So far this month, we have seen two smaller releases — “Hustlers” and “Downton Abbey” — carve out a niche for themselves among the moviegoing populace and show signs of legging out into October despite next month’s crowded slate. This weekend, Universal will try to make it three with the DreamWorks/Pearl animated film “Abominable.”
With “Joker” expected to challenge for the biggest October opening ever next week, all other studios are steering clear of putting out a wide release this weekend. But an animated film for families isn’t going to be competing for its key demographic with an R-rated take on a comic book villain. And since the $75 million film is co-financed with Pearl Studio — who is handling Chinese distribution — the threshold to profit for Universal is lower.
Both analyst and studio projections are predicting a $17-20 million opening from 4,200 screens for “Abominable,” which could give it the No.1 spot depending on how “Downton Abbey” holds in its second weekend.
Late September has traditionally been a release spot for lower-budget animated films, with Sony’s successful “Hotel Transylvania” series debuting in this month to a $148 million domestic run and a $169 million-grossing sequel before moving to July with “Hotel Transylvania 3,” which grossed $528 million worldwide in July. As one of the few original animated films from a major studio this year, “Abominable” is unlikely to reach such a mark.
More likely, the closer comp for “Abominable” will be “The Lego Ninjago Movie,” which opened to $20.4 million in this same release slot two years ago and went on to a $59.2 million domestic/$123 million global run. “Abominable” has a chance to do better with strong reviews than “Ninjago” — it currently has an 81% Rotten Tomatoes score — and a cross-cultural appeal that should give it a stronger turnout in China.
Written and directed by Jill Culton and standing as the first major animated film ever with a woman as sole director, “Abominable” follows a Shanghai teen named Yi (Chloe Bennet), who encounters a young Yeti on the roof of her apartment building that she names Everest. With her friends Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) and Peng (Albert Tsai), she goes on a quest to reunite Everest with his family, but are soon forced on the run from Burnish (Eddie Izzard), a wealthy man intent on recapturing the Yeti, and zoologist Dr. Zara (Sarah Paulson).