The Golden Compass

Budget: $180 million Financed by: New Line; Royal Bank of Scotland
Domestic Gross: $70,107,728 Domestic Distributor: New Line
Overseas Gross: $302,127,136
Directed by: Chris Weitz
Nicole Kidman
Daniel Craig
Produced by: Toby Emmerich

the golden compass box officeThe Golden Compass was co-financed by New Line and received some capital from the Royal Bank of Scotland, which inked a $350 million deal with New Line in January 2007 that would invest in New Line’s productions over a two year period.  After British tax incentives and strong foreign pre-sales, about 2/3 of the $180 million budget (some estimates are north of $200 million) covered the expensive production.  Despite having limited exposure to the budget, this would be the mini-studio’s undoing by giving away the film’s international market — where the majority of business was expected for the fantasy pic.  After a two year slump at the box office, New Line considered this their most important property since The Lord Of The Rings and invested in an expensive marketing blitz with estimates at $60 million, hoping the domestic numbers would lead to a new franchise for the struggling studio.  In addition to New Line’s ad spend, $50 million would be spent from corporations tying in their products with the film, which were: Coca-Cola Co., Burger King, Wal-Mart, Target, Sega, the World Wildlife Fund, Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Best Buy, Emusic, FAO Schwarz, Corgi Intl., Toys R Us, Trans World Entertainment, Circuit City, Marie Claire and Scholastic.  On top of all that, New Line brokered a deal with over 75 licensed partners to produce ‘Golden Compass’ merchandise — toys, games, electronics, stationery, health and beauty products.  The Golden Compass had high awareness with the public nearing its release, but tracking was soft and New Line held sneak previews in 873 theaters the week before its opening, hoping to spread positive word of mouth.  New Line capped off its aggressive ad spend by posting the first five minutes of the movie on Yahoo.  The film opened in the US with no other wide releases scheduled and it came in below expectations with $25,783,232.  It crashed second weekend, dropping 65.8% to $8,825,549 killing its chances at breaking out over the holidays.  The Golden Compass closed its US run with a disappointing $70,107,728.  New Line would see back about $38.5 million after theaters take their percentage of the gross, which infuriated WB since they gave away the huge overseas gross.  The Golden Compass was a success overseas, becoming the first film to gross over $300 million in foreign markets and not hit $100 million at the domestic market.  The overseas cume was a huge $302.1 million and reportedly distributors from almost every market would sign onto a sequel, but WB would see little in return after New Line botched the would-be franchise’s terms.  The Golden Compass is not nearly the financial disaster its made out to be, but its weak domestic numbers was one of the primary reasons Warner Bros folded New Line into its operations a little over 2 months later, where they would function in a limited capacity and all their productions would be released globally by WB.  Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig were also onscreen together a few months earlier in the fiasco The Invasion.