”Dinosaur,” Disney’s monster-size ode to computer generated animation, hits theaters approximately $140 million in the red. This means the studio needs to fill lots of stadium seats with eager elementary-schoolers if it’s going to turn a profit. Not that Michael Eisner needs to worry: With souped-up special effects and a kid-beloved prehistoric topic, ”Dinosaur” seems destined for box office glory. ”This is THE family movie of the summer,” says Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations. Robert Bucksbaum, president of Reel Source, a Los Angeles-based box office analysis firm, agrees: ”[Dinosaur’s] an automatic for kids. They love bugs, dinosaurs, and basically any animal.”
And Disney’s timing couldn’t be better. The coming-of-age story of an iguanodon named Aladar faces virtually no competition: The ”Flintstones” prequel will already be played out, and ”Pokémon: The Movie 2000” doesn’t open until late July. For these reasons, Bucksbaum predicts that ”Dinosaur” will pull in as much as $44 million during its opening weekend, and top out at a $200 million domestic gross.
And that’s just the beginning of how ”Dinosaur” is likely to show Disney the money.
McDisney Never underestimate the power of the Happy Meal. Kids can already find one of eight talking ”Dinosaur” toys in their meals, and adults can participate in a ”Hatch, Match & Win” promotion featuring two $1 million prizes. ”McDonalds pays Disney millions, just so they can have the right… to create toys with ‘Dinosaur’ characters,” says Rich Ingrassia, an analyst at Paul Kagan Associates. ”That’s pure profit for Disney.” What’s more, Disney Stores — a ubiquitous feature in suburban malls — will be stocked with countless Cretaceous-era stuffed figurines, stickers, alarm clocks, and you-name-its.
Euro Disney It’s not such a small world when it comes to international box office figures. Regardless of how ”Dinosaur” plays domestically, Disney has usually made a strong showing in overseas markets. ”They’re going to find a way to market the film so that it’s a must-see for foreign families,” Dergarabedian says. ”The worldwide audience can push a movie’s gross over the top.” Take 1997’s ”Hercules”: It grossed $99 million in the U.S. but went on to score an extra $146 million worldwide. Not bad for one of Disney’s more forgettable outings.
Blockbuster Nights When ”Dinosaur” leaves theaters, Disney Home Video will tempt millions of parents to shell out an extra $20 or so to buy the movie — not to mention the soundtrack. ”Even if it’s a mediocre success, it’s still a winner for Disney, because they’ve got the video sales” says Ingrassia. ”It might not be the ‘Lion King,’ which has brought in an estimated $1 billion in profit, but I’d bet my mortgage it’s going to be a success.” We like those odds.