It has been three months since Universal’s “Minions: The Rise of Gru” became the most successful family film at the box office since theaters reopened. “Lyle Lyle Crocodile” won’t reach such lofty heights, but Sony/Columbia hopes that a lack of kid-friendly fare since midsummer will help turn it into a hit.
Currently, projections have “Lyle Lyle Crocodile” earning $11-$14 million at the box office this weekend, which would be only slightly above the $10 million opening that “Peter Rabbit 2” earned in March 2021, during the earliest stages of the reopening process. “Lyle” has a reported production budget of $50 million, similar to fellow Sony release “The Woman King.” Like that historical epic, Sony has a co-financier for “Lyle,” with TSG Entertainment splitting the production costs.
The ideal path for “Lyle Lyle Crocodile” is the one taken by the first “Peter Rabbit,” which also had a $50 million budget and opened to $25 million in February 2018 and legged out to $115 million domestic and $350 million worldwide. Rival distributors tell TheWrap that they don’t see “Lyle” overperforming to that degree, but believe an opening in the mid-to-high teens is possible.
Sony is placing “Lyle” at a time where there’s no major competition for families before or after its release. The next major family movie coming out is the Disney animated film “Strange World,” and that isn’t until Thanksgiving weekend. Meanwhile, the last family film that was released was Warner Bros.’ “DC League of Super-Pets,” a film that opened to $23 million in late July and just inched past the break-even point with $191 million grossed worldwide against a $90 million budget.
“Lyle Lyle Crocodile,” based on Bernard Waber’s classic children’s book, is relying on voice star Shawn Mendes to draw in audiences outside of parents and kids under 10. Mendes provides the voice of Lyle, a singing croc living in the attic of a New York home who befriends its new inhabitants.
In the long term, families may be the only reliable audience that “Lyle” gets. Between the second weekend of “Smile,” which could steal a second No. 1 finish from “Lyle,” and the release of “Halloween Ends” and “Black Adam” over the next two weeks, there will be other high-profile offerings for general audiences. It will all likely come down to whether enough families are interested enough in moviegoing at this time to take a chance on a lesser-known title.
Also opening this weekend is 20th Century/New Regency’s “Amsterdam,” a star-studded film from director David O. Russell that is facing a very bleak outlook with its $80 million budget. Tracking for the film’s opening has sagged from $17-$19 million to $12-$15 million after critics largely gave it a thumbs down — with a 34% Rotten Tomatoes score at time of writing. Given the underperformance of many wide-release mature films over the past year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the film fall below even that figure.
While New Regency is footing the production budget, Disney and 20th Century have mounted a pricey marketing campaign, staging premieres in New York and London in lieu of festival launches in Venice or Toronto. Ads have also been run during NFL and college football games, particularly on the Disney-owned ESPN, touting the film’s loaded ensemble cast that includes Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, Taylor Swift, Chris Rock, John David Washington, Anya Taylor-Joy and Robert De Niro.
This fall season is a crucial one to determine the viability of original films intended for older audiences after films like “Cry Macho,” “West Side Story,” and “The Last Duel” all tanked last year. While other October awards hopefuls like Searchlight’s “The Banshees of Inisherin” and Focus’ “Tár” will get a limited release, “Amsterdam” is the first non-genre offering to try its luck with a nationwide wide release in an early autumn slot that pre-pandemic films like “A Star Is Born,” “The Martian” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” were able to mine to great box office success.
But with such poor pre-release buzz, “Amsterdam” faces a steep uphill climb to turn any sort of theatrical profit. When it comes to other adult-skewing titles, Universal will go wide with the George Clooney/Julia Roberts rom-com “Ticket to Paradise” on Oct. 21, with Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans” and Maria Schrader’s “She Said” following from the studio in November. Paramount will go wide with Damien Chazelle’s “Babylon” in January.