Title: The War with Grandpa
Directed By: Tim Hill
Written By: Tom J. Astle, Matt Ember
Release Date: October 9, 2020
Domestic Distributor: 101 Studios
Cast: Robert De Niro, Oakes Fegley, Christopher Walken, Uma Thurman, Jane Seymour, Rob Riggle, Laura Marano, Cheech Marin
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family
Box Office Information
Budget: $38 Million
Financed by: Marro Films
Domestic Box Office Gross: $21,277,892
Overseas Box Office Gross: $18,923,446
When Peter’s grandfather moves in to the family home he is forced to give up his most treasured asset: his bedroom. An unlikely prank-war erupts between Peter and his beloved grandpa Jack.
Scheming with friends and family alike – Peter will stop at nothing to get his room back. He hadn’t counted on the resilience of his grandfather, however, as it turns into an all-out war!
Coming off the back of The Irishman De Niro returns to his slapstick and benign best in this almost watchable family-friendly 2020 comedy.
Based on the 1984 novel with the same name by Robert Kimmel Smith, The War with Grandpa was directed by Tim Hill (Alvin and the Chipmunks) with a screenplay by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember.
Filming was supposed to take place in Toronto but was moved to Georgia instead.
The movie was originally intended for earlier release and filmed back in 2017 – however several delays (not least the closure of the Weinstein Company) meant that it was eventually released to theatres in the U.S. on October 9, 2020.
Hill is known for casting his wife – actress Veronica Alicino – into minor roles in most of his films. But nepotism played no part in bringing the Goodfellas actor to this movie – with the quickie comedy genre becoming something of a fait accompli for De Niro.
Despite featuring the heavyweight talents of De Niro, Uma Thurman, and Christopher Walken, The War with Grandpa received only mixed to negative reviews and legged out at a little over $40 million.
Another financial casualty of the pandemic?
The War with Grandpa Box Office Numbers
The War with Grandpa ranked 13th at the box office for 2020 and pushed Tenet off the top spot on a weekend where the top 10 grossed almost $10 million – all this despite the closure of 500 Regal Theatres.
The lack of any real competition clearly played a part, in addition to a slew of known faces being cast. Remembering for a moment that Tenet had a production budget of some $205 million – that in itself was an impressive feat.
With its eventual October 9th release, The War with Grandpa took $3,623,880 (17% of total gross) in its opening weekend and played to some 2,250 theatres in the U.S. – with an average theatre gross of $1,610 and 11.9 weeks average run per theatre.
The second weekend saw better numbers, again playing across 2,250 theatres and taking $4,048,493. That number halved in the third weekend and then continued to decline. In total, the U.S. and Canada Gross came in at $21,277,892.
The return must of course be viewed in the context of shuttered theatres throughout New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seatle.
The extent of these closures can be seen by taking a look back to 2019. Where, by comparison, the Columbus Day weekend took some $141 million.
In normal times undoubtedly the gross would be far higher, it would not be unrealistic to assume an opening weekend something in the order of at least $10 million to 15 million for the film. By comparison, Hop (2011), Hill’s last movie release prior to 2020, took $37 million in its opening weekend, with an average of $10,490 per theatre.
101 Studios pushed the marketing panic button and went all out on a safety-first agenda – this mixed with a heady concoction of fresh product. They had to retreat somewhat however as further safety concerns gripped moviegoers with rising coronavirus case numbers.
The War with Grandpa was released to a total of 34 countries internationally taking in just shy of $19 million all in. The main markets were Australia ($7,841,861), Russia ($3,125,483), the United Kingdom ($2,657,407 ), and Mexico ($2,205,919).
It’s a Wrap
101 tried everything to put bums back on theatre seats – even releasing testimonials on TV spots that featured families who had enjoyed the film and were happy to return to theatres.
But with a mediocre B+ Cinemascore posted by audiences (slightly less than average for the comedy genre) it wasn’t enough.
The War with Grandpa would have needed to earn at least $80 million at the box office to break even.
That really is a big ask, at a time when a number of studios had already vacated the theatrical release calendar in the wake of Tenet’s poor showing at the box office.
In terms of gross loss, The War with Grandpa pales to insignificance against other pandemic era big-buck picture releases such as Tenet. But reinforces the view that 2020 was not the time for studios to spend big.