This week the Walt Disney Company announced that they would no longer be working with Walden Media to produce The Chronicles Of Narnia franchise. Although the studio remained rather mum on the issue, they cited “budgetary considerations and other logistics” as part of their reasoning. Really, though, if you are a box office junkie, it’s no mystery why Disney is suddenly pulling out of the franchise. Let me explain:
The first film in the Narnia franchise, The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, was a massive success both domestically and internationally. Debuting in December 2005, it earned $291 million in the US, and $745 million worldwide, and went on to sell fantastically on DVD. The second film, Prince Caspian premiered on May 16th of this year, and was a huge disappointment. Domestically, it earned $141 million, less than half of what the original earned. Worldwide, it earned “only” $419 million. That’s a terribly steep decline for a sequel to a blockbuster, and it was immediately clear to Disney that they had misjudged the public’s love of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books. Apparently, people had a special attachment to the most famous book in the series, The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, but not the entire set of books. The problem is that these movies are not cheap. Prince Caspian cost $200 million to produce, and that’s not even including the prints and advertising budget (the first film carried a $60 million budget). In the midst of an economic downturn, Disney, like many other studios, is looking critically at its big budget expenditures.
Disney was originally planning on releasing The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader on May 7, 2010, but that clearly won’t be happening anymore. (Somewhere, Iron Man 2 is cheering…) Walden Media, who owns the movie rights to the Narnia books, claims that they remain committed to the franchise, but were “disappointed” in Disney’s decision. It will be interesting to see what happens next.
Personally, I’m a little bit sad. While I didn’t love the second film, I don’t think that the Narnia franchise was a bad investment at all. Prince Caspian was a relatively tough source material to work with, but frankly, Disney was just plain lazy in their advertising. They expected audiences to come to the theaters just because the word “Narnia” was in their title. The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader is such an exciting book, and could have made a wonderful movie. I actually hope that another studio, who really believes in Dawn Treader‘s potential, makes a deal with Walden Media to co-finance the project. What do you think? Are you sad about the end of the Disney/Narnia relationship? Do you think the third Narnia film will ever see the light of day?