The Tale of Despereaux

  • The Tale of Despereaux box office
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  • Directed By: Sam Fell, Robert Stevenhagen
  • Written By: Gary Ross
  • Release Date: December 19, 2008
  • Domestic Distributor: Universal
  • Cast: Matthew Broderick, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Watson

Box Office Info:
Budget: $60 millionFinanced by: Universal; Relativity
Domestic Box Office: $50,877,145Overseas Box Office: $36,070,820


The Tale of Despereaux was co-financed by Universal and Relativity for $60 million and visual effects company Framestore, launched a feature animation division that shuttered after the film did weak box office worldwide.  This would be Universal’s first foray into computer animation after years of focusing on cheap traditional animation for the home market, like the endless Land Before Time sequels.

The Tale of Despereaux‘s troubled production began with producer Gary Ross having director Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets of Belleville) fired, who was informed by fax of his termination.  Chomet sued and publicly aired his grievances that Ross used his designs to get the movie greenlit, but never credited him for his work.  Mike Johnson (co-director of Corpse Bride) then boarded the pic as director, but was removed for reasons that have remained behind closed doors.  Sam Fell and Robert Stevenhagen then signed on as directors.

The Tale of Despereaux was positioned by Universal as their end of year holiday movie and it opened the during the slow moviegoing weekend before christmas on December 19.  Reviews were mixed and it bowed against Yes Man and Seven Pounds.  The family toon pulled in a modest $10,103,675 in 3,104 theaters, but was expected to see an uptick in business over the christmas frame.  The Tale of Despereaux saw competition over the holiday from new openers Marley and Me and Bedtime Stories, which siphoned much of the family going audience.  It declined a modest 11.6% to $8,932,625 over the Christmas session and held on with a 22.3% decline over the New Year’s frame to $6,939,295 — but then took a 60.6% plunge in week four to $2,733,585.  The Tale of Despereaux closed with a disappointing $50,877,145.

Overseas, Universal saw The Tale of Despereaux post poor numbers to just $36 million.  The worldwide total was $86.9 million which would leave Universal with about $47.8 million after theaters take their percentage of the gross, less than the expensive worldwide P&A spend and leaving the budget in the red.  Universal began their cold streak with The Tale of Despereaux, which continued into 2009 with Duplicity, State Of Play, Land Of the Lost and Funny People — with unreleased projects The Wolfman and Green Zone that were troubled productions with budgets spiraling out of control.

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