; 60 million is the actual estimated number. Not that it matters. The Muppets has not "made it's money", as you so badly phrased it. It's nowhere near making its money. It cost 45 million to make, and reportedly Disney spent AT LEAST that much money promoting it. Generally speaking, a movie has to make around 3 times its overall cost JUST TO BREAK EVEN. Given its current trajectory, estimated at a 80-90 million take overall, the Muppets will fail to do that. Oh, it came in second? Big deal. Disney also expected it to make at least 15 million its second weekend, and it made only 11 million, so it fell short. That's not good news for the film or for the franchise's future. So the verdict is:  Disney has taken a loss on the Muppet acquisition. It paid big bucks for it, anticipating that the Muppets would sell huge amounts of merchandise. That didn't happen. Then Disney invested in a movie that looks like it's terribly front-loaded, appeals mostly to nostalgic adults and hasn't succeeded in connecting with a new generation of kids - something the Chipmunks and the Smurfs DID manage to do.

    Rotten Tomatoes? Who the heck cares about that website? Movie critics like lots of films that the public spurns.

    Do some research before you lash out at people who know better.

  • "Then Disney invested in a movie that looks like it's terribly front-loaded, appeals mostly to nostalgic adults and hasn't succeeded in connecting with a new generation of kids - something the Chipmunks and the Smurfs DID manage to do."

    You're right. If only Disney had badly computer animated the Muppets and given them dialogue full of dated slang and pop music references... How dare they try to entice audiences by making a good movie!

    As sad as it is, though, the Moopets probably would have appealed more to today's audiences than the Muppets.

  • Any idea of when The Muppets - Season 4 will finally be released on DVD?

  • Gigglesock & Tempest --

    Look, you're both kind of wrong here. "The Muppets" -- during its initial domestic run -- hasn't earned $60 or $70 million to date. But -- rather -- an estimated $56.1 million (But these are just the box office estimates for this past weekend. Disney won't actually have the hard numbers in hand 'til sometime later today).

    Yes, if you fold in the $4 million that "The Muppets" has made from its international run, this James Bobin film has grossed more than $60 million at this point. But in my conversations with Disney ... While the money that a movie makes overseas is becoming increasingly important to the Company's financials and overall bottom line (which kind of explains why the Studios is already in the process of putting together a week's worth of international premieres for Marvel's "The Avengers" for late April / early May. With members of the cast already slated to fly into Moscow and Milan to help promote the international release of this upcoming Walt Disney Pictures production), when it comes to bragging rights around town, it's the domestic box office numbers that matter most.

    But to further confuse the issue here ... Bob Iger (who -- because the Muppets were more of a Michael Eisner thing [Disney's former CEO doggedly pursued this franchise for 15 years before he finally acquired them in February of 2004] -- has kind of kept these characters at arms length up until just recently) is now a Muppet supporter. But that may just be because spending $42 - $45 million on a holiday season release makes the Company look far more financially responsible. Especially when you consider the $170 million that the Studios spent last year to make "TRON Legacy. Not to mention the estimated $260 million that Walt Disney Animation Studios spent to make "Tangled."

    More to the point, the Muppets are extremely flexible and travel light. Meaning that if the White House calls on Monday and says "We'd like to have Kermit the Frog come help the First Family light the White House Christmas Tree," that's the sort of thing that you can actually do on extremely short notice and with very little rehearsal time. All it takes is a plane ticket for Steve Whitmere and a suitcase to carry Kermit in.

    And appearances like that translate into millions of dollars in free publicity / exposure / goodwill for the Muppet characters and this particular Disney franchise.  

    So I guess what I'm saying is that -- strictly based on "The Muppets" box office -- it would be a huge mistake to count the Muppets (as in the now-Disney-owned character franchise, rather than the James Bobin movie) just yet. Iger definitely sees the value of these characters now. Which is why -- as long as Bob remains in charge of the Mouse House -- the Muppets will continue to get corporate support. More importantly, funding for future projects.

    But as I said in today's JHM article, no one's quite sure at this moment what the best future path for the Muppets might be. All that seems clear (right now, anything) is that -- given "The Muppets" box office numbers -- jumping right into the development & production of another theatrically released Muppet  feature film doesn't make sense.

    One side note here: A number of people that I've talked with at the Studios have linked the Company's decision to try and replace MT Carney (who's the current president of Marketing at Disney Studios) with "The Muppets" box office numbers. Which seems kind of weird to me. Given that -- in the weeks and months leading up to the release of this James Bobin film -- I thought the Studio (what with all those fake trailers and teaser posters that they put out there) did a pretty decent job of building the public's awareness of the fact that a new Muppet movie was on the way.

    I mean, it's not MT's fault that the hardcore Muppet fan audience turned out to be smaller than expected and/or the competition this holiday season (at least when it comes to the family film movie-going audience as well as young adults) turned out to be a lot tougher than anticipated. But this being Hollywood and all, I guess that someone's got to take the fall when a high profile project for the Studio goes south.

    Anyway ... I just wanted to throw this additional info out there. Make JHM readers aware that this is not a black & white situation. That when it comes to "The Muppets" (the movie) as well as the Muppets (the now-Disney-owned character franchise) there are lots of contributing factors. Stuff that we should all be considering when we're prognosticating about what's going to happen next.

  • I saw the Muppets in a theatre last Friday, there were only a couple of other folks (being a Matinee), but the laughs were audible and frequent.  An adult in my party liked it so much that he might want to see it again and was happy that he went to the film.  My prediction: word of mouth will give the Muppets a solid run, maybe even make it a sleeper hit.  It IS one of, if not the highest ranked film of the year.  Here is what the numbers look like to me:

    Production and Promotion Costs:  Maybe $90 million.

    Projected US Theatrical Run: Maybe $90 to 100 million.  The 'internal numbers' Jim is spouting are downgraded for a reason.

    Possible US DVD Sales: $90 million quite possible, maybe more as this film appeals to adults who will want to buy the DVD for kids who balked at seeing it in the theatres.

    Possible International:  Anywhere from $60 million to $130 million.  Let's say it makes $90 million international.

    Total Gross, including DVD sales, would be about $270 million.  Meaning Muppets could earn the company a cool $180 million.

  • actully disney is doing right by keeping the muppets even if its to have them promote their own projects in the spotlight. including the thing they will be doing during the dvd of the release. keeping them out there in the eye. as for another movie don't think it will ever happen for Disney has proably figured out the muppets work better on tv then in movies. even though number 2 is not bad

  • Movies of this genre have gotten so bad in the last 20 years or so that sadly people do not recognize a good one when they see it. The Muppets was awesome and anyone who thinks they are "just for little kids" is just showing how little they know.

  • I just heard that M. T. Carney has lost her job over the Muppets debacle. Any news on that, Jim?

  • I really can't remember the last time a movie had this number of free advance showings.  How many ticket sales were lost trying to improve the pre-release word-of-mouth buzz?  

    I took my family to one of these showings the weekend before Thanksgivinng, and it was a packed house.  Were they still raving enough about the movie on Sunday that it convinced at least another theater full to see the flick?  I was.

  • Oh, sorry, Jim, didn't see your post there. Well, M.T. Carney's out, and yeah I'd say the Muppet's blah performance didn't help. Heard she was responsible for Tron Legacy as well (another disappointment).

  • I would love to see a new weekly TV show. Why not bring back the Muppet show? Either on ABC or the Disney channel.

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