The Uglydolls movie opened in theaters over the weekend and the result for STX Films was, well, ugly. STX has been making inroads over the last handful of years in Hollywood, positioning themselves as a mid-level studio that can compete by keeping budgets low and delivering entertaining results for the money spent. It's a model that, when clicking, allows for maximum profit. The studio recently tried to apply that to the world of animation for the first time and, to put it lightly, things didn't work out so well.
UglyDolls, which is based on the popular toy line of the same name, opened on more than 3,600 screens over the weekend, battling Avengers: Endgame in its second week of release, as well as Long Shot, The Intruder and, to a much lesser degree, El Chicano, which also bombed in a big, bad way. Unfortunately for STX, the animated movie, which was aimed squarely at the family-friendly crowd, made just $8.5 million in its domestic box office debut. That's not a great number for any wide release movie. But in this case it's particularly painful, as the studio already had lofty plans put in place for this franchise which are now, more or less, dead in the water.
A typical animated blockbuster, such as the ones made by Pixar, go through years of development and several versions before audiences see them. That gets rather expensive, which is why the budgets regularly top $100 million. STX tried to do it a different way with UglyDolls. They recruited big-name pop stars such as Kelly Clarkson, Nick Jonas and Pitbull to drum up interest, picked one version of the movie and made that movie. That cut the cost, as it's estimated to have cost around $50 million to produce. Unfortunately, with such a tepid debut, it's long-term prospects aren't great, even when factoring in international box office. As such, it's expected to lose a good chunk of change for the studio. Though, no estimated figure has been brought forth as of yet.
So the pop star route didn't work, despite the fact that all of the stars in the movie have huge social media followings. Part of the problem, or much of the problem, is that the movie was panned by critics, as it sits at just a 32 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. That matters when parents have to consider an expensive day taking the family to the movies. Consumers are wise these days and won't waste their money on something that may not deliver the goods. Especially when something like Detective PIkachu is just around the corner.
Needless to say, a sequel is almost totally out of the question for director Kelly Asbury's adaptation of the toys. Another unfortunate wrinkle for STX is that they already committed to a 26-episode animated UglyDolls series for Hulu. They were clearly banking on success and had bigger plans for the franchise. They purchased all of the rights to UglyDolls, not just the movie rights, meaning they're banking on merchandising money and other ancillary income that just won't be there like they had hope. Sadly, the cart is already before the horse on this one. This news was previously reported by Deadline.