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  • Directed By: Kelly Asbury
  • Written By: Alison Peck
  • Release Date: May 3, 2019
  • Domestic Distributor: STX Entertainment
  • Cast: Pitbull, Ice-T, Kelly Clarkson, Blake Shelton

Box Office Info:
Budget: $53 millionFinanced by: STX; Alibaba Pictures
Domestic Box Office: $20,150,241Overseas Box Office: Still in release

uglydolls 2019
In May 2011, Illumination Entertainment (Despicable Me) acquired the theatrical rights to the UglyDolls toy line and set the project up at their studio home at Universal.  UglyDolls never moved forward at Illumination and in May 2015 the new startup distributor STX Entertainment announced they had optioned the rights.  UglyDolls was set as their inaugural project for their animation division and STX had very ambitious branding plans for this very unambitious movie.

STX’s own PR said: “Uglydolls is an ideal brand fit for STX, which was conceived for franchise building across all platforms from film to television, digital, virtual reality, consumer products, and more.”  STX spent years courting over 100 international corporate partners to have UglyDolls tie-ins, including McDonald’s, Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s, Pinkberry, Ferrero and Pez Candy.  Hasbro came on board to handle toys and Walmart gave a rare commitment to give the movie its full support for retail sales.  Hulu also wanted in on the UglyDolls franchise mania and STX inked a 26-episode spin-off deal with the streaming giant and they would also have the SVOD/streaming rights for the theatrical movie.

With all the mechanisms in place to launch this franchise, STX only needed a movie.  It was announced in March 2017 that Robert Rodriguez was tapped to helm UglyDolls, but he eventually exited the project.  Kelly Asbury was hired and this was rushed through production in about one year.  This new trend of franchising not even completed movies, was also done by Paramount with the animated flop Wonder Park, which also had a TV series in the works.  The budget for UglyDolls was $53 million and financing was provided by STX and Alibaba Pictures.

The cast for UglyDolls was comprised of mostly pop stars, which of course was designed to sell the Atlantic Records soundtrack.  UglyDolls was simply designed from top to bottom to sell shit.  The movie was first dated for May 10, 2019 but it was moved forward one week to May 3 to keep it away from Pokémon Detective Pikachu which claimed the May 10th frame.  STX invested a reported $40M for domestic P&A but UglyDolls was tracking for a troubling low teens opening.  It bowed against The Intruder and Long Shot and would compete for auds with a torrent of family fare still in wide release: Avengers: Endgame (released just one week earlier), Captain Marvel, Shazam!, Dumbo, Little and Missing Link.

Reviews were terrible and STX’s attempt to force feed the public a franchise backfired when UglyDolls was dead on arrival with $8,603,407 — placing #4 for the weekend led by Avengers: Endgame.  Just days after it flopped, STX COO Tom McGrath resigned from his position on May 8.  The picture had poor holds and fell 51.8% to $4,147,092 in its second frame (when Pikachu opened) and then sank 57.1% to $1,779,617 in its third session.  The domestic run closed with a franchise ending $20,150,241.  STX is not one the major studios that commands 55% of the ticket price and after theaters take their percentage of the gross, the mini-major would see returned under $10M.

UglyDolls has also been outright rejected by international audiences.  The current cume sits at $6.4M.  Major markets are still set to open through the fall.  More as the numbers come in…


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