Bash of the Titans: Variety’s Problem With “Pacific Rim”

Down…But Not Out. Pacific Rim Needs Its Fanbase To Show Up, Or Lose To Sandler and Company.

 By Mike Reyes

Last week I came across a Variety article that one of my writer friends posted on Facebook. The article, Pacific Rim: Looking Grim With $25-$35 Million Opening”, proceeded to basically bag on the prospects of the film being anything remotely near a hit. Author Andrew Stewart predicted that the film would open with a rather low grossing, while Grown Ups 2 would supposedly open at a “low $40’s” mark, taking away whatever business Despicable Me 2 takes in at the top this (past) weekend. Basically, Stewart was saying that while World War Z enjoyed a success against an industry all too ready to bury it, Pacific Rim didn’t stand a chance of having that same success. Then again, Stewart didn’t seem to think World War Z would make it past the low $40’s, only to be proven wrong that weekend with $66.4 million raked in. Well in this case, he was right. Pacific Rim opened with a 3rd place finish of $37.3 million and Grown Ups 2 opened with a $41.5 million showing at 2nd place.  


It seemed as if Pacific Rim had the same problem as World War Z did before its release: there were two different versions that existed in our world. On one hand, there was the Pacific Rim that people seemed amped up for, driving the Internet narrative to help believe that maybe this could break the death sentence the industry was all too ready to pass on it. This was the same Pacific Rim that had been exploding the minds of critics and personalities alike. The Pacific Rim that had pulled quotes from TONS of critics, instead of the cheap marketing trick of pulling multiple quotes from the same review. (Next time you see a movie commercial with pull quotes, look at the bottom of each quote. If there’s an uninterrupted string of quotes without a name at the bottom, followed by one with a name… you’ve just been shouted at by the same critic and made to think it was several.) The Pacific Rim that somehow had pleased Kanye West, Jon Favreau and Hideo Kojima (of Metal Gear Solid fame), three artists of differing reputations in different realms, into trumpeting its praises through the Twitters.

On the other hand, there was the Pacific Rim that people were somehow looking down upon in favor of another lukewarm Adam Sandler vehicle where he’s married to a ridiculously gorgeous/out of his league type and gets to make funny noises. The Grown Ups 2 that Andrew Stewart saw was somehow a superior financial product that was on the road for success. His weapon? Advanced tracking numbers. These “numbers” were the Silver Bullet that Stewart fired to try and kill Pacific Rim‘s chances in his analysis, his coup d’grace being the following:Paramount managed to parlay strong early reviews for “World War Z” into a surprising $66 million domestic opening. But to be clear, an opening like that is not in the cards for “Pacific Rim” — not with competition from “Despicable Me 2″ and “Grown Ups 2”. 

I’m not Andrew Stewart. I don’t have access to the polling data he does, so my predictions are naturally going to be sloppier than his. What I do have though is eyes and a mind, and you don’t even need those to see that while Pacific Rim might not be the runaway hit of the Summer, it stands to make a decent amount of money and please a fanbase that’s been pulling for it since its inception. In fact, at the time of this writing, the film has made a comfortable $53 million from Overseas receipts alone. Combined with the $41.3 million it’s made so far Domestically, you’re looking at a $94.3 million figure out of $190 million budgeted. Now more than ever, films are depending on International monies in order to become more profitable productions. It’s why films like Looper and Iron Man 3 have taken production credits from Japanese companies, as well as filmed excusive sequences for their localized releases in that country. With the Chinese market opening up to Hollywood product ever increasingly, it’s not wise to just put your eggs in one basket.

Pacific Rim isn’t out of the woods yet, but in the big picture, it’s doing better than Grown Ups 2. While the latter film is a cheaper production (both in budget and in actual content), which makes for an easy Domestic hit, it’s made a horrific $1.7 million, bringing its total gross to about $48 million. Again, the big picture shows us something entirely different than the narrative we’ve been given, and that picture shows us that the bigger picture is just that. While Pacific Rim isn’t exactly a record breaking film, what with a consistent 3rd place finish, it still denotes something that the market has long since written off as a liability: curiosity. Curiosity is what got people into the seats for World War Z, and gave it not only its initial Domestic 2nd place finish, but a healthy 3rd place finish the same weekend The Heat and White House Down opened. Curiosity made hits like Cloverfield, Titanic, and even Independence Day (the film to which this movie owes a huge debt of success to) eventually succeed.

Granted, those films opened with stronger showings, but Del Toro’s film doesn’t need to rise to #1. It just needs to make it through the next couple weekends of lite competition with consistent performances. Red 2, R.I.P.D, and The Wolverine don’t seem poised to be amazing Blockbuster hits. If anything, they seem to be set up as modest to low range hits. In fact, the only real competition there seems to be is Elysium, which should bring in some August dollars no problem. This is the time of year Warner Brothers brings out the big guns of Summer, and the reason is because the bigger, badder “assured” hits have come and gone. This is the time to experiment, much as Warner Brothers did with The Dark Knight back in 2008. While Batman Begins was a modest hit, no one could have predicted just how big of a hit The Dark Knight would go on to become from that initial success. Warner Brothers was confident enough to make a bet on Christopher Nolan’s vision, just as they were confident enough to make that same bet on Pacific Rim.

So I say, let’s not leave Warner Brothers high and dry. Let’s MAKE Pacific Rim a hit, by both word of mouth and repeat business. Instead of just letting the industry tell us we’re not going to see this movie, let’s turn the Internet chatter into actual numbers. If you’ve ever complained about the lack of original content, if you’ve ever felt like Guillermo Del Toro is a great filmmaker that is overdue for his moment in the limelight, and if you just like a fun time at the movies, it is your duty to get out there and see this movie. If people could help World War Z buck the odds and the bad press surrounding it, surely we could do the same for a film that actually manages to be good! Pacific Rim might have the industry out to bring it down, but if the fans and those who are simply curious show up in droves this weekend (and the weekend after that), we might just have to re-think how we track the industry.