The Ticket Master: The Friends of Guillermo (Box Office for 21 January 2013)
D.K. is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
If you are a young beginning filmmaker with an interest in horror, it's good to have Guillermo del Toro in your corner.
According to what is already lore, Mr. del Toro caught Andrés Muschietti's short film Mamá on line, and had both the shit scared out of him and the hell impressed into him. Through the prestidigitation of the movie biz, the next thing Mr. Muschietti knew he was directing a major feature film of the same title starring the ubiquitous Jessica Chastain and Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. When the full length version of Mama opened this last weekend, it went on to make $33,147,815 worldwide for Universal, a division of NBCUniversal and a subsidiary of Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA).
This is not the first time that Mr. del Toro has place his Gothic thumb on a fellow filmmaker and made him a star. Mr. del Toro exec produced J. A. Bayona's The Orphanage, with Geraldine Chaplin in a secondary role, and the Spanish production made $27,759,147 off of a presumably modest budget. Mr. Bayona now has the tsunami real life story The Impossible in theaters and its star Naomi Watts on the Oscar roll call, the film making $113 million worldwide so far for Summit Entertainment, a relatively recent acquisition of the savvy Lions Gate Entertainment (NYSE: LGF).
Guillermo del Toro is also on the credits of Rise of the Guardians (2012), Puss in Boots (2011) and Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011), all as executive producer. Rise of the Guardians made $290 million worldwide, Puss in Boots made $555 million worldwide, and Kung Fu Panda 2 made $666 million worldwide, all for DreamWorks, currently a subsidiary of the privately held Reliance Group (Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Ventures Limited).
By contrast Quentin Tarantino "presents" several movies, the most recent being The Man with the Iron Fists, which was the The RZA's directorial debut, and which cost $15 million to make and earned back $18.5 million dollars worldwide. Meanwhile, in 2009 Peter Jackson got behind Neill Blomkamp's District 9, also based on a short film, and the picture went on to make $211 million dollars worldwide off of an estimated $30 million dollar budget for TriStar Pictures, and therefore its owner Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc. and parent company Sony Corporation (NYSE: SNE). Jackson is himself a busy producer between Lord of the Rings entries, helping out Steven Spielberg with The Adventures of Tintin, and other projects. Interestingly, his attempted collaborations with del Toro, who at one point was going to direct The Hobbit, have come to naught.
Mr. del Toro's own directing career is intermittent but mostly profitable. Between 1993 and 2008 he made seven films, most of them hits, among them the art house favorites The Devil's Backbone (2001) and Pan's Labyrinth (2006) and the comic book adaptations Blade II (2002), Hellboy (2004), and Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008). His only true box office "bomb" is Mimic (1997) but its silver lining was that he managed to escape the clutches of its producer, Harvey "Scissorhands" Weinstein.
Clearly it pays for investors to chart Mr. del Toro's career. Despite a few duds as producer, such as Splice (2009), which made but $17 million off of a $26 million dollar budget for production company Gaumont and distributor Warner Bros. Pictures, del Toro is a source of creative energy and intelligent choices. Of course, this is said with the proviso that investors rarely can invest directly in his movies or even his production companies, only in the parent companies of his distributors.
And Mr. del Toro is spreading the wealth. Next up is Pacific Rim this year, and Saturn and the End of Days (2014), slated for 2014. Pacific Rim is an alien invasion thriller starring TV's Charlie Hunnam and Ron Perlman of Sons of Anarchy, and made for the private Legendary Pictures, Inc., with the film to be distributed by Warner Bros., a subsidiary of Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX). Saturn and the End of Days is listed as a tale of the apocalypse as viewed by a kid, and is co-produced by Mr. del Toro's pals from Mexican cinema, Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro González Iñárritu for the small production company Cha Cha Cha, which has only one other feature on its books, the modestly budgeted and modestly recouping Mother and Child (2009), with Naomi Watts and Eileen Ryan, and directed by Rodrigo García of the art house favorite and Oscar nominated Albert Nobbs.
Mama is a horror tale about imperiled children, in which Ms. Chastain stars as a childless Goth girl who takes in the feral nieces of her boyfriend, little suspecting that they have a demon guardian. Mama's No. 1 ranking and winning of the weekend came as a surprise to the B O pundits and its $12, 145 average per screen out of 2,647 theaters is fairly strong – at least half again if not two thirds again over its competitors. It beat out Silver Linings Playbook from The Weinstein Company, finally going wide this week, and the city corruption tale Broken City from Fox ($9,549,459, with a $3,645 per screen average out of 2,620. In second place, though, was another Jessica Chastain picture, the controversial Zero Dark Thirty, totaling $60,045,138 dollar worldwide after five weeks of release, and dropping only 23% from the previous week. Chastain and / or del Toro – good box office figures.
Fool blogger D. K. Holm does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this entry.