Epic fail: G-rated movie nets worst opening weekend of all-time

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 11 2012 9:29 a.m. MDT

This film image released by Kenn Viselman Presents, Inc. shows characters, from left, Goobie, Toofie and Zoozie in a scene from "The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure."

Kenn Viselman Presents, Inc., Matthew Mitchell, Associated Press

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The best-laid plans of Oogieloves and men often go awry.

"Oogieloves in the BIG Balloon Adventure" — a G-rated children's movie from the man who helped popularize the "Teletubbies" in the U.S. — hit theaters Aug. 31 and immediately proceeded to gross $445,000 during its first three days of domestic release, according to the BoxOfficeMojo website.

Earning $445,000 is a problem, you see, because "Oogieloves" played on more than 2,100 screens across the country.

Robert Johnson of the San Antonio Express-News reported, "No film opening that widely — 2,160 screens means it played at almost every multiplex in North America — had (ever) earned less than $2 million."

"It was pretty obvious that 'Oogieloves in the BIG Balloon Adventure' wasn't going to do well, but no one expected it to open this low," BoxOfficeMojo's Robert Johnson said. "The movie earned an estimated $445,000 from 2,160 locations (on its opening) weekend; that tops 2008's 'Delgo' ($511,920) for the worst debut ever for a movie in more than 2,000 theaters. It also (averaged) just $206. To put that in perspective, if each location played 'Oogieloves' five times a day on one screen at an average ticket price of $7, that would translate to fewer than two people per showing."

"A sluggish summer for Hollywood came to a close with a movie that earned the dubious distinction of the worst opening of all time," Erica Orden of the Wall Street Journal lamented.

In anticipation of the release of "Oogieloves," the New York Times Magazine published a profile Friday of Kenn Viselman, the creative force behind the film. "As the marketing strategist who helped popularize the 'Thomas the Tank Engine' and 'Teletubbies' franchises in the United States, Viselman has achieved something close to legendary status in the toy-licensing world," Heather Harvrilesky wrote for the Times. "Now he has set his sights on making the local multiplex toddler-friendly. 'Millions of young kids go to movies in America, but there isn’t a movie for them,' Viselman says, arguing that fast-paced, pop-reference-packed PG movies like 'Madagascar' and 'KungFuPanda' are too sarcastic and violent for children under (seven)."

UPDATE on Sept. 10: During its second weekend of wide release, Sept. 7-9, "Oogieloves" earned $43,854 while playing in 281 theaters — for an average of $156 per theater. To date the film has grossed $1.03 million at the domestic box office, meaning the movie will need to sell an awful lot of DVDs if it's going to come close to covering its $20 million in production costs.

J.G. Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at jaskar@desnews.com or 801-236-6051.

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