Box Office Tracking: 'Pan' in Serious Need of Pixie Dust

Pan Still 3 - H 2015
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Pan Still 3 - H 2015

The $150 million Peter Pan origins movie opens Oct. 9 in North American theaters.

Joe Wright's family tentpole Pan is in serious need of some magical pixie dust, according to pre-release tracking.

The Peter Pan origins story may have trouble clearing $30 million in its North American debut over the Oct. 9-11 weekend, a worrisome start for Warner Bros. considering the movie's hefty production budget and marketing spend. Two of the major tracking services have Pan debuting at $21 million to $22 million, while a third has it opening between $26 million and $31 million, according to those with access to the surveys.

Pan — which has secured a China release date of Oct. 22 — could make up ground overseas, where it launched last weekend in Australia to a solid, but not spectacular, $2.1 million. It opens in half of the international marketplace over the Oct. 9-11 weekend, timed to school holidays, including in Germany, Russia, Korea, Brazil, Mexico and Spain. Among other major markets, Pan opens in the U.K. Oct. 16, followed by France on Oct. 21 and Japan on Oct. 31.

Warners has a week to go in the U.S. in terms of its final marketing blitz, so it could move the needle. Also, the film should benefit from the Columbus Day holiday Oct. 12, when half of schools are out.

Hoping to rival industry leader Disney in the live-action fairy tale space, Warner Bros. spent at least $150 million to make Wright's movie, starring Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard and Garrett Hedlund as a young James Hook. Newcomer Levi Miller stars in the titular role, while Amanda Seyfried plays Mary and Rooney Mara, Tiger Lily. Pan is the first studio tentpole directed by Wright, known for Atonement, Hanna and Pride & Prejudice (2005).

So far, Pan has received mostly poor reviews, despite additional special effects work done after the movie was pushed at the 11th hour from June 26 to Oct. 9, where it goes up against Robert Zemeckis' The Walk. Both films are rated PG, although Pan is far more of a natural family play.

In terms of other big-budget live action fairy tales, Disney's Cinderella opened to $67.9 million domestically in March of this year, while the studio's Maleficent debuted to $69.4 million domestically in 2014. Universal's Snow White and the Hunstman nabbed a $56.2 million start in 2012.

Live-action family titles can certainly make business in the fall, but it's all about the economics. Dolphin Tale, released in late September 2011 and costing a modest $37 million to produce, debuted to $19.2 million on its way to earning $72.3 million domestically and $95.4 million worldwide. Last year, Disney's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, with a budget of $28 million, debuted to $18.4 million on its way to grossing $67 million domestically and $100.7 million globally.

Pan would need to do far more business on a global basis.

Hollywood has long been obsessed with the eternal boy created by Scottish novelist and playwright J.M. Barrie to mixed results, at least in live-action form. In 2003, P.J. Hogan's Peter Pan flopped. Steven Spielberg's Hook fared notably better in 1991, grossing north of $300 million worldwide.