It’s a little early to fret about such things, but: This article in the Hollywood Reporter says that “Tron: Legacy” is tracking to open with as little as $35 million in its first weekend. Since the movie cost $200 million to make (and tens of millions more to market), this would be a bad thing for Disney.
Of course, you should take that with a grain of salt for many reasons. For one thing, it’s not coming out for two and a half weeks. The pre-release media siege (commercials, magazine stories, et cetera) is underway but not at its peak, as it will be in the week leading up to the release. And, of course, this could just be Disney dampening expectations (while an executive from another studio says this thing could still open with $50 million, so they could be trying to raise expectations, which gets into a whole studio politics/mind game thing I don’t want to ponder).
Though at least two worrying factors mentioned by the Reporter are valid: This is a reboot of a 1982 movie nobody saw and female interest in this thing is low. The latter might have something to do with the former; it’s probably not unrealistic to say the majority of people with a strong nostalgia for the original “Tron” were dudes. This movie also has a meager female presence in the ads; Olivia Wilde plays the now-standard Big-Budget Blockbuster lady role of “Really, really good-looking gal who is also a badass fighter-type,” but she’s not really highlighted well in the ads.
As for the former: I’ve always thought it was weird that some prognosticators felt this thing would be huge because of the cult status developed by the original. That’s pretty dumb. Sure, that nostalgia will get this thing a lot of attention at Comic-Con and from certain entertainment writers. But that’s not exactly a huge audience chunk. (And the ads aren’t helping. They mostly give us a vague glimpse at what it’s about, and while I find them awesome, a moviegoer with no familiarity with “Tron” might be confused about why there’s an old Jeff Bridges and a young, kind of plastic-y Jeff Bridges.)
The reason I thought (and still think) this movie will be big is because it looks, visually, all kinds of resplendent. “Avatar” showed us last year that it doesn’t matter how dumb your story is or how terrible the dialogue; if it looks like it will be a whole new world, with mind-blowing visuals, audiences will be intrigued. The 3-D thing should be a huge selling point for a movie like this, since it was filmed with that in mind; instead, the format has been run into the ground over the last year in a mad dash for “Avatar”-like cash.
I still think it opens solidly (north of $50 million) and can earn $200 million. But we’ll see how tracking looks the week of the release.