PENNIES FROM KEVIN - Coming to a Theme Park Near You?

The Chronicles of Riddick has opened, but was it good enough for a future in a Universal park? How about Around the World in 80 Days, which Disney premieres on Wednesday?

Written by Kevin Baxter
Published: June 14, 2004 at 12:40 AM


If there is one thing Universal Studios - the film studio - does best, it is creating the tentpole film. For every Van Helsing or Hulk there are two or more films, like The Fast and the Furious, The Bourne Identity, American Pie or The Mummy that do well enough to spawn sequels. And we know that movies with sequels have a better chance of becoming theme park attractions than the stand-alones do.

So what about Universal's most recent tentpole, The Chronicles of Riddick? While many people may not remember, the Vin Diesel film is actually a followup to the mostly entertaining Pitch Black, which means the Riddick character is now part of a series, which gives it a much higher profile.

But how did it do this weekend? Actually not too bad, with an opening of about $25M. Less than Prisoner of Azkaban naturally, but still impressive in a crowded summer weekend. And it only needs another $15M to beat its predecessor. Still, the reviews are mixed-to-poor and the film's budget was over $100M. A film budgeted at three times the original's box office take? Insane!

And that could hurt Universal's plans for three Riddick films. For the film would have to get great word of mouth to make back its budget, which isn't likely to happen. If the film loses money, a sequel isn't likely to happen. If there are no more sequels, a theme park attraction isn't likely to happen. Which is unfortunate, since the look of the film could make for an incredible theme.

Still, all is not lost for anyone jonesing for a sci-fi attraction. Universal has released an anime film titled The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury, which could help raise interest in the series. There is also the possibility that Universal may continue the series depending on how next year's Diesel-fueled Fast and Furious sequel performs. Hollywood is still intent on turning Diesel into an action star, which may be even harder now that the more charismatic Rock is making a bid. Diesel has proven he can act in character-driven films, but throw a lot of special effects in and he turns into a sullen, overacting machine. (Watch the extras on xXx and you have to wonder why the man's so averse to displaying any of his charm on film.)

So, if Furious 3 does well, expect a new, cheaper Riddick film a year or two after that. Otherwise, no film, no ride.


Meanwhile, Disney is readying the next film that is supposed to take it out of the box office hole this year has been. A month ago I held out absolutely no hope for Around the World in 80 Days, but more recent commercials are much better than the early stuff. Wisely, Disney is focusing a little more on the comedy and adventure and less on Jackie Chan kicking stuff. Plus, the family-friendly aspects are being emphasized now, especially in the newer voiceovers which proudly proclaim it to be "Disney's" Around the World in 80 Days. This branding can only help, as Dodgeball and The Terminal may hog up the older crowd this weekend.

If the film does well - which is anything but certain at this point, especially with Disney behind it - could it be the attraction of the future? If the film follows Jules Verne's original plot more than it reverts to the chop-socky stuff, then there are a good 80 ideas to choose from. A standard Jackie Chan film doesn't lend to much beyond a Lord of the Violent Dance stage show.

But the film would probably have to do REALLY WELL to even get to the Blue Sky department at WDI. The budget is listed at $110M, and Disney has a habit of underestimating budgets to the press. So the film would have to do far better than mediocre tentpoles like Van Helsing ($117M so far) or Troy ($125M) and probably even better than the where-did-that-come-from Day after Tomorrow ($153M and still hanging in there). $200M would be the minimum, and I don't see 80 getting anywhere near that.

So those waiting for possible Universal attractions will probably have to wait for The Bourne Supremacy, while Disneyphiles will have to wait all the way until November for Pixar's The Incredibles, as King Arthur may be a little dark for a future in a Disney park and The Village has no chance, even if it hits Sixth Sense levels at the box office.

My two cents... Gimme yours!

Readers' Opinions

From Robert Niles on June 14, 2004 at 9:51 AM
If anyone's read between the lines of Kevin Smith's blog, he or she will have an idea why Vin Diesel's been so averse to appearing, shall we say, colorful on-screen. After reading Smith, one wonders if Diesel has decided that his bankroll's better off if Middle America sees him as smoldering rather than, well... um, flaming.

Riddick's $24.6, barely edging Shrek 2's $24 -- in its fourth week -- all but ensures that the film will not make back its $100 million-plus budget in domestic release. And a foreign/DVD success does not deliver enough pop culture heft to carry a U.S. theme park attraction.

From Robert OGrosky on June 14, 2004 at 11:20 AM
Thr new riddick film was expected to garner close to 30 million so it didnt meet expectations at all from several sites and with all the new movies coming it will be a dud. The movie wasnt bad but nothing great.
As for the Movie "Troy" its US box office isnt great but it is doing great overseas where it has already made 293 million and climbing.
Rather than disney using around the world in 80 days. they should look to m.night shamalyan's movies for theme park attractions or get him to devise something for there parks. He is a vedry talented per son who disney sahould take advantage of in there parks!!!
From kathy sussman on June 14, 2004 at 11:36 AM
Around the world in 80 days would be a great ride for disney even if it doesn't have great sucess in the box office. it should be in the world showcase at epcot.
From Matt E on June 14, 2004 at 12:27 PM
Riddick underperformed vs what it cost to make and early expectations from analysts. 24.6 million isn't bad, but its not that good either for a summer film that cost over 100 million to make. I don't see this ever becoming an attraction.

I don't know about Around the world in 80 days for Disney. Personally, I have no interest whatsoever to see the film, unless it garners sensational reviews and I have nothing else to do this weekend. Likewise, I don't see it doing enormously well. Although, it is something new for the family market, which might be ready for something as the newest film for that audience, Harry Potter, already seems to be running out of steam more quickly than expected (although Shrek 2 continues to charge forward with no signs of giving up), so who knows how it will do. I don't expect very well though. However, I think the very premise of a ride based around it would be very cool. I just don't see it happening.

If anything, I would expect some type of Fast and the Furious attraction for Universal before any other movie-based ride and if Disney really does have or are even negotiating for the rights to Harry Potter that some claim, I would expect that be greenlite before any other movie-based ride for them.

From Robert Niles on June 14, 2004 at 12:56 PM
Potter's real value as a theme park attraction lies with the books, which will be discovered again by subsequent generations, than with the movies. But if J.K. won't deal, theme park companies will have to continue to drool.

Universal might own F&F, but one need not use that theme to create a very popular street racing -- or auto racing -- attraction. Seems to me like that'd be a heckuva theme for that Robocoaster IOA considered a few months back.

From J. Dana on June 14, 2004 at 1:31 PM
Riddick: Dead in the water.
Potter: Sinking fast.
Around the World in 80 Days: so so...I'm a usual sucker for these summer tentpole flicks, but for some reason I'm not making any appointments to see this film. It looks humorous, but definitely not a must-see. I forsee Disney using some of its props on the backstage tour at Disney-MGM...that's about it.

And (my prediction), Disney-Pixar's "The Incredibles" will underperform, and NOT garner any type of theme park attraction. Of course, I though Finding Nemo would underperform, too--what do I know.

Possible movies-to-theme parks coming up: Peter Jackson's "King Kong"? Maybe, but since it's a one-movie deal (and not a franchise, unless he decides to re-write his favorite movie), it probably won't be drawn out into an attraction...of course, if it does in the realm of $300 million (as most believe it will), then maybe it will find itself rampaging into the Universal parks.

Disney's Chronicles of Narnia, if done right, will likely be morphed into theme park attractions, but more on the soft, cuddly side I'm afraid...perhaps a dark show ride.

From Robert Niles on June 14, 2004 at 3:04 PM
Given that USF just replaced its Kong attraction, I don't suspect we'll see a new attraction featuring the big ape in a Universal park anytime soon.
From J. Dana on June 14, 2004 at 10:52 PM
Yeah, Robert, I thought about that...Kong has left the building, so to speak...but for all it's nostalgia, it was really quite boring. I don't think they'd bring back the big ape, but you never know. It will be one HECKUVA giant movie, that's for sure. It's almost a guaranteed hit.
From Robert Niles on June 14, 2004 at 11:01 PM
Now, let's say you were in a tall building, and Kong threw you to the ground. You'd need a ride car... how about an elevator? That's it, you're in a tall tower and Kong throws your elevator to the ground...

Oh, wait. ;-)

From Kevin Baxter on June 15, 2004 at 1:01 AM
Well, the proposed German Universal park was supposed to have a huge King Kong as a support for a roller coaster. That would be totally cool. Also, remember that USF is rumored to be focusing on a flume ride for the land between MIB and BttF, which could easily involve a Monster Island theme. The King is not dead!

But let's not focus on all that now, since I will definitely cover these tentpole films when they come out. I'll be covering Harry Potter and a couple other non-Universal/Disney licenses in an upcoming Pennies, but I have to say how shocked I am at Azkaban's second week. I thought this might be the third-biggest film of the summer, behind Shrek 2 and Spider-Man 2, but at this speedy descent it will be lucky to stay in the Top Five. That is shocking for the best film in the series so far.

Even more shocking, in four weeks Shrek 2 has surpassed Finding Nemo which was, if you all recall, the second-biggest film of last year. Nemo was only at $240M at this point last year, and the ogre's already got more than $350M. $25M more and it beats Return of the King, last year's Number One. Shrek 2 made $23.3 just over the past weekend! I knew it would be big, but I figured it would be Number Two behind Spidey, so I am shocked beyond belief.

But back to the films at hand. I not only agree with Matt and J that 80 Days just doesn't interest me. And I haven't found anyone who actually is interested in it. That isn't a good sign. I think, once again, Disney marketed it poorly. If the current campaign had been the original campaign, I might think otherwise, but the teaser trailers and the first long trailers all screamed "We're desperate, people!" Unfortunately, Kathy's idea of an Epcot attraction is a great one, at least based on the source material. But I just don't see it.

I think the problem with Riddick lies with David Twohy, the writer/director. He has done a good job with scarier films, like The Arrival and Pitch Black, but hasn't done well with more sci-fi stuff, like Waterworld, which he wrote. Instead of this over-the-top space opera, he should have kept somewhat in the vein of Pitch Black - you know, like the successful Alien series - this might have had more to sell it than special effects. Plus, Robert, I have heard the stuff you talk about all over the place, and there is probably validity to it, but how exactly would an occasional smile make people start asking questions? Hollywood is so lame. If he is worried about not seeming like king of the ladies, then he should just get in line to marry J-Lo. She should be available in a few months.

And back OFF the subject... I agree with you, J, that The Incredibles probably won't do too great. It seems too action-oriented, which I don't think people really want to see from CGI. They want lovable characters and laughs. If both DreamWorks animated films beat Pixar's effort this year, the stuff between Pixar and Disney could get really interesting.

From Bryan Fear on June 17, 2004 at 4:57 PM
Maybe I'm a cynic ( no maybes about it ) but I'm getting just a bit tired of watching movies come out that are blatantly obvious in how the engineered it to be automatically endearing. ...and it failed.

You know why all these "instant classics" are failing? Because we've had it shoved down our throats for too long. For decades we've been told every movie was a "rollercoaster thrill ride" and every Disney cartoon was "an instant classic."

We're just burnt out on the hype and bull$#it. With so many possibilites, does anyone even care anymore? They're going to make an attraction of one uninspiring thing after another and I personally am very surprised when an attraction is made from something like Jurassic park, Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Now THOSE made sense!

From alex morehouse on July 2, 2004 at 3:48 PM
If Disney was going to put a Harry Potter attraction, I would suggest an indoor roller coaster like "Revenge Of The Mummy-The Ride." In other words, it could be a psychological thrill ride that plays with your fears. These fears include fear of magic, fear of evil spirits, fear of death.

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