Just a couple weeks ago, the box office pundits were expecting "Pacific Rim" to be a "Battleship"-sized bomb. It's a movie that's not based on an established property, with no big-name star, and an idiosyncratic director whose fanbase is fervent but small. The movie was also opening opposite a sequel to an Adam Sandler hit comedy. Even Warner Bros., "Pacific Rim"'s own studio, predicted that Guillermo del Toro's robots-vs.-giant-monsters saga would debut with no more than $30 million.
So is the movie's estimated $38.3 million opening this weekend a vindication, proof that the naysayers were wrong? Or is even that figure too little, too late to save "Pacific Rim" (which, after all, cost $180 to $190 million) from forcing Warners to write off a massive loss?
Whether the movie is a hit or flop may be a matter of perspective. For instance:
Hit: $38.3 million is certainly a bigger opening than Warners was predicting.
Flop: What if the studio was low-balling its prediction so that any performance better than its modest expectation would look more impressive?
Hit: Well, $38.3 million is impressive, at a time when few movies open above $25 million.
Flop: It was still only good enough for third place this weekend, behind a week-old cartoon sequel ("Despicable Me 2") and an Adam Sandler sequel ("Grown Ups 2") that got terrible reviews.
Hit: It's the biggest opening of director Guillermo del Toro's career.
Flop: Even so, no del Toro movie has earned more than $82.3 million in North America. If "Pacific Rim" can't do better than "Blade II" did 11 years ago, it's in deep trouble.
Hit: Del Toro's biggest hits to date, like "Blade II," have involved big stars or familiar properties. Since "Pacific Rim" is an original story with no big stars, it sold primarily on del Toro's name.
Flop: It's still not a big enough opening to prove that people beyond the Comic-Con crowd know or care who del Toro is. A movie with as strong word-of-mouth as "Pacific Rim" earned should have opened bigger.
Hit: Del Toro is a big name overseas. The movie opened abroad this weekend with an estimated $53.0 million, even better than it did here, for a global total of $91.3 million.
Flop: That's good, but unless it makes more than $400 million worldwide (only about half of which goes to Warners), it's not going to recoup its massive budget, and we won't get a "Pacific Rim 2."