Why Did Strange World Bomb At The Box Office?


Disney’s latest animated feature film ‘Strange World’ released to theaters over the Thanksgiving holiday and bombed. It performed so poorly, that when adjusted for inflation, it came in behind the 2002 bomb ‘Treasure Planet.’ When not adjusting for inflation, it barely beat it out at only $18.6 million domestically. It’s even worse when you know it was in over 4,700 theaters too.

Many industry cites are pointing out that the film is likely going to lose $100 million on it’s $180 budget and then advertising costs. At this point it would likely need to make over $360 million to break even.

But why did it fail?

The media will likely point to people being “bigots” as that is the “go to” for this situation anymore. As some pointed out the film boasted an openly gay character, non-white characters, an interracial couple and a disabled dog. What more could they check off for diversity? While some people are openly saying they were turned off from the film because of the gay character, it likely isn’t what tanked the movie, but for argument sake we will note that is a possibility.

One of the biggest reasons the film likely failed was Disney’s lack of promotion.

‘Strange World’ was sandwiched in between two “tent pole” films–‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ and ‘Avatar: The Way of Water.’ It’s clear where the promotion money went. I’m not sure why they didn’t just put ‘Strange World’ on Disney+. I guess any money recovered from a theatrical release is better than losing all of it?

Or maybe they needed the loss for a write-off, or the stories about Bob Chapek juggling project budgets based on where they were shown first was true?

Whatever the reason, Disney did not promote the film like they should have.

Another possible reason could be the recession.

It’s all over the news that people are cutting back on holiday spending this year. Many of us are facing rising costs for necessities, from groceries to utilities and the paychecks aren’t keeping up with the increased costs. Families might not have the money to spend on a movie night out given that it could cost a family of 4 between $38-$70 depending on ticket pricing and concessions. If families did go to the movies they likely will be choosing between ‘Wakanda Forever,’ ‘Strange World’ and ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ and the tent-pole films will be the ones people go to first.

Many will just wait for Disney+

Disney has trained their audience to wait for Disney+. Most of their films either go directly to the streaming service or arrive on the platform within a couple of months of theatrical release. With rising costs and the busy holiday season, many will likely wait to see ‘Strange World’ when it comes to the streaming service and they can watch it at no additional cost to their subscription.

Word of Mouth

While it is possible that “word-of-mouth” could sway people to come to the movie in the days to come, it’s unlikely. Reviews seem to indicate that it is a pretty movie but the story is lacking. Most of the positives seem to be more about representation than a good story. While diversity is good, the story needs to be good too.

Even the “Critic Consensus” statement on Rotten Tomatoes says “Strange World is a Disney milestone in terms of representation — but as a storytelling experience, this dazzlingly animated adventure offers little audiences haven’t already seen.

One could argue that it’s a disservice to the “milestone in terms of representation” with the lack of promotional effort on Disney’s part and the quality of the story overall.

Maybe it just wasn’t a good movie? But I’m sure the story will be that people hate (insert representation type here.)

No matter what the reason for failure is, the film is definitely struggling to find it’s footing.

What do you think? Comment and let us know!

Pirates & Princesses (PNP) is an independent, opinionated fan-powered news blog that covers Disney and Universal Theme Parks, Themed Entertainment and related Pop Culture from a consumer's point of view. Opinions expressed by our contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of PNP, its editors, affiliates, sponsors or advertisers. PNP is an unofficial news source and has no connection to The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal or any other company that we may cover.