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Many fans of the hit television series seemed to be a no-show as Glee: The 3D Movie opened this weekend at the domestic box office, grossing a soft $5.7 million and coming in No. 11.
The pic’s poor performance isn’t a financial drain, since it cost a modest $9 million to make, but is nevertheless a blow for Glee showrunner Ryan Murphy and 20th Century Fox Television’s Dana Walden and Gary Newman, who were hoping to partake in at least some of the same success that Justin Bieber: Never Say Never and Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: The Best of the Both Worlds Concert Tour enjoyed in their box office runs.
Fox’s television and film studios partnered on Glee the Movie, which was announced in May, meaning a short window to plug the bigscreen project.
Box office observers say Glee the Movie might have suffered from a bigger problem: Fans of the television show may not want to pay for something they can see for free at home.
Glee the Movie—playing only in 3D theaters—follows the North American Glee Live! In Concert! summer tour, and features Glee cast members Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Dianna Agron, Chris Colfer and Kevin McHale, among others. The movie, directed by Kevin Tancharoen (Fame), also highlights three fans impacted by the television series.
On Sunday, Fox Television declined to comment on reports that it wasn’t happy with the film studio’s marketing campaign for the film.
When announcing Glee the Movie, Murphy said it would allow every fan who wanted to attend the concert, but couldn’t, an opportunity to participate in the experience.
“We promise every passionate ‘Gleek’ a cinematic experience that will have them singing and dancing in the aisle,” Murphy said at the time.
For those who did turn out, Glee the Movie indeed delivered, with the audience giving the concert film an A CinemaScore (those under the age of 25 gave it an A+). The pic played heavily to younger girls, with females making up 82% of the audience, while 66% were under 25.
Because the movie skewed young, Fox was hopeful that traffic would pick up on Saturday–but the opposite happened, with the pic falling 37% from Friday to Saturday and tumbling out of the top ten. On Friday, it grossed $2.7 million to come in No. 6; on Saturday, it grossed $1.7 million.
One rival studio executive said while the opening was low, Glee the Movie could make up ground in DVD sales.
It wasn’t until Disney’s Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour came along in 2008 that a concert documentary took off in terms of big box office returns. The 3D pic opened to $31.1 million and grossed $65.3 million domestically.
Paramount’s Justin Bieber: Never Say Never—both a biopic and concert film—opened to $29.5 million earlier this year on its way to earning $73 million at the domestic box office.
According to box office observers, Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus are musical artists in their own right, helping to explain their box office draw, while Glee is a musical act.
Traditional concert films have usually done more modest business, including Martin Scorsese’s 2008 Rolling Stones documentary Shine A Light, which cumed $5.5 million at the domestic box office, or the 1988 U2: Rattle and Hum, which cumed $8.6 million.
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