The Quorum

VALERIAN and MOONFALL show how difficult it is for an independently financed tentpole to succeed.

You hate to see a nine-figure movie barely crack eight figures in its opening frame. Sadly, that’s what happened to Roland Emmerich’s MOONFALL this weekend. With a reported $150M budget, the film only made $10M at the box office.

Movies like MOONFALL are big swings. They exist on a grand scale, knowing that the greater the budget, the bigger the downside risk, making it especially painful when they whiff at the box office. 

Unfortunately, the cards were stacked against the film. MOONFALL, which was financed outside the studios, was reminiscent of Luc Besson’s 2017 independently bankrolled bomb VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS. Both show how difficult it is for a big-budget movie to grow a scalable audience when the IP isn’t nurtured inside a studio. 

When we look at the data, there were signs of trouble all along the way. As we pointed out in November, there were red flags early on, especially on the awareness side. As we’ve said before, awareness is a gateway metric. You can’t be interested in a film you don’t know about. 

As you can see above, awareness was always low. Back in August, only 15% of people knew about the film. That’s fine as long as the numbers rise once the campaign kicks in. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

The trailers (gray bars) led to minimal gains in awareness. The first trailer resulted in only a 2-point jump. The second spot did somewhat better, adding four points, but the third trailer didn’t move the needle at all. It resulted in a 2-point drop in awareness. 

With a $150M budget, you’d certainly like to see much bigger gains from the trailers. 

For the sake of comparison, here’s how MOONFALL stacks up against F9, NO TIME TO DIE, and SNAKE EYES, three recent big-budget films that don’t come from the DC or Marvel worlds. Yes, I understand that unlike MOONFALL, these comps come from pre-existing IP, but unfortunately, there are few other pandemic-era tentpoles to choose from.

The chart below shows awareness over time for each film shifted by distance from release. F9 opened to $70M with an awareness of 60% at opening. NO TIME TO DIE debuted to $55M with 50% awareness, while SNAKE EYES took in $13M with 34% awareness. As you can see, the numbers for MOONFALL were nearly identical to SNAKE EYES. 

It’s a similar story on the interest side. F9 and NO TIME TO DIE had the highest interest scores with 6.4 and 5.8, respectively. As for MOONFALL, truth be told, the numbers weren’t bad. At one point, the film came close to breaking the 6.0 barrier (pink dot) before slipping back down to 5.5. 

And, in the end, that was the biggest problem for the film. As awareness climbed in the home stretch, interest fell. In other words, more people began to learn about the film, but the newly exposed didn’t really want to see it. Increased awareness married with decreasing interest is awfully hard to recover from.

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