Disney Holds Strong in Theaters While Netflix Scores Golden Globe® Nominations
December 9, 2019
In a weekend perilously caught between the Thanksgiving boost and the beginning of Christmas holiday activity, Disney once again asserted their dominance of the collective narrative space with the continued success of Frozen II, which ruled for the third weekend in a row with a take of $34.7 million, bringing its total to a stunning $337.6 million.
Questioning Disney's ownership of modern blockbuster cinema is folly at this point, but the wide embracing of Frozen II at least shows that they can be judicious in how they manage their popular narratives—and that they know the value of preventing oversaturation.
A result much further down the charts does not bode particularly well for those that might seek to challenge Disney's ownership of intellectual property-driven narrative.
The only new entry last weekend was a film based on Playmobil toys. For the benefit of those unaware, these are plastic building sets not entirely unlike slightly scaled-up Lego. Like Lego, Playmobil has been popular in Europe and around the globe for generations. It does also have a presence in America, but not one as pervasive as Lego.
Following the wild success of Warner Bros.' The Lego Movie in 2014, a film based on Playmobil became an immediate hot prospect. Finished some time ago, the film's backers’ financial woes saw its release repeatedly delayed, but Playmobil: The Movie finally made it into 2,337 American theaters over the weekend. And earned a mere $670,000.
For such a wide release, this is one of the lowest opening weekend takes in history, and points to the importance of buoying such product-driven narratives with a captivating story and interesting characters.
Warner Bros. somehow managed to “pull a Disney” with the original Lego movie, but even they have struggled with keeping the follow-up films interesting. The makers of the Playmobil movie weren't able to translate the wide awareness of the subject matter into a compelling narrative. These kinds of films are only going to become more common, so scribes would be wise to look to the Playmobil narrative for lessons on what not to do.
Beyond the box office, the past week saw two high-profile Netflix movies released onto the streaming platform following token theatrical runs: Martin Scorsese's The Irishman and Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story.
Both films are the kind of grown up-targeted dramas that many complain Hollywood isn't interested in making anymore. It's telling that it took Netflix to back them. Both films are destined to figure prominently in the upcoming awards season, also a key and telling part of why Netflix is backing them.
While there are takeaways here in terms of where certain types of movies can get made, both films also offer up lessons in how audiences consume modern narrative.
Over the weekend, there was furious online debate about Marriage Story and which characters' side the movie is on. It's the kind of open online discussion that more often accompanies TV shows than movies, which speaks to how the streaming wars are changing how audiences process collective narratives.
Netflix's increased role in the movie narrative space was also reflected by the Golden Globe® nominations announced this morning. Both The Irishman and Marriage Story were nominated for Best Picture – Drama, while another Netflix movie, Dolemite Is My Name, was nominated for Best Picture – Musical or Comedy.
Two major critics groups, a key factor in Oscar® momentum, also named their best movies over the past week: The Irishman took the top spot from the New York Film Critics Circle, while the LA Film Critics Association named Parasite the best film and Bong Joon-Ho as best director.
The latter result bodes well for Parasite's outside chance of figuring prominently at the Academy Awards® beyond the International Film category, and is reflective of the wide love for the South Korean film. A love, perhaps, born out of the dearth of such narratively nuanced dramas being in the English language.
Written by: Dominic CorryDominic Corry is a Los Angeles-based film critic, writer, journalist and broadcaster. Raised in New Zealand, he is also the West Coast editor of Letterboxd, the social network for movie lovers. For more of his film writing, see his website www.TheGoodInMovies.com