Monday, January 24, 2011


Game over, man...

Or not...

A lot of news/rumors about Walt Disney Pictures' "Tron Legacy" have circulated over the past few days...

Just wanted to chime in on it with a combination of opinion and knowledge from Blue Sky's unique perspective. I know Harry from Ain't It Cool News has been quite vocal in his support of the film as well as his reporting on the green lighting of TR3N/inclusion of a trailer for it on the upcoming DVD/Blu-Ray release. While I don't have his contacts, my own Bothans haven't given me any news about that, but I do have my own musings.

There was an initial belief that for the film to be a worthy success that it would have to gross $200 mil domestic/$200 mil international, but at the certain studios that logic could fly out the window. The film is on track to top out around $175 million domestic and around $190 million more internationally. That puts the film on track to come in somewhere around $365/$375 million total. Not chump change, but not a picture that turned in "Avatar" numbers of course. Still, it will come pretty close to the that $400 million mark that studios tend to use as a guide for judging if a film could/should have a sequel.

But as in the case of a film like "Cars," box office isn't the only factor in such a matter. That little film grossed only $461 million during its run in theaters. While not a small amount, it was far less than other Pixar films had or have made during their runs. Still, we look forward to a sequel to that film to come out this summer. That's what happens when a film has merchandising levels of 2 billion dollars a year. And that's why with all the marketing power of Disney behind it and five years of building that brand with new, young males it has the potential to do far more at the box office than the original film.

Tron merchandise hasn't quite reached that level, but it is selling remarkably well. Enough so that they have had trouble keeping stock of specific items in the theme parks. The Disney rave known as "ElecTRONica" has been an unprecedented success that has been extended till April. And as a brand factory, the Mouse is looking for properties that it can take and exploit. Tron could be one of those properties. While a movie like "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" has made a slightly similar box office take ($335 million), it hasn't produced nearly the benefit of expanding beyond people actually going to see it in a theater. Translation: Not enough shirts, toys and games were sold to justify any sequel.

And for those that think studios won't make a sequel to this because of the box office, remember a little film called "G.I. Joe" that came out in 2009? It had a worldwide gross of $302 million dollars. And if anyone has been paying attention, Paramount is moving ahead with a sequel, albeit without original director Stephen Sommers. And for those that think it cost less than Legacy; it cost more (Joe: $175 mil/TL: $170). The Studio suits saw the potential for merchandising and it was justified to make another one. I'm sure Disney Suits are taking note of all the people that have seen this film 2,3, and some up 7 or 8 times in a theater. That kind of brand loyalty is very difficult to find.

So a sequel to the sequel to the original isn't dead and doomsayers and haters should caution their tantrums and insults. Tron Fans should also take a note of caution as well, there is no green light yet. Those plans for a trailer of TR3N could turn out to be just extra scenes for the Blu-Ray/DVD or maybe even just a teaser for "Tron Uprising."

But either way, the last line of code has yet to be written on the Grid...


Anonymous said...

Who the hell has been stupid enough to see this film 8 times!? You're full of it Honor. Quit padding the numbers to make it look like anyone cares about this film to see it anywhere near that number of times. Pathetic.

Tron Unit said...

I have seen it 8 times in Imax 3D. Call me stupid because I stupidly enjoyed this film, flaws and all.

And the rumors of the Tron 3 teaser on the blu-ray-DVD are not entirely accurate. It's just exclusive content that was produced as part of the viral marketing campaign but some sites/fanboys have greatly exaggerated as an official teaser.

Kevin S. Willis said...

I've seen it 2 times. 2nd time was yesterday. If time and opportunity had allowed, I would have seen it 7 or 8 times. That just wasn't an option, and I know I'll get to watch it 70 or 80 times on Blu-ray in a matter of months. I will watch it, a plenty. Love that film; I really would love to see a sequel with legitimate call-outs of RAM, Yori, Sark and the MCP (which proves Honors point--I love the original movie for what it is, but I also love the brand, and want to see more material out under the brand, and want to see Ram and Yori and even Peter Jurasik show up in some context. Want a plot that pits Tron and Sam Flynn and Dillinger's son against a reconstituted MCP. I want to see the tower guardian, maybe. Some of the big-suited baddies with their power sticks from the original.

I like Legacy. I want to see some David Warner, some Dan Shore, some Cindy Morgan, and here a few Carlos cues in the actual score, and a few of the sound fx from the original (I got goosebumps when Sam walks up to the Tron game in the arcade and those old-school light cycle noises start up).

It's a good brand for the fans. Legacy may grow the brand. Perhaps it would be best not to spend $170 million on production (indeed, one scene Kosinksi said was curtailed because of time and budget issues was a great scene--pulling back the budget would probably make for an even better movie).

Still, love it. Can't wait to get the Blu-Ray. I look forward, with great anticipation, some indication a sequel has actually been greenlighted.

Because that's Tron. He fights for the users.

Anonymous said...

Some perspective is in order here.

The film had high marketing and promotion costs, and actually cost more than the reported $170 million. My own Bothans have heard over $500 million in box office revenue is needed just to break even.

While it's true that the merchandise in the parks has been selling well, that is not the case elsewhere. Even the Disney Stores have begun to discount the toys and apparel that's not selling. It's a very weak line of merchandise overall.

The video game, TRON: Evolution, has sold less than 200,000 copies since its release last December, which is a big disappointment. Disney has since closed its Propaganda Games studio in Vancouver, which developed it. While poor TRON game sales were not the only deciding factor in Propaganda's demise, I'm certain it played a major part.

DCA's elecTRONica is indeed successful. But it's no more popular than Glow Fest was last summer, which elecTRONica replaced. The success of elecTRONica, as with Glow Fest, has more to do with the dance music and alcoholic drinks than the TRON themed wrapper.

It's also been reported that the so-called "trailer footage" mentioned by Harry Knowles was actually filmed before TRON was released in the theaters. Since the script for TR3N is still being written, I doubt those scenes are for a sequel teaser. It could be a teaser for the TV series, as you suggest, or simply bonus footage for the disc.

In any case, I believe Disney would be foolish to think that TRON has enough momentum to grow into a profitable franchise. The fans definitely love it. But their numbers are too small to justify hundreds of millions more to produce and market a sequel.

Darrell said...

Wow, the only movie I saw more than once this year was Inception. And the only other movie I've EVER done that before with was The Dark Knight. And some people have seen Tron:L 7 or 8 times?

"Quit padding the numbers to make it look like anyone cares about this film to see it anywhere near that number of times."

I gotta agree with you there. Only diehard Tron fans like Tron Unit would even consider seeing Legacy more than once.

Honor Hunter said...

"My own Bothans have heard over $500 million in box office revenue is needed just to break even."

Your Bothans would be smoking some very nice stuff then. Care to share some? The film cost $170, but the reported Marketing/P&A cost was between 100 - 120 million depending on which figure is used. That would put the figure slightly under or at the $300 million mark. There is no $200 million ledge that the film has to climb further. Presuming the film hasn't made a great deal of profit is fare, but at the point it is right now claiming it's got to go way further is an entirely different matter. It's not the case. I don't know who told you this, but they're either lying to you or they have no knowledge about what they're talking about.

"he video game, TRON: Evolution, has sold less than 200,000 copies since its release last December, which is a big disappointment."

True. This is the one part of the merchandise that has sold poorly. That happens to be because Propaganda delivered a very substandard game. As I've said before, Iger needs to buy a studio that is capable of handling properties such as these. Like the studios I mentioned, Valve or Naughty Dog.

"DCA's elecTRONica is indeed successful. But it's no more popular than Glow Fest was last summer, which elecTRONica replaced."

Yes ElecTRONica is success, as was Glow Fest, but you are wrong that it's doing no better than the earlier show/rave. It is doing numbers that are bigger than Glow Fest and the Merchandising has only added to that. There is talk about a retheme after April, should the need arise and if the Tron theme fades. The night time party/rave atmosphere is supposed to continue through the summer. By then it may not be Tron themed, but to say it's not anymore popular than Glow Fest is simply not true.

"It's also been reported that the so-called "trailer footage" mentioned by Harry Knowles was actually filmed before TRON was released in the theaters."

On this, I believe you and I are in agreement. This footage is not something that so much was planned for TR3N as it was planned for a DVD extra.

"In any case, I believe Disney would be foolish to think that TRON has enough momentum to grow into a profitable franchise."

That remains to be seen. The film is a success, but not the giant franchise it was hoping for. Then again, neither has "G.I. Joe" been for Paramount and another is planed. I believe the final answer to this will come when the Blu-Ray/DVD sales come in. If the sales are very good, there is a good chance that a sequel will happen. If the sales are ok or disappointing, then the likelihood of a TR3N moves into the category of "Maybe in another 28 years."

Time will tell...

Doopey said...


You realize that the studios have to split ticket admissions with the theaters, right? I don't know how that ratio splits with IMAX and 3D surcharges, but you can typically estimate that the studio only actually gets about half (or maybe 60%) of the total box office of a film. So if "Tron Legacy" cost $300 million when you factor in prints and advertising, then it really needs to make about $600 mil in global box office to break even (or it better sell a whole bunch of blu-rays).

Honor Hunter said...

"You realize that the studios have to split ticket admissions with the theaters, right?"

Yeah Doopey, I took Film Distribution as a class when I was at USC. It was eye opening how that works. So, yes, I realize that the majority of profit being made right now goes to the theaters. As week after week goes by the percentage of the B.O. shifts from the Studios to the theaters. Hence, why food is so expensive there. That's where they make money until a film that has legs moves into its third, fourth and fifth weeks. And beyond.

So yes, I do know what you're talking about... ;)

Doopey said...

Ok, but up above you implied that the film has already broke even. That can't possibly be true. It's made $343 million globally. Let's say for the sake of argument that Disney takes home half of that. That's about $170m, or exactly the reported budget for the film. But that does not cover the P&A, which you estimated at an additional $100-$120 million. So the movie is still clearly in the red. I'm not saying that as a knock against it because I'd love to see more Tron stuff, but I'm just looking at the numbers. The difference between this and GI Joe is that the GI Joe movie was no different than the old cartoon from the 80s -- it was just a big expensive commercial for the toys. It sounds like the merchandising upside for Tron is murky or debatable at best.

Bob said...

Surprised to read G.I. Joe cost more than Tron: Legacy. I thought several of the special effects in G.I. Joe looked cheap. Figured it cost no more than $100 million to make.

But anyway, I think Disney will make another Tron, with a smaller budget and a better screenwriter. It's interesting to imagine how Tron: Legacy would have turned out if David Fincher and Pixar hadn't provided some input.

Rex Lewis said...

Hey Doopey,

How are they making another Joe picture then? It cost more than Tron and it's marketing budget would have been similar, so why would they go ahead with that one then?

Sue Everyone said...

Movie figures of profitability are a slippery slop when Studio accountants are concerned.

About a decade ago, the original producers of Batman sued Warner Bros. because they had been denied profit sharing based on the fact the accountants said that the film hadn't yet made a profit.

And this was after they made three sequels.

So finding that area of profitability depends on whose reality you believe. After all, you're not in the real world, you're in Hollywood.

Anonymous said...

No dimwitted studio executive with even half a brain would ever wager a sequel to Tron to make in excess of $500 million. That's just ignorance and if the suits at Disney were betting the farm thinking Tron was going to be a cash cow like Avatar or even The Dark Knight they should all be fired immediately.

Anonymous said...

Gotta love it when it comes to films. For some reason, whenever someone hates the film, it has to make a billion dollars to begin to break even.

Why is Hollywood still in business?

Anonymous said...

Really hoping for another sequel! Bring it on, Disney!

Burbank Kimby said...

"Really hoping for another sequel! Bring it on, Disney"

Then you'd better buy a couple Blu-Rays. And I'm serious, if you think buying one DVD or Blu-Ray then you're going to wait another 28 years.

Tron Con said...

So that's the gambit the suits are playing now? Hold the fans hostage by coercing them into buying multiple copies of the same movie if they ever want to see a sequel? Please. Tron 3 has already made enough to justify a sequel. It should sell reasonably well on DVD. If you want to show your support by shelling out your hard earned cash for more than 1 copy then you are a fool that has been hoodwinked and taken by the con men at Disney. They are just using scare tactics to make people think that if they don't slavishly buy more merchandising they will never get a sequel.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't Disney greenlight an Epic Mickey movie instead? The Epic Mickey game has sold over 1.6 million copies wordwide so far, 1.3 in America alone.

Sequel This!!! said...

I guess I'm going to have to hold my breath for the sequel. No, I'll just continue with my life like anyone else who hasn't seen it and will probably skip it. Tron was a blah in every sort of way. It is neither a out and out success or a outright failure. Thus, its a disappointment. I think Disney spent too much money marketing it. The message didn't work since it reeks of a hidden dogma. It requires an in-tune fan to figure out. The merchandising isn't there because Disney failed to upgrade the graphics and design of the Tron aesthetic. I felt the neon and frisbees are dull 20 years ago and today. Black and blue doesn't look good as a wall poster. Maybe it does work as a drugged out rave party, that it now symbolizes. Yawn!!!

nojarama said...

I believe in the fans that saw it 7 or 8 times (a few friends of mine did see it more than once or twice- myself: only once, as I am planning on buying the DVD for sure)!) Their logic: the same as multiple viewings of Dark Knight in theaters- you won't be able to experience the IMAX version on your TV (no matter how large your screen is, unless you own an IMAX screen). Here's hoping for TR3N!

Anonymous said...

Lesson to be learned: When you show footage at Comicon and the fanboys go wild, don't assume you have a hit.

They'll like anything you give them. They're just there for the free stuff.

Conni Stusion said...

"Lesson to be learned: When you show footage at Comicon and the fanboys go wild, don't assume you have a hit.

They'll like anything you give them. They're just there for the free stuff."

You have obviously NEVER been to Comic-Con. The fans there can and are incredibly brutal to anyone and anything they don't like. Decorum and courtesy are not what they're known for. If you attended some of the panels at Hall H you'd find many examples of it.

Anonymous said...

I love Tron Legacy lets hope there will be more sequels!

Anonymous said...

To Conni,

Actually I've been to the Con for 4 years straight. And I have been working in animation for the past 20 years. What I actually meant to say is the fan's enthusiasm doesn't always translate into success. So Disney and Warner and the rest should not make decisions based on the feedback at the Con.

Sammy's Got Shades said...

Tron Con said: "So that's the gambit the suits are playing now?"

No, actually that's the reality of business economics. They want to actually feel confidant that they'll get their money back and possibly... wait for it; make a profit.

DVD sales have helped justify sequels and the revival of television series for a long time.

Austin Powers did mediocre at the box office, but the DVD sales made the studio believe it was viable to spend money on a sequel and that film did huge numbers and made way for a third film in the series.

Family Guy was canceled but the DVD sales gave Fox the ability to bring that series back and look at how strong it is on their animation night.

This isn't a studio holding a fan hostage, it's an example of a studio justifying the spending of a huge amount of money. So as others have said before, if you want another film, you'd better make sure this one does great when it goes to Blu-Ray and DVD. Your sequel desires may just depend on it.

jedited said...

I think continuing the Tron franchise makes sense for Disney. It taps a market that is VERY hard for anyone (not just Disney) to reach and that is young boys.
As a father of an 8 year old boy and a Cub Scout leader, I know that all the boys I know that have seen Tron Legacy LOVED it. I think the animated series will do VERY well and the toys seem to be selling well. Did the movie do Avatar business? NO But did Avatar spawn a franchise? Does anyone have any Avatar toys? (in fact the only Avatar toys I'm aware of were free Happy Meal toys) Is there any Avatar series in the works? Are there any Avatar theme park attractions in the works? Plus, if you want to talk about a movie that was VERY thin on plot and HEAVY on effects, Avatar is DEFINITELY that movie!

Rinzler said...

Jedited, Avatar will get 2 sequels that are in development now. Mattel also produced toys for it but they were kind of a flop. Tron had a much better balance of effects and story and seems to be resonating quite well with children. The toys seem to be selling well. Now that Disney has captivated two generations they would be foolish to abandon the franchise they have spawned.

Anonymous said...

Glad it didn't snag an Oscar nom for either Production Design (it was lazy and unimaginative) nor Visual Effects (they were just awful--and unimaginative).

I'm betting if a script doesn't show up that knocks Disney's socks off, there will be no sequel. And let's hope ifthey DO actually greenlight a sequel they hire a competent director.

HypaTRONic said...

Your comments are lazy and unimaginative.

You must have been watching your Blackberry while the movie was going on.

As for Kosinski's direction, it was fine. The script is what needed improvement.