- TRON: Legacy box office: Topping the domestic market on opening weekend won’t be enough for this TRON sequel to recover its mega-budget. Garrett Hedlund, Jeff Bridges (of the 1982 original), Olivia Wilde, and a nasty computer program star. Feature newcomer Joseph Kosinski directed.
TRON: Legacy box office: Starring Garrett Hedlund and Jeff Bridges, Disney’s costly sci-fi sequel has topped the domestic chart – but it’s a commercial disappointment all the same
Dec. 17–19 weekend box office: Directed by feature film newcomer Joseph Kosinski, and starring Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, and Jeff Bridges, the Walt Disney Studios’ special-effects-laden 3D sci-fi adventure TRON: Legacy was the no. 1 movie at the North American (U.S. and Canada only) box office, taking in $44 million (at the lower end of expectations) from 3,451 theaters (including $3.6 million from Thursday midnight screenings) according to final studio figures found at boxofficemojo.com.
Sounds good for a sequel to Disney’s box office disappointment TRON, released 28 years ago?
A little perspective: The 1982 TRON cost a reported $17 million (not adjusted for inflation); depending on the source, TRON: Legacy was budgeted at $170–$200 million (as always, not including marketing and distribution expenses). A $44 million debut (average: $12,634 per site) would have been out of this world back in the early 1980s; but in late fall 2010, that’s no more than an okay figure – especially when considering 3D/IMAX surcharges and Disney’s massive marketing campaign.
A few box office comparisons
For comparison’s sake:
- In early March, when domestic ticket prices were cheaper than they are now, Tim Burton’s (converted to) 3D fantasy Alice in Wonderland, starring Mia Wasikowska and Johnny Depp, debuted with $116.1 million from 3,728 locations, averaging $31,142 per venue.
- In May, Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, starring Robert Downey Jr., debuted with $128.1 million from 4,380 locations, averaging $29,251 per site despite the lack of 3D surcharges.
- In late June – even after blowing off box office steam by opening on a Wednesday, and without the help of either 3D or weekend-box-office-fattening midnight screenings (those had been held the previous Tuesday) – David Slade’s The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner, earned $64.8 million from 4,468 locations on its first (Fourth of July) weekend out. Eclipse’s per-venue average was $14,510.
Considering TRON: Legacy’s initial take, only a major surge on the Christmas and New Year’s weekends will allow Disney’s sci-fi/adventure sequel to as much as match its production budget at the U.S. and Canada box office. (Update: TRON: Legacy was down 57 percent on Christmas weekend and 2 percent – after losing 86 locations – on New Year’s weekend.)
Also worth noting is that – even after taking out its midnight earnings – TRON: Legacy was up less than 5 percent on Saturday. Every other movie on the chart posted double-digit increases in relation to Friday; several were up more than 40 percent.
TRON: Legacy cast
Besides Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, and Jeff Bridges (the star of the original TRON and this year’s Oscar winner for the sleeper hit Crazy Heart), the TRON: Legacy cast includes James Frain, Beau Garrett, Michael Sheen, and Bruce Boxleitner (also featured in the original), in addition to cameos by Cillian Murphy and Daft Punk (who composed the 2010 film’s score).
TRON director Steven Lisberger was one of TRON: Legacy’s producers.
Money-losing global blockbuster
Update: Disney’s TRON: Legacy ultimately collected $172.1 million domestically and an estimated $228 million internationally. Worldwide total: $400.1 million – a remarkable figure, but far from what was needed for the mega-budgeted sci-fier to break even at the box office.
Its top international markets were Japan ($25.2 million), Russia/CIS ($21.3 million), China ($18.9 million), the United Kingdom/Ireland ($16.2 million), Germany ($14.8 million), Australia ($14.5 million), Mexico ($14.3 million), France ($11.5 million), Brazil ($9 million), Italy ($8.2 million), and Spain ($5.7 million).
”TRON: Legacy Movie Box Office” endnotes
Lastly, screenwriter-director James L. Brooks’ mega-budget romantic comedy How Do You Know has turned out to be an unadulterated box office disaster. In the cast: Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, and Jack Nicholson.
Unless otherwise noted, “TRON: Legacy Movie Box Office: Costly Sci-Fier Not to Recover Its Gargantuan Budget” box office information via Box Office Mojo. Budget info – which should be taken with a grain of salt – via BOM and/or other sources (e.g., the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Screen Daily, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Deadline.com, etc.).
Comments about TRON: Legacy and other titles being hits/profitable or flops/money-losers at the box office (see paragraph below) are based on the available data about their production budget, additional marketing and distribution expenses (as a general rule of thumb, around 50 percent of the production cost), and worldwide gross (as a general rule of thumb when it comes to the Hollywood studios, around 50–55 percent of the domestic gross and 40 percent of the international gross goes to the distributing/producing companies).
Bear in mind that data regarding rebates, domestic/international sales/pre-sales, and other credits and/or contractual details that help to alleviate/split production costs and apportion revenues are oftentimes unavailable, and that reported international grosses may be incomplete (i.e., not every territory is fully – or even partially – accounted for).
Also bear in mind that ancillary revenues (domestic/global television rights, home video sales, streaming, merchandising, etc.) can represent anywhere between 40–70 percent of a movie’s total take. However, these revenues and their apportionment are only infrequently made public.
Olivia Wilde and Garrett Hedlund TRON: Legacy image: Douglas Curran | Walt Disney Studios.
“TRON: Legacy Movie Box Office: Costly Sci-Fier Not to Recover Its Gargantuan Budget” last updated in October 2022.