- Directed By: David Dobkin
- Written By: Jessie Nelson, Dan Fogelman
- Release Date: November 9, 2007
- Domestic Distributor: Warner Bros
- Cast: Vince Vaughn, Paul Giamatti, John Michael Higgins
Box Office Info:
|Budget: $100 million (estimated)||Financed by: Warner Bros|
|Domestic Box Office: $72,006,777||Overseas Box Office: $25,831,572|
Fred Claus was moving forward in late 2005, when Warner Bros tapped Mike Mitchell, who was fresh off of the disaster Surviving Christmas to direct this awful Christmas movie. David Dobkin, who had recently helmed the hit Wedding Crashers, soon took over directing responsibilities and re-teamed with Vince Vaughn who landed his first $20M payday for Fred Claus — and then fired his manager Eric Gold and left his agency UTA after this turkey flopped. Warner Bros never released budget figures for Fred Claus, but the expensive project was expected to cost north of $100M with some estimates (from deadline.com) as high as $150M. Even director Dobkin chimed in on the movie’s price tag after Fred Claus bombed, saying “It was a big budget, and too big of a budget. The movie cost too much money.”
WB made the fatal decision to cast Vaughn in the lead role, not just because his performance was an 11/10 on the annoying scale — but that his motormouth schtick that yielded box office hits like Wedding Crashers were for adults and he was untested in the family market. WB then made the unwise decision to launch a marketing campaign that stressed the R-rated Wedding Crashers collaboration of Vaughn and Dobkin all over the marketing materials for this PG children’s movie. The initial promotional push was also full of off color innuendo and there was confusion if the movie was more like Bad Santa than a kids pic.
As the November 9, 2007 release date was approaching, despite the expensive marketing blitz (reported at $90M global), the tracking for Fred Claus was troubling. The National Research Group’s data showed that less than 1/3 of moviegoers were aware that the movie even existed and this prompted WB to completely overhaul the campaign. All mentions of the sex comedy Wedding Crashers were removed from ads and the studio then modeled their promotion after the family hit Elf.
Even with the revamped marketing, tracking was pointing to a soft mid $20M opening for a picture of this expense and it would also have competition with Bee Movie, which opened the weekend prior. Fred Claus bowed against Lions for Lambs and P2 and landed rotten reviews. It came in below expectations with $18,515,473 — placing #3 for the weekend led by Bee Movie. Fred Claus declined a modest 35.7% to $11,914,323 in its second frame and dipped just 11.2% to $10,575,400 in its third session. The domestic run closed with $72,006,777.
Fred Claus was a disaster overseas and cumed just $25.8M. The worldwide gross was $97.8M. WB would see returned about $53.7M after theaters take their percentage of the gross, which leaves nearly $40M in P&A costs in the red and the budget untouched by the theatrical receipts — making Fred Claus one of the costliest blunders at the box office.