Family flicks firing up summer box office

Tue Jul 13, 2010 1:31am EDT
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By Carl DiOrio

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Films aimed at parents of youngsters have been so hot this summer that even executives marketing R-rated horror movies must be tempted to work a couple of bars of "We Are Family" into promo spots.

Family films have well outpaced prerelease projections repeatedly since May, and Disney hopes to extend that streak when "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" hits multiplexes Wednesday. Consensus forecasts show the Nicolas Cage family fantasy ringing up more than $30 million during its five-day bow.

Meanwhile, there still is that puzzling matter of why family-film openings are so tough to predict. "The simplest answer is that the tracking doesn't include the young kids themselves," Disney distribution president Chuck Viane said.

Prerelease tracking surveys focus on picture awareness and must-see interest. So asking parents about a kids-targeted release does seem a bit off base.

"The nag factor is what drives those kind of movies," a studio executive mused, a bit indelicately. "The parents might be less inclined than the kids to see a picture, but then the kids pester the parents, and the rest is history."

Studios subscribing to the various movie-tracking services see data on one another's movies, but only companies set to release a kids picture order tracking surveys tailored to that group. Even there, the kids' movie interests tend to be expressed by their parents.

In the end, family moviegoers' impulsive charge on the multiplexes might not show up in tracking polls, but they sure show up in the weekend box office. Such family stampedes also can generate interest among other groups of moviegoers.

"There can be a disconnect in tracking sometimes about how far a picture will reach across all audiences," said Sony distribution president Rory Bruer, whose remake of "The Karate Kid" bowed last month with a much-better-than expected $55.7 million. "There's no doubt that word-of-mouth is important in that aspect."   Continued...