Box Office: Mark Wahlberg 'Arthur the King' In Dog House

Box Office Update: Mark Wahlberg’s ‘Arthur the King’ Struggles to Find Its Audience

Why did a movie with an A CinemaScore and 4 1/2 stars from PostTrak, featuring a big star and a dog, not do well at the box office?

“Arthur the King,” a movie filled with adventure and a heartwarming dog story from Lionsgate, was projected to make between $8M-$10M during its opening weekend. Despite high expectations, it only managed a $7.5M debut.

The trend of A CinemaScore, mid-budget movies underperforming at the box office is becoming more noticeable.

One reason for the underperformance of “Arthur the King” could be its suitability for streaming rather than a theatrical release, which might have deterred people from watching it in cinemas. However, that’s not the whole story.

Indeed, actors need to reconsider their approach when it comes to streaming movies versus theatrical releases. Mark Wahlberg’s action movie “The Family Plan” became the most-watched movie on AppleTV+, highlighting Sidney Poitier’s advice to Denzel Washington: being available for free at home could make people less willing to pay to see you in theaters.

Dog movies have historically done well in cinemas, from classics like Rin Tin Tin and Benji to more recent successes. Despite the shift of many genres to streaming platforms, dog movies continue to draw audiences to theaters.

For instance, MGM’s “Dog,” starring Channing Tatum, had a budget of $15M and opened to $14.9M, eventually grossing $61M domestically and $84.8M worldwide. This success was a significant post-pandemic achievement in 2022, attracting a large female audience back to cinemas.

Before “Dog,” non-IP canine movies like Warner Bros’ “Max” and Disney’s “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” also enjoyed success, the latter even spawning a sequel.

“Arthur the King” featured an exciting adventure bike racing element, which Lionsgate emphasized in its marketing. However, the movie still fell short of expectations.

Despite claims of profitability from sources close to Lionsgate, the movie’s A CinemaScore and underwhelming box office performance suggest otherwise. With a marketing budget over $20M and no minimum guarantee, Lionsgate aimed for a low-risk strategy, using theatrical releases as a promotional tool for home entertainment sales.

Lionsgate targeted male sports audiences in its marketing, neglecting the family and faith-based demographics. This decision was based on the movie’s focus on a rugged dog, rather than a cute one, which limited its appeal to family audiences. Despite this, “Dog” succeeded with a similar approach, proving that a strong bond between a man and his dog can attract audiences.

“Arthur the King” missed the opportunity to appeal to a broader audience, including families, during its release. The movie’s performance varied by region, with stronger showings in the West and South but weaker in the Northeast, partly due to the timing of spring break.

The movie’s budget and marketing strategy were also factors in its underperformance. Paramount initially passed on the project, and Lionsgate acquired it before the merger with Entertainment One. The timing of the release and the decision not to target family and faith-based audiences further limited its potential.

Lionsgate’s recent success with “Plane” and its frugal marketing strategy for “John Wick: Chapter 4” demonstrate the studio’s ability to manage costs effectively. However, the challenge remains for mid-sized movies to capture audiences’ attention in a streaming-dominated market.

As the industry continues to adapt post-Covid, the future of mid-sized movies and their appeal to audiences remains uncertain.