Leaked video likely to hurt “A Dog’s Purpose” at box office
LOS ANGELES — Marketers would describe “A Dog’s Purpose” as a film with “four-quadrant” appeal, meaning it’s likely to draw moviegoers of both genders, young and old. Based on a bestselling book and told from a dog’s perspective, it’s a feel-good story for animal lovers of all kinds.
Which is why a video leaked last week of a frightened dog apparently forced into rushing water during the making of the film is so
damaging to its opening box-office prospects this weekend: It alienates, even offends, its very audience.
“Sometimes a controversy can help you, but this isn’t one of those cases,” said
Gitesh Pandya, editor of box officeguru.com. “As far as videos that can come out for your film, this is definitely not the one you want if you’re the filmmakers, right before the movie opens.”
Since the video surfaced Jan. 18 on TMZ.com and quickly went viral, fallout has been extensive, including:
- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has called for a boycott of “A Dog’s Purpose.”
- Producer Amblin Entertainment and distributor Universal Pictures went into full damage control, complete with a “war room,” canceling a media day and starry premiere, but sticking to its plan to open the PG-rated film in more than 3,000 North American theaters on Friday.
- American Humane, the watchdog organization that certifies that “no animals were harmed” during TV and movie productions, suspended an employee and launched a third-party investigation into the incident.
- “A Dog’s Purpose” star Dennis Quaid went on TV’s “Entertainment Tonight” calling the leaked video “a scam.”
- Actor Josh Gad, who lends his voice to a dog in the film, issued a statement on Twitter saying he has asked the studio and production team for an explanation of what he calls “disturbing images.”
“No matter how the film performs this weekend, there is virtually no way to accurately quantify how the ultimate gross receipts for the film may have been impacted by the negative publicity,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office tracker comScore.
No one has disputed the authenticity of the leaked video. Quaid, Polone, “A Dog’s Purpose” author W. Bruce Cameron and American
Humane, however, have all said that it is misleading. The minute-long clip shows a trainer trying to put a resistant German shepherd named Hercules into a turbulent pool and the dog scrambling out. A subsequent scene shows the dog becoming submerged in the water for several seconds as trainers shout, “Stop!” TMZ says the footage was recorded in November of 2015.
Mark Stubis of American Humane said its investigation should be completed soon, but that initial findings indicate that two scenes in the clip were shot at different times and edited together. Stubis said production was stopped after the dog showed signs of stress on the day in question and that Hercules “was not forced to swim in the water during this take.”