The Belcher family faces far more obstacles than the Simpsons did in order to achieve box-office success
When The Simpsons hit the big screen in 2007, the movie was a rousing success, earning more than $536 million at the box office aided by a huge marketing tie-in campaign, which saw several 7-Elevens temporarily converted into Kwik-E-Marts and sold several Simpsons-related products found on the show, including one in the Clearing neighborhood on Chicago’s Southwest Side.
Fast-forward fifteen years later, and it’s like we’re living in another universe.
The Covid-19 pandemic shut theater doors two years ago, and are just now reopening. The television business has transformed, thanks to the onset of streaming. And the explosion of television shows into the five hundredths makes it very hard to stand out these days.
This is what the Belchers face with The Bob’s Burgers Movie, debuting in theaters this Friday. But with the Belchers being the underdog as a main plot point in the show, they can certainly overcome challenges.
Of course, no one thought Bob’s Burgers would ever have a movie, let alone a second season when the series debuted on January 9, 2011 on the same night of the NFC Championship Game with an uneven episode. Besides, if anyone should be talking about an animated movie is Family Guy, which at the time was one of the most creative shows on TV (until this stupid stunt happened.) But Bob’s Burgers evolved into one of the best-written adult animated shows on television, in Fox’s Sunday night toon block where it’s been since its inception and will be back this fall.
20th Century Fox announced plans for the movie in October 2017 and was scheduled to be released in July 2020, but the pandemic slowed development and delayed its release until this May. Two months after the Bob’s Burgers project was announced, much of the studio was sold to The Walt Disney Co. for $71.3 billion, resulting in Bob’s, Simpsons, and all of Fox’s animated properties shifting under new ownership.
There is no doubt the road to box-office success will be more difficult for the Belchers than it was for The Simpsons. For one, moviegoers have been slow to return to theaters as analysts are writing off the film going experience as more patrons are staying home streaming. Another is ratings for Bob’s on Fox have slid over the years though to be fair, almost all of television has had some ratings slippage as viewers transition to…you guessed it, streaming.
Bob’s off-network syndication run is complicated; its cable rights are split between Turner’s Adult Swim/TBS (the first nine seasons) and Disney-owned FXX (season ten and later) who’ll gain control to the entire library next year, while its broadcast run – which only features episodes up to season nine – is buried in overnight time slots in most large markets, including Chicago as reruns of adult animated programs have fallen out of favor with local stations.
And marketing has been mostly non-existent, as we have yet to see a Burger King or Hardee’s rebrand as a “Bob’s Burgers” restaurant for a day – not to mention Disney is putting more of its promotional muscle toward a Chip n Dale Rescue Rangers live-action/animated movie on streaming service Disney Plus (of course), hoping to cash in on millennial nostalgia as the show was part of the high-rated Disney Afternoon block some 30 years ago.
Excluding children’s animation and The Disney Channel, television shows have had difficulty transitioning to the big screen (we’re not talking about movies adapted from television shows, like Charlie Angels and 21 Jump Street.) The Simpsons Movie indeed was a smash hit, but knocked by some fans for a mediocre plot. Sesame Street’s Follow That Bird from 1985 was critically acclaimed but underperformed at the box office. The X-Files movie in 1998 wasn’t well received as the show was. Perhaps the most successful example of a TV show on the air at the time having success on the big screen is South Park: Bigger, Louder and Uncut from 1999 and 1979’s The Muppet Movie (an offshoot from The Muppet Show.) Another is Downton Abbey, who spawned two feature films.
Still, Bob’s Burgers has a large following – basically on Hulu, where most fans seek the episodes out. And reviews of the movie are promising, with a 97 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 71 score on Metacritic as of this writing, although this will likely change by Friday.
Perhaps the best way to sum this up is expectations for The Bob’s Burgers Movie should be low given it likely won’t come anywhere near what The Simpsons Movie brought in. But if the movie is just as good as what the trailer showed, then it should be a modest success at the box office and these days, it’s anything one could ask for.