- The latest “Hellboy” movie bombed at the box office over the weekend with a $12 million debut.
- Box-office experts told Business Insider that the absence of Guillermo del Toro, who directed the first two movies in 2004 and 2008, hurt the movie.
- “He really brought this creature feature to life and without him, just like in the case of ‘Pacific Rim: Uprising,’ losing him behind the camera was the death knell,” Jeff Bock, the Exhibitor Relations senior box-office analyst, said.
- But the absence of del Toro isn’t the only reason why “Hellboy” disappointed. Terrible reviews, poor branding, and an unfortunate release date didn’t help.
- Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.
Fifteen years after the director Guillermo del Toro’s original “Hellboy” movie hit theaters, the Dark Horse comics character has been rebooted, this time with the director Neil Marshall behind the camera and the “Stranger Things” star David Harbour in the title role. But this new “Hellboy” isn’t sparking much excitement.
The movie made a disappointing $12 million in its debut over the weekend, falling short of some already modest projections that put it between $14 million and $20 million. “Hellboy” placed third behind the repeat winner “Shazam,” DC’s latest superhero movie that made another $25 million, and “Little,” which made $15 million.
“If you had to pin the failure of the ‘Hellboy’ reboot on one thing I would say it was the imagination of Guillermo del Toro,” Jeff Bock, the Exhibitor Relations senior box-office analyst, told Business Insider. “He really brought this creature feature to life and without him, just like in the case of ‘Pacific Rim: Uprising,’ losing him behind the camera was the death knell.”
Del Toro’s 2004 movie, which starred Ron Perlman as the demonic superhero, opened with $23 million (before inflation), and its 2008 sequel, “Hellboy: The Golden Army,” made $34.5 million. The first film went on to gross $99 million worldwide and had a production budget of $66 million dollars, and the sequel made $160 million worldwide and had an $85 million budget, according to Box Office Mojo.
They weren’t box-office sensations, but this new reboot is tracking to make far less. And del Toro’s movies have a cult fanbase that have kept them alive long after they departed theaters.
Similarly, del Toro’s 2013 monsters vs. robots movie “Pacific Rim” grossed $411 million worldwide, while its follow-up from last year (without him), “Uprising,” made just $290 million.
“The absence of del Toro in the director’s chair (‘The Descent’ director Neil Marshall stepped in this time around) may have turned off many fans of the previous ‘Hellboy’ installments, which were generally well-liked,” Chris Eggertsen, an analyst for Boxoffice.com, wrote.
The previous “Hellboy” star Perlman also didn’t return, which further distanced the new movie from the originals.
Dark Horse founder Mike Richardson told Business Insider in February that Perlman wanted to come back for a third movie but only if del Toro returned.
“I think both he and Ron felt that they wanted to stay together, and Guillermo ultimately decided not to be involved,” Richardson said. “I personally talked to him several times trying to see if he was interested, and he decided to pass. Ron wanted to do it but if Guillermo was directing.”
He added, “[Hellboy creator] Mike Mignola has created this great world that’s worth exploring in films and series … It was just time to do it. We just wanted to do it and get the character back in front of people beyond the published series.”
There were other factors working against ‘Hellboy’
Del Toro’s “Hellboy” movies weren’t just loved by fans of the character. Critics adored them, too. But critics trashed this new “Hellboy” movie.
“It received one of the worst Rotten Tomatoes averages (15%) of any wide-release title this year, which was a far cry from the generally well-received Del Toro films,” Eggertsen wrote.
The 2004 “Hellboy” film has an 81% critic score on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, and “The Golden Army” has an 86% critic score. The reboot is a complete dud, though, at 15% on Rotten Tomatoes and a lackluster C on CinemaScore, which polls audiences during a movie’s opening night.
“While the audience response wasn’t as awful as the critics’ responses, they weren’t terribly good either,” Box Office Analyst’s Doug Stone told Business Insider. “Reviews do impact box office more significantly than they did 10 years ago.”
Bock said the studio that distributed the movie, Lionsgate, missed the mark with branding the movie, too, and should have done more to differentiate it from the other movies.
“There are plenty of great stories in the [Hellboy] comics,” Bock said. “Giving it its own subtitle would have helped distinguish it from the original.”
The movie’s release date didn’t help, either, according to Eggertsen. “Shazam” is still performing well with audiences, and next week’s “Avengers: Endgame” is already a blockbuster, breaking the ticket service Fandango’s opening-day and opening-week presale records.
“Hellboy” was originally scheduled for release on January 11, when its biggest competition would have been the Kevin Hart comedy “The Upside” (which performed well and ultimately made $108 million domestically).
“Another likely factor in ‘Hellboy’s’ less-than-desirable debut was the fact that it arrived sandwiched between two other high-profile superhero releases: namely, ‘Shazam!’ and ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ which has already been breaking records in advance of its April 26 release,” Eggertsen wrote. “Coupled with its more restrictive R-rating and poor reviews, the already-saturated market for superhero fare may well have deterred non-Hellboy-diehards from turning out this weekend.”