Wednesday, July 17, 2013

How Will Turbo Place?

This year has not been kind to the summer blockbuster. Rather than gain record audiences at the box office, multiple "big" movies have failed, often miserably. "The Lone Ranger", for example, is on track to lose as much as $150 million. Will Smith's "After Earth" flopped for Sony, as did "White House Down". "Jack the Giant Slayer" performed horribly domestically, and "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" was essentially stillborn. Last week, the $190 million pic "Pacific Rim" underperformed in its opening weekend.

Onto this stage (and opening today) speeds "Turbo", the second outing of the summer from Dreamworks, and a point of interest for all of INDYCAR and its fans. It is hoped that the movie, toy tie-ins, and resultant publicity and spinoff series will be a nice bump of some sort for the series and the Indianapolis 500 in particular. But with a budget of $135 million, can it succeed where other large-budget films have failed this year?

On the surface, it might not look super-encouraging; "Despicable Me 2" is still going strong, and Turbo has been projected to do a lukewarm $35 million in the opening weekend. But if anything can outperform in the summer, it's a family film, which can often jump big-time based on word of mouth. And two of the summer's biggest hits--"Monsters University" and "Despicable Me 2"--were animated family fare.

Granted, the aforementioned two hits are both franchises, bigger names that have a legacy now in the theater. Turbo is brand-new, with new characters. If you have cable and your kids watch channels such as Nickelodeon, you know there's been no shortage of commercials trying to introduce the potential audience to the basic premise and characters. There's certainly been a strong ad campaign, and it's come not only from children's TV ads, but from involved companies like Firestone and Sunoco.

The movie reviews at the time I am writing this fall into the positive category by a good majority at the time I write this, but even the negative reviews have little vitriol for the film. That's a good sign, unlike "The Lone Ranger", which inspired hatred and negative press like few films I've seen. Even those who are lukewarm on the story seem to enjoy how the film looks, and that's important for a racing movie, even an animated one.

I certainly hope "Turbo" is a hit. Yet even if it's only a modest success in terms of the box office, a Netflix spinoff and some awesome racing toys should give the film a larger footprint than many of its 2013 counterparts. I know my family will be seeing it this week--the only question is, how many folks will join us?

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