The Call of the Wild, starring Harrison Ford and a very expressive CGI dog, opened last Friday and (maybe surprisingly) found itself in a box office battle for number one against another family film, Sonic the Hedgehog. While Sonic, which opened about a week and a half earlier, did take the top spot at the box office, The Call of the Wild didn't do so bad, and it finished the weekend in the second spot with over $24.8 million in receipts, domestically. The problem, though, might be what TCOTW cost, meaning that it'll probably have to go a long way in theaters to make its money back.
By now, hearing that a relatively successful opening weekend only brought in a little under $25 million feels like a shock to the system. We are used to mega-blockbusters that cost many millions upon millions to make and then blow us away with how much money they take in on opening weekend. But, as you can probably tell, The Call of the Wild was not planned as a mega-blockbuster event film on the level of an Avengers: Endgame. This is a nice, sweet family film that just wants to entertain and make as much of a profit as possible. So, why, according to Box Office Mojo, did it cost a whopping $135 million?
That's a lot of money to make a movie that could have, theoretically, had very little in the way of special effects. And, when the film doesn't even make half of its money back in the opening weekend, what are the chances of it being able to make an actual profit by the time it wraps its run in theaters?
Obviously, a large portion of the cost behind The Call of the Wild is the CGI work on all the animals and performance capture work by actor Terry Notary, who was on set to perform the blocking and emotion of the lead character, Buck, who's a very good boy. While many have praised the use of all CGI animals, especially in a film where real animals would have had to deal with some dangerous circumstances and harsh weather conditions, the film has also largely been criticized for that very decision. Meaning, of course, that the aspect of the movie that led to it costing so much could actually keep people from heading to theaters to check it out.
And, how many people were excited to see The Call of The Wild in theaters, anyway? This is an odd time of year for the movie business. Certainly we can get some surprise hits in February, and have, but a man-and-his-dog movie that's already been adapted several times tends not to be high on the list of things that people will suddenly rush out into the cold, dark night (or morning...or afternoon) for, just to see it in a theater.
Also, seeing as how this is a family film which would be most attractive to kiddos, maybe they'll ask to see it on the weekend. But, it's not like there's a school break going on for most kids right now that would lead parents / babysitters to take them to see TCOTW multiple times during the week (adults taking care of kids need lots of breaks, too) to really pump up the box office totals. And, while this film is very adventure-focused, it does seem that if kids were going to want to see anything more than once in theaters right now, it would more likely be the funny, cheerful, fast-paced Sonic.
The Call of the Wild has a long way to go, but it's not like it's on pace to fall off the face of the Earth any time soon, so it could still surprise us all and make that mid-level budget back. This weekend will be a great indicator of just how much staying power the movie will have, so stay tuned to CinemaBlend for the latest on box office news. In the meantime, be sure to check out our 2020 film release schedule to see what else will be coming to theaters soon!