'Glee: The 3D Concert Movie' tanked at the box office. What went wrong?


Image Credit: Adam Rose

In 2011, only two movies have opened in more than 2,000 theaters, yet finished outside the Top 10. The first was the 1980s throwback Take Me Home Tonight, which started with $3.5 million back in March, and the other was Glee: The 3D Concert Movie, which earned a poor $6 million out of 2,040 theaters over the weekend, landing it way back in 11th place.

The Glee concert picture, made for an estimated $8.5 million, showed a steep drop at the box office for each day of its opening weekend and earned only $6 million. And that’s with 3-D ticket prices!

That’s a far cry from the $31.1 million that Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: The Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour — which kicked off the recent wave of 3-D concert flicks — earned in its debut in 2008. It’s also much less than the opening weekend grosses of this year’s Justin Bieber: Never Say Never ($29.5 million), 2009’s Michael Jackson’s This Is It ($23.2 million), and even 2009’s financially disappointing Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience ($12.5 million). And since concert films are notoriously front-loaded in terms of overall box office performance — Hannah Montana barely doubled what it made in its opening weekend, finishing with $65.1 million — it’s unlikely that the Glee movie will pick up business this weekend.

So what went wrong with Glee‘s release? A few theories:

Let’s start with the source material. After an uneven second season and a full summer of behind-the-scenes drama, fans may have been feeling somewhat unenthusiastic about the musical adventure. And then there were the reviews: EW critic Lisa Schwarzbaum, for one, didn’t find the film particularly entertaining, calling the concert a “generically big, loud, overchoreographed, over-mic’ed, post-Madonna production, programmed with songs to get the whole audience singing, screaming, and waving oversized red foam-rubber Glee hands that form the show’s trademark letter L.”

The film also didn’t offer a very candid behind-the-scenes look at Glee. Instead of backstage hangouts with the cast, the movie intercut glitzy, on-stage performances with inspirational stories of teen fans who’ve been deeply affected by the show. In contrast, Miley Cyrus’ and Justin Bieber’s concert films did give fans access to the performers’ lives off the stage (even if those glimpses were heavily produced). Gleeks might’ve wanted more footage of their favorite characters and stars.

We can’t forget about the 3-D factor, either. Though the technology was certainly a draw for films like Avatar and Alice in Wonderland, audiences have quickly cooled on the trend. These days, many films only earn about 40 percent of their opening weekend gross from 3-D ticket sales, when one year ago, that figure was usually closer to 80 percent. Some movies, like Final Destination 5, can still coerce audiences to pay the marked-up ticket price (the horror film earned 76 percent of its opening weekend gross from 3-D screens), but when movies like Glee use 3-D without a clear reason to do so, it can feel like a shameless cash grab. Moviegoers generally don’t like that.

What do you think went wrong with Glee‘s box office release? Is the Glee train slowing down, or was this just a bump in the road?

Follow Grady on Twitter: @BoxOfficeJunkie

Read more:
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Comments (277 total) Add your comment
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  • DogBoy

    Oh let’s see… Glee’s TV viewers are older and less likely to want to see a concert movie than your typical Mylie Cyrus fan; the commercials didn’t feature any of the performers in closeup except Sue (it was hard to see if it was actually the TV characters); they sing stuff that other people made more famous than the Glee versions.

    • Sam I.

      My thoughts exactly. I’m not a Beiber or Cyrus fan, but I am a Glee fan. That said, I would NEVER go see a concert movie. Pointless rubbish.

      • Nathan

        Yup, why pay for something when you can get it every week for free?

      • Madox

        I agree with you guys. I watch Glee just about every week, but I’d never even rent the movie. The movie isn’t the show.

      • Ben

        Ya’ll took the words out of my mouth. The average age of Glee viewers is older than Cirus/Bieber/Jonas fans.

      • UGH

        Was I beaten to the punch with the comment that Americans might be growing smarter?

      • anonymous

        Glee 3D TANKED big time because it sucks. Glee has lost it’s Golden Touch, and will result in the TV show going downhill faster…
        just like what happened to Ugly Betty.

      • Capt. Obvious

        What went wrong? It’ just not that good. The show isn’t. Their is nearly no original music, so why would you want to see a concert where less famous people sing legendary songs by famous singers when you could simply go see those famous people perform their own music? The mix of overexposure, the show’s creator’s ego and generally unsavory behavior, the producers milking poor gay kids for ever penny they can, and the fact that, if we won’t pay $17 to see Thor use superpowers in 3D, there is little chance we’d pay $17 to see mediocre actors sing karaoke. That’s what went wrong. You can catch GLAAD PSAs and Glee for free on television, though I’m still not sure why you’d want to. This show was never as good as EW would lead you to believe. That’s what went wrong.

      • Kirk

        I would never pay to watch Glee. Whoever came up with this idea for a production should be fired.

    • Ma’at


      And add to that that the Second Season just didn’t generate the same excitement as it was almost all about stunt casting and, well, there ya go.

      I LOVE the show, but what I love about it (the characters and their journey) just wasn’t there last season. While I can tell you, in detail, the character story arcs of Season One, I couldn’t begin to tell you about Season Two. Obviously, they were much more interested in theme shows and stunt casting than the story.

    • Lucy

      You said it all… I LOVE GLEE! However, I’m 22, and refuse to watch a concert movie… that kind of thing are for Hanna Montana – Bieber fans, which usually are pre-teens

      • Kirk

        I go to the movies to escape reality, reality tv, gameshows, depressing things, and Glee.

    • Meredith

      @DogBoy, you are right on target! I enjoy the show, at the age of 27, and sing along with the songs, but I’m not going to the movies for it. Also, I’d like it if Glee would go under the entertainment radar for a while.

    • prish

      My father told me he watches Glee. I am 66 years old. I do not watch Glee. Do the math.

    • watergirl

      I so agree. Plus why would us older crowd want to see it in 3D.

      • KC

        The biggest problem was no Lea Michelle nudity.
        Now THAT would’ve sold tickets.

      • The Dawg

        True dat!

      • dakmart

        As cute as Ms Michele is, I think I’d rather see Naya Rivera, Heather Morris or Dianna Agron in the buff. Just sayin’

      • Joe

        Diana is not sexy, Heather has funky eyes ,Naya and Lea unique, sexy and pretty.

    • Cygnus

      Maybe EW has placed too much hype into Glee, and it’s not really as popular as they’d want you to believe.

      • Sprague

        Didn’t even realize it was playing this weekend. I love Glee but I don’t need a concert, we went to see The Help instead.

      • RK

        About time they covered this disaster. I’m sure they were trying to ignore it since they are obsesses with this awful show.

      • Colleen

        Cygnus….YES. EW is constantly shoving Glee down our throats even though they HAVE to know it’s a pretty terrible show…horrible writing, bad plots, cliche characters..not to mention the whole show could be summed up as a GLAAD Public Service Announcement. I don’t know of any show that has been so morally preachy and ridiculous.

    • oh_really

      $17 ticket price is what went wrong with the movie.

      • minneminne

        I can’t believe it even made $6 million

    • Pop Vulture

      I want to see the movie, but there’s no way I’m paying for a 3-D ticket. Release it in 2-D; then my family will go.

      • kayla

        Agreed, but as a true gleek I had to go see it anyways. On tuesday though, cuz popcorn is cheaper. And it’s not just adults who wwatch glee-I’m 13. Besides, what if I say dancing with the stars sucks, or grim or once upon a time or any other popular show that you may like. Are you offended by my oppinion? Yes? Then KEEP IT TO YOURSELF!!!!!

    • hi

      The gays have moved on to another fad.

    • DW

      I love Glee, and everyone I know watches it. But I don’t know anyone who went to see this movie. We’re all adults, so of course I will watch the Glee concert on repeat in the comfort of my own home instead.

    • caturah

      I agree. The folks who enjoy Glee are an older crowd who generally refuse to step into a movie theatre to be kicked in the back by the goofball teens or kids behind them OR the grannies that tell the whole theatre what’s gonna happen next because their friend is hard of hearing and can’t see well either.

  • joe luck

    Or maybe just because EW talks about Glee every two minutes, it doesn’t mean everyone else cares about them.

    • Susan

      Exactly. I’m thinking there are lots of reasons it bombed and the writer hit on most of them. Primarily, people don’t want to pay 3-D prices for something they can see for free in their home weekly. The film offered almost nothing in the way of getting to know the actors, singers, and dancers. People don’t care much that lonely, outcast Gleeks found other lonely, outcast Gleeks, no matter how “inspirational”–While that’s a good thing, they can see and read that for free on any Glee message board.

      But mostly, Glee has been so completely overexposed in 2011 that many are sick of it. And Ryan Murphy has been such a colossal ass over the last six months it’s hard to look at anything Glee and not his raging ego. He’s sucked ALL the glee out of Glee.

      • Michael

        Yeah. It’s crazy. People are SO sick of it that they are reading articles about it and commenting on it.

      • Ned

        Or Maybe, Michael, they’re looking for catharsis and reading articles and comments to find it. What’s wrong with that?

      • RK

        I don’t read the articles — I just come to mock its failure.

      • Michele

        Personally, I hate what has happened to Glee, I have no intention of watching it next season, as I’m happy that other people have finally realized that the creators took a fine thing and tore it all apart. A little humility can only be a good thing.

      • PanicMoon

        I wholeheartedly agree with Sue….if an actor or musician dares hint in public that they don’t watch Glee! Ryan Murphy calls for a boycott. And unfortunately the entire cast seems to be just as stuck on themselves in the interviews I’ve seen. Yes, they are good singers. Actors, meh, but I can go into just about any high school in my city and watch high school students perform just as well if not better. Lea Michele is not the second coming of Barbra Streisand or Idina Menzel. Perhaps the failure of this egotistical venture on the big screen will take it down a notch.

      • The Truth

        I agree with PanicMoon 100%.

        I liked Glee the first season. Other than maybe the Gwyneth Paltrow episodes, the second season just sucked all around.

  • Keitherson

    Perhaps Glee’s media overexposure is what did it or perhaps it’s because it’s the exact same crap they’ve been doing for the past two years except LIVE AND IN 3D!!!!!!11!1one

    This season needs to be its last, but I’m not watching anymore anyway so they can keep it going to 300 more seasons for all I care.

    – @keitherson

  • Elizabeth

    Seeing as the actual Glee tour sold out across the US and overseas, I don’t think any “train” is slowing down. But I do agree that the 3D movie was a mistake on the part of the producers. The lack of behind the scenes footage and added fan sob-stories being the biggest. If they’ed simply offered a DVD of the concert for those fans that couldn’t attend the show live, without the useless 3D, it would have been a better move. But I truly do not believe this movies failure will hurt the Glee franchise. Fans are quick to forgive, and they will once season 3 premiers.

    • teekay

      I agree with you on the DVD 100%; also, a two-hour concert special on TV probably would have done great ratings for the show. Back in the day, “Fame” (the syndicated series) used to do that all the time and I always loved watching those performances. No doubt, my parents loved that I wasn’t begging them to drive me into the city and pay a fortune to see the show in a movie theatre. :D

    • VioletF

      I saw the movie yesterday and there was no need to have any of it in 3D. I agree with practically everything you said, Elizabeth. I saw snippets of the live Glee concerts and was disappointed that the on stage intros and banter weren’t included. I did enjoy the backstories of some fans: Radiant Janae’s was lovely and inspiring and Trenton’s heartbreaking and then uplifting. More behind the scenes footage, more highlighting of the Glee Stars=more buzz and more success.

    • PanicMoon

      Well, yes, this will slow the train down, because now the show’s producers realize that indeed the fanbase will not buy anything Glee! that is thrown at them. I think that’s what hurt the show in the second season. Fans will only take so many insults to their intelligence.

      • Freedomoftought

        They’re not “insulting” anyone’s intelligence. They made an error in judgment. Not everyone appreciates 3-D. (In my circle of friends, no one does.) For me, it has nothing to do with the cost. I wear glasses and get headaches. If I go to a 3-D movie, the glasses the give me (to wear OVER my own) cause me a lot of discomfort and I walk out with a splitting headache. Therefore, I avoid 3-D movies. The DVD idea is awesome. Personally, I’m addicted to special features.

  • e4ia

    Well the concert (and most of the movie) are musical numbers rehashed from the TV show. I can understand the excitement of seeing the cast perform live in concert. But why shell out $15 bucks to watch something on a theater screen that you have mostly already seen on TV for free? Instead of keeping the cast completely in character backstage and using “inspirational” stories of some of their fans, they should have gone the “Truth or Dare” route and show the actors lives off-stage and how they interact with each other and prepare for their performances.

    • L

      They kept the actors in character back stage?? That’s kind of creepy. Also, why did they show people whose lives Glee has “changed”? That seems self congratulatory to me. That doesn’t sound like a good concert movie to me. Maybe they haven’t ever seen a concert movie before. Then again I haven’t either because I’m over the age of 13 and have no children.

      • Laura K.

        I was actually excited to see this until I noticed that the actors were in character in the ads. As someone else said, Glee fans tend not to be tweens. There’s no need to pretend that the ACTUAL McKinley High Glee Club is on tour, rather than the actors from the show. I would want to see candid backstage footage, but I’m not interested in seeing the characters in scripted backstage footage.

      • Tracy

        I am a 46 year old Glee fan who thought the whole concept of keeping the actors in character for the movie sort of “dumbed it all down” a little bit. Even a 13 year old KNOWS the difference between the actor and role, right?????

    • PN

      And it should have been a full concert show. No backstage footage or scenes, just the Glee cast performing all the songs in that concert and keep the music going back to back. I didn’t like the packaging of the commercial on TV.

  • Ian

    They sing every week on TV for free, so why pay to see it?

  • Antonio of Gilead

    Im a total Glee fan but i though a 3d movie was just plain insane.

    • Bonnie

      Agree. I HATE 3D and they aren’t offering it in 2D, not that I think I would have shelled out $10 to see it. It’s definintely a Saturday afternoon, catch-it-on-cable kind of thing.

      • Pop Vulture

        Agree. Loathe 3-D, won’t pay for it.

    • Dava

      I think it bombed because it totally screams MONEY GRAB MONEY GRAB

  • abadstroller

    Very rarely do live concerts translate well to the screen. The energy is flat and unengaging and, 3-D not withstanding, the performances come across as “two-dimensional”–in both senses of that description. Exceptions would be Talking Heads’ “Stop Making Sense”, the “battle of the bands at First Avenue” section of Prince’s “Purple Rain” (the majority of THAT movie felt D.O.A., but the musical performances at the end were riveting), The Band’s “The Last Waltz”…I can’t think anymore off the top of my head, but I’m sure there are just a few more.

    • abadstroller

      BTW, i am a faithful “Glee” viewer, but I really don’t see myself sitting in a movie theater watching “G: 3D” when I would rather be outside in the summer or power-napping on my couch!

    • jc

      the song remains the same is another good one, too.
      Concert movies aren’t all bad :)

    • PanicMoon

      Rattle and Hum?

  • dW5x1

    I was turned off by the fact that the actors were playing their characters, -Lea Michelle is singing and being interviewed as “Rachel”, noty Lea, -and I find that kind of creepy. And then there’s the fact that I didn’t want to pay the 3D prices.

  • Thom

    I thought for sure the lack of Mr. Schuester butting his creepy, rapping face into every song would be a welcome sight to fans. Guess I was wrong.

    • Girly

      Lol! So true!

  • kate middleton

    Glee fatigue for sure. Especially since the reviews made it seem like this was all just Ryan Murphy patting himself on the back. I think it’s hilarious that it bombed.

    • me

      Haha. I agree with you Kate Middleton.

      Also, I just plain had no idea what this movie WAS based on the previews. It didn’t get me excited to see it — what, they just sing the same songs with a more boring stage drop and one outfit? Ugh.

  • Dominic

    It went wrong when they decided to give one of the most overrated and unfunniest shows on television a 3D concert movie. Talk about a soulless cashgrab. Good thing it bombed at the box office.

    • bruno

      took the words right out of my mouth.l eat crow FOX and ryan murphy. the show that started out with a bang is beginning to sound like a great big fart. interested to see how the ratings work out in the fall, not to mention what’s sure to be a big fat shut out at the emmy’s. glee is the new desperate housewives, both lead by egotistical buffoons that think they know great television…and don’t.

  • CK

    It was the 3D for me – there was no reason for it. I liked that I could take myself and kids for price of one actual concert ticket – altho in hindsight, could have paid just 1 1/2 price of theatre ticket and bought DVD for much of the same experience (and hey! no 3D!!)

  • L

    It doesn’t sound like a good concert movie to me. Maybe the creators haven’t ever seen a concert movie before? Then again I haven’t either because I’m over the age of 13 and don’t have any children.

  • Brian Murphy

    Serves them right for not going with my suggested titles of either “Glee and the Deathly Hallows Part 1″ or “Glee: Breaking Dawn Part 1″.

    You’re loss, Ryan Murphy.

    • Grammar Police

      Your loss, Ryan Murphy.

    • Brian Murphy sucks

      Ooh, so close.

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