In my previous post, I mused on whether or not TRON LEGACY will be a winner or a loser. For it to succeed it needed to remind us of the original but take the audience to a new place. Well, the film has been seen and the numbers are in, TRON is a loser.
It's a loser because the film isn't that good and it is a loser because it will not make money for the studio that made it, in this case, Disney. TRON LEGACY cost over $170 million to make. Then add another $70 million for publicity and advertising. Total cost now comes to $240 million. For the neophyte film gross watcher, the opening weekend gross of $44 million looks pretty darn good, that is until you remove the curtain and look behind the numbers.
In the wonderful world of distribution and exhibition, studios (distributors) demand, and get, deals from the theater owners (exhibitors). These days the deals are called 'aggregates'. In essence the contract will be something like, you can play our film, but you will pay 60% of your total gross for 5 weeks. Over the life of a film, the average film rental deal will run roughly 54% of the gross.
What does this mean fro TRON LEGACY? It means that opening weekend gross of 4$4 million will translate into less than $25 million going back to the studio to defray the cost of making the film and then promoting it. With 70% of movie grosses coming the first week, TRON LEGACY can be projected to finally gross around $130 million or less than $75 million being used to pay for it. Now toss in declining DVD rentals, global sales and all the other cash streams, TRON LEGACY will be lucky to finally net the studio $200 million. It looks like it will lose around $40 million, and that ain't chump change. TRON LEGACY is a loser.
Now lets look at TRON LEGACY as a film, not as a business proposition. It is a story about how the son of original TRON, abandoned as a young lad, is sucked up into the computer world where he find danger and bodacious babes in form fitting latex. He also finds a father look-a-like and his real father. Together they bond and attempt to overthrow the evil empire the father had originally created.
The special effects are decent, the plot meanders, Olivia Wilde is incredibly nice eye candy, the young lead is adequate and Jeff Bridges, although he seems to be channeling 'The Dude', is fine. The problem is it says nothing new, the intricacies of the plot are vague, you don't feel for any of the characters. In short, it's not bad, but it didn't build on the original's unique view. It failed to stir the imagination as the original had. Critically, TRON LEGACY is a loser.
There will be some who like the film and will find good things in it. As stated, it is not a bad film. It is a disappointment. Perhaps that is the worst legacy of TRON LEGACY.Â It had promise, and it lost it.
Garen Daly is an award winning film programmer and film analyst who can be heard on NH Public Radio, WGBH radio and see on NE Cable News. In his spare time he runs the Boston Science Fiction Film Festival,