The Happytime Murders
- Directed By: Brian Henson
- Written By: Todd Berger, Dee Austin Robertson
- Release Date: August 24, 2018
- Domestic Distributor: STX
- Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Elizabeth Banks, Maya Rudolph
Box Office Info:
|Budget: $40 million||Financed by: STX; Huayi Brothers Media; Black Bear Pictures|
|Domestic Box Office: $20,706,452||Overseas Box Office: $6,800,000|
The Jim Henson Co. purchased The Happytime Murders spec script by Todd Berger in October 2008 and the project fell apart numerous times throughout its decade in development. It was announced in October 2010 that Jim Henson Co. set the project up at Lionsgate and IM Global began global pre-sales, but The Happytime Murders never materialized. After five years at Lionsgate, the rights reverted back to The Jim Henson Co. In July 2015, the project moved over to the newly formed STX Entertainment and finally went into production.
The Happytime Murders was budgeted at $40 million and financing came from STX, Huayi Brothers Media and Black Bear Pictures. STX handled global pre-sales, which sold very well and accounted for 70% of the budget. In May 2018, STX released their attention grabbing trailer, featuring a silly-string ejaculating puppet and then a few days later additional free exposure came from a ridiculous lawsuit by Sesame Street’s parent company. The suit claimed that the Sesame Street brand was damaged by comparisons to the profane puppet nonsense in The Happytime Murders and they objected to the tagline “No Sesame. All Street.” The lawsuit was quickly dismissed.
STX first dated The Happytime Murders for August 17, 2018 but then scheduled Mile 22 for the 17th and pushed the release back one week to August 24. STX struck out with their three summer releases Adrift, Mile 22 and The Happytime Murders. In the weeks leading up to the normally very slow end of summer frame, the movie was showing signs of life in tracking and had the potential to break out. STX must have sensed that the movie was a turkey and headed for box office failure and gave The Happytime Murders a scaled back marketing campaign. Only $5.88M was spent on TV ads (as per iSpotTV), though millions more would be spent on other traditional means of marketing and distribution expenses — with a P&A spend near $20M. The actors did not promote the picture (though puppets are the real appeal here) and reviews were awful.
It bowed against another throwaway film A.X.L. and The Happytime Murders pulled in poor $9,532,425 — placing #3 for the weekend led by the holdover Crazy Rich Asians. It marked the lowest opening for a wide release toplined by Melissa McCarthy. Audiences gave the movie a toxic C- cinemascore and it sank 54% the following frame to $4,382,781 and then plummeted 75.3% to $1,082,377 in its third session and promptly lost most of its theater count. The domestic run closed with only $20,706,452. STX would see returned about $10.3M after theaters take their percentage of the gross.
The Happytime Murders posted disastrous numbers overseas, with a reported $6.8M cume across numerous distributors. R-rated puppet fare is 0 for 2 at the box office — after this and Team America: World Police.