The Margin: The problem with ‘Pan’: There are too many Peters flying around
The latest adaptation of the beloved Peter Pan fairy tale was not a very good film, according to the horde of critics and moviegoers. The film took fire for its casting, faced tough box-office competition and earned just $ 15.5 million in its opening weekend, on a $ 150 million production budget.
There’s perhaps an overlooked problem though: The Peter Pan lore has been sprinkled with fairy dust far too many times.
Check out: ‘Pan’ gets the hook: 4 problems as film bombs at box office
In 1924, Paramount Pictures, now a subsidiary of Viacom Inc. VIAB, +1.30% released the first film adaptation of Scottish novelist J.M Barrie’s play “Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up.”
Since then, Peter Pan and his fairy tale have been made into, or otherwise included in about six dozen other books, comics, plays, musicals, films, TV shows and specials, videogames et. al.
“The property is not as popular anymore as people think it is,” Box Office analyst Phil Contrino said. “Hopefully Hollywood will learn that just because there’s an old property that’s worked before doesn’t mean people will come out and see it. [Hollywood] might.”
Viewers have been inundated with Peter Pan’s story. Below is just a sample of Pan-related films and their audience reception based on opening-weekend revenue compared with overall production budgets.
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After earning about 19% of the production budget during its opening week, “Hook” went on to pull in $ 119.7 million at domestic box offices for Sony Pictures Entertainment SNE, -0.41% and garnered five Oscar nominations, according to Box Office Mojo. The Steven Spielberg-directed film, starring the late Robin Williams alongside Julia Roberts and Dustin Hoffman, was the first live-action Peter Pan-based film of the modern era. The 2003 adaptation “Peter Pan” from Universal Studios, now owned by Comcast Corp.’s CMCSA, +0.36% NBCUniversal, didn’t fair so well, earning just $ 48.5 million during its theatrical run in North America.
‘It’s tough to rebound from an opening weekend that bad.’
Johnny Depp garnered an Oscar nod for his J.M. Barrie portrayal in “Finding Neverland.” The film was distributed from Miramax, which was owned by the Walt Disney Co. at the time, and went on to win an Oscar for original score. “Finding Neverland” had a spread out release schedule, but grossed $ 51.7 million by the end of its run.
Contrino said he’s not very optimistic that Warner Bros.’ TWX, -0.11% “Pan” will have a successful run.
“It’s got China coming up, and maybe that helps it, but it’s tough to rebound from an opening weekend that bad. You still need a solid North American turn out to be successful,” he said.
Despite how moviegoers feel about Peter Pan, it continues to make its way into today’s entertainment. Last year NBC aired a live, musical special “Peter Pan Live!,” starring Allison Williams in the title role and Christopher Walken as Captain Hook. the show didn’t have the same success as NBC’s “Sound of Music Live” venture, walking away with a 2.4 Nielsen rating and 9.21 million total viewers. Variety wrote, “For those who are less cynical—or at least, more willing to believe in fairies—‘Peter Pan Live!’ didn’t provide much reason to applaud.”
“Finding Neverland,” starring Matthew Morrison and Kelsey Grammer, is on Broadway. The Wall Street Journal’s Terry Teachout described the stage version of the 2004 film as innocuous, but the show has done well during its Broadway run so far. Since opening in March, the show has enjoyed 23 weeks with more than $ 1 million in revenue, according to data made available by The Broadway League.
Peter Pan’s well-worn tale may have suffered a setback with “Pan,” but Contrino said he doesn’t think Hollywood will likely give up on it. The reason why may be best answered by tennis star Roger Federer.