A new movie for toddlers, "Oogieloves in The Big Balloon Adventure," is making the wrong kind of box-office history.
The movie opened Wednesday at 1,500 theaters and brought in $60,000 total. That's a sippy-cup-sized $40 per screen for the independently distributed G-rated cartoon.
It has a shot at recording one of the worst wide-opening weekends ever. Last year's "Creature" set the standard when it averaged $217 on 1,507 screens. "Oogieloves" is scheduled to be on 2,160 screens for the weekend, but theater owners who've seen Wednesday's numbers may want to reconsider.
"Oogieloves" is the brainchild of first-time filmmaker and marketing whiz Kenn Viselmann, who helped bring "The Teletubbies" and "Thomas the Tank Engine" to American TV.
He convened a fancy party at the Cinema-Con convention for theater owners in Las Vegas in April, promising a major roll-out and predicting a wave of word-of-mouth adoption by parents eager for movies to appeal to the kindergarten crowd.
In Los Angeles, billboards have sprung up all over town featuring the big, bizarre-looking and intensely colored puppet kids.The big-eyed creatures were on a front page wrap-around ad in Wednesday's L.A. Times, too. Even the web site TMZ.com ran wallpaper ads.
The movie follows Goobie, Zoozie and Toofie, who live in Lovelyloveville in a house with a talking window. When their birthday balloons blow away, they go to find them and encounter some crazy grown-ups who … well, you get the idea.
There are some generally fun folks involved: Toni Braxton voices Rosalie Rosebud, Christopher Lloyd is Lero Sombrero, Cary Elwes is Bobby Wobbly, Chazz Palminteri is Marvin Milkshake and Cloris Leachman plays Dotty Rounder.
If this sounds like it could make you want to stand up and scream at the screen, that's part of the plan – if you're between two and five years old. Viselmann says the movie is intended to be "interactive" for young viewers, who are prompted to sing, dance and cheer at the same time the Oogieloves do.
The idea, according to Viselmann, is to take the soda-fueled energy of the toddlers and channel it into a more positive movie-going experience than the yelling and running often found at family films.
Viselmann has said in interviews that he got the idea after watching audience members yell at the screen while they were watching Tyler Perry's "Madea Goes to Jail" and recalling friends' accounts of shouting along with the "Rocky Horror Picture Show."