Is Dubai's apparent love of animation sidelining other films?
Dubai is traditionally a big market for action films, but animated adventure Despicable Me is still in UAE cinemas almost 17 weeks after its July release, giving it one of the longest runs of any of summer’s blockbusters (matched only by Inception), and greater longevity than many released since. By comparison, adult comedy Cyrus, starring Jonah Hill and John C Reilly, ran for a paltry two weeks before being dropped by Dubai’s cinemas. And it seems it’s not just the kids keeping Despicable Me up there. On a recent trip to see the movie, Time Out was surprised to find an exclusively adult audience who, if the laughter emanating across the cinema was anything to go by, seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely.
Dreamworks’ latest animated comedy, Megamind, about a villain in search of a superhero to fight, debuts in UAE cinemas next week. There has been huge expectation surrounding the new release; is this proof that adults are now choosing kids’ films over all other genres?
When Tom Cruise lost out to Toy Story 3 at the box office earlier this year, with action feature Knight and Day taking just Dhs4.6m against Woody and Buzz’s Dhs6.2m, it was beginning to look like Dubai’s penchant for fast-paced action films was waning. Not so, according to Cameron Mitchell, general manager of CineStar cinemas, who admits it’s rare for a film to last more than five or six weeks, and that studios are wisely broadening the appeal of animations.
‘Much like Shrek, the humour in Despicable Me has that double entendre, so adults are almost seeing a different film to the kids,’ he explains. Comparing it to The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, he adds: ‘I think the humour has become more developed. Kids see this light animation with lots of colour, but obviously for us the humour is really quite clever.’ The growth of 3D technology, he argues, is also encouraging adults to give these films a try, rather than writing them off from the outset.
Yet even without the draw of 3D, adults have embraced these light-hearted capers. ‘I think Kung Fu Panda attracted as many adults as it did children,’ Mitchell says. Those adults may be pleased to hear Kung Fu Panda 2 is slated for release next year. Mitchell also expects upcoming animation Rio, about a group of birds in Rio de Janeiro (voiced by George Lopez, Anne Hathaway and Jesse Eisenberg), due out next year, to see similar success., along with this month’s Megamind. The latter, from the director of Madagascar, features the voices of Jonah Hill, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, David Cross and Brad Pitt, and the trailer is already receiving positive reviews on YouTube.
But what about films like Cyrus, which barely see the light of day? ‘There’s so much on offer here, and you’ve got to keep up with it,’ says Mitchell. ‘We’re releasing more than 300 films a year, on average six new films every week. If it’s there this week, it may not be there next week.’
And then there’s the issue of casting. ‘You may get a film that performs well internationally, but does very poorly here. It’s reflective of the market and the demographic locally. For example, films starring Martin Lawrence [Death at a Funeral, Wild Hogs] work incredibly well here, yet internationally he isn’t much of star.’
So are regular flicks really losing out to kids’ films? For now, no. But kids’ films are getting smarter and gaining a larger adult following. This doesn’t mean we’ll see the variety of films on offer diminish – far from it, we have more to look forward to.
Megamind debuts in UAE cinemas on November 11.
Well I never…
We unmask the voices behind some of animation’s most famous faces
Finding Nemo (2003) Alexander Gould as Nemo. Fact: Gould also voiced Bambi in Bambi II, a 2006 sequel to the Disney original.
Madagascar (2005) Jada Pinkett Smith as Gloria. Fact: She unsuccessfully auditioned to play (now husband) Will’s girlfriend on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
Monsters Inc (2001) Billy Crystal as Mike. Fact: Crystal used to be the opening act for Sammy Davis Jr.
Up (2009) Edward Asner as Carl. Fact: Asner has played Santa Claus in four different films.
WALL-E (2008) Ben Burtt as Wall-E. Fact: Burtt created the sound of the Star Wars light sabres in ’77.