Debut of ‘Armageddon’ Isn’t Earth-Shattering


Walt Disney Co.'s “Armageddon” battle is not over yet.

With more than $200 million invested in production costs and marketing, Disney needs to rack up $350 million to $400 million at theaters worldwide to crack its nut on the movie.

“Armageddon” wasn’t the end of the world for the studio, given that the five-day opening gross of $54.5 million is Disney’s biggest live-action opening ever.

Still, it was well below expectations since the studio put all of its weight behind launching the film to try to turn it into a huge summer blockbuster.

Although midweek business should be strong this time of year, by Friday Disney will face a potentially lethal combination of competitors with Warner Bros.’ “Lethal Weapon 4" and DreamWorks’ “Small Soldiers,” which combined could account for as much as $50 million ripping away at “Armageddon’s” core demographic of young males.

The Fourth of July release date for the disaster film about an asteroid hurtling toward Earth may have been a major miscalculation. Disney hoped people would choose to see fireworks indoors. Instead, Saturday’s holiday observance clearly hurt the film.


“Armageddon’s” appeal to young males is considered stronger than that of “Godzilla,” which opened over Memorial Day and had a full three weeks before any serious threats materialized.

“Armageddon” has no such cushion. After “Lethal Weapon” and “Small Soldiers” come the comedy “Something About Mary” from 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures’ “The Mark of Zorro” and the Steven Spielberg-directed “Saving Private Ryan,"starring Tom Hanks.

That means “Armageddon” must perform in the foreign market, where the film opens this month. And this is where having Bruce Willis as the film’s star could pay off. An overseas total of as high as $200 million is not out of the question. But Disney will have to do it the hard way--they’ll have to earn it.

It’s still unclear what role the earlier success of the similarly themed “Deep Impact” played in the softer results for “Armageddon” domestically. Since the disaster film--about a comet heading toward earth Earth--has been even more popular overseas, it could also hurt “Armageddon.”

If “Armageddon” can make the cut in foreign markets, the film could eventually return money to Disney because producer Jerry Bruckheimer is the only one who shares part of the take with the studio. A TV sale to ABC has already transpired for about $25 million to $30 million. If it doesn’t make it overseas, Disney’s only summer life raft so far comes from its one sure-fire sector, animation, with the hugely profitable “Mulan.”