The Iron Giant

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    [Total: 42 Average: 4.9]
  • Directed By: Brad Bird
  • Written By: Tim McCanlies
  • Release Date: August 3, 1999
  • Domestic Distributor: Warner Bros
  • Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr., Vin Diesel

Box Office Info:
Budget: $48 millionFinanced by: Warner Bros
Domestic Gross: $23,159,305Overseas Gross: $8,174,612

the iron Giant flop
In 1993 Warner Bros began to invest in a Warner Bros. Feature Animation division to compete with Disney’s stranglehold on the market.  Space Jam (1996) — which despite being an animation/live action hybrid, became the first feature to emerge from WB Feature Animation.  The following project was the $80 million budgeted box office disaster Quest for Camelot.  If the dreadful performance and critical reception of Quest For Camelot produced anything positive, it’s that it was such a micromanaged, humiliating failure for WB that they gave more freedom to Brad Bird to helm his fantastic The Iron Giant — which was the third project to emerge from the animation house.

Warner Bros began to get cold feet about their massive investment into the animation division and after The Quest For Camelot lost WB north of $40M, they slashed the budget on The Iron Giant and imposed an accelerated production.  However, Brad Bird and his team of animators were allowed more creative freedom on the project than usually given on studio fare and the picture turned out phenomenal.  Then Warner Bros dumped The Iron Giant with little marketing support.  The budget for The Iron Giant was $48 million.

The WB marketing department sat on the movie until April 1999, when they finally dated The Iron Giant for a wide release on August 6 and a limited opening scheduled for August 3.  There was no time to land any promotional tie-ins with companies or launch any merchandise to give The Iron Giant much needed exposure.  WB had instead focused their tie-in opportunities on the dreadful Wild Wild West and completely neglected The Iron Giant.  WB did not realize the quality of what they were dumping, until the movie landed very high audience scores during test screenings — which led to talk of pushing the movie back to give it a proper ad campaign, but the August date remained.

The Iron Giant landed very strong reviews, but audience awareness was low and the movie was tracking poorly.  It bowed into a competitive summer frame against The Sixth Sense, The Thomas Crown Affair, Mystery Men and Dick and was dead on arrival with $5,732,614 — placing #9 for the weekend led by The Sixth Sense.  The Iron Giant landed a positive A cinemascore from auds and it dipped 34.6% to $3,747,624 the following frame, but ended its domestic run with a terrible $23,159,305.

The Iron Giant was also tossed away by WB during its overseas run, where it pulled in a mere $8.1M.  After the film tanked, the WB animation division began to be scaled back.  The following project was the mega-flop Osmosis Jones and another live-action/animation hybrid Looney Tunes: Back In Action was the final deathblow to the department in 2003.

12 Comments

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  1. Going by the usual 55% domestic/40% overseas split: Warner Bros. saw back $16.008 million. Including the approximately $32 million in P&A costs, The Iron Giant would have lost $64 million on the theatrical release.

  2. Further consolation for the film came when it won NINE Annie Awards (out of FIFTEEN nominations) including Best Animated Feature Film.

  3. at least one movie from this website that you like…
    it’s a shame that it failed horribly with the box office, but WB did nothing with the marketing until the movie was done….

  4. While I personally don’t love it as much as some, definitely didn’t deserve to bomb as badly as it did. On the plus side, it proved Brad Bird is fantastic and led him to keep on directing fantastic films (don’t talk about Tomorrowland though).

  5. Rotten Tomatoes critics: 96% with an average rating of 8.2/10.
    Rotten Tomatoes top critics only: 98% with an average rating of 8/10
    Rotten Tomatoes users: 90% with an average rating of 3.4/5.
    Metacritic: 85 out of 100 “universal acclaim”
    Metacritic users: 8.9 out of 10.
    Cinemascore: “A” grade (on an A+ to F scale)

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