Mike Fleming

‘Maleficent’s Robert Stromberg Closing On ‘Ted’ For Most Successful In Losing Helming VirginityUPDATE: Well, my bad on this one. Robert Stromberg has a ways to go before his camp can claim the first timer worldwide gross record. Right now, that resides with Seth MacFarlane, whose feature debut Ted grossed $549 million worldwide. They can call me back if he eclipses the mark as his reps had claimed. I forgot about MacFarlane.

With Maleficent reaching $521 million, Robert Stromberg has set the global box office record for the biggest-grossing live-action directing debut. He has toppled Joseph Kosinski, whose first outing Tron Legacy grossed just slightly more than $400 million worldwide. Stromberg far outpaces Rupert Sanders, who came up just short of passing Kosinski when he directed Snow White And The Huntsman, which grossed $396 million. In setting his record, Kosinski beat JJ Abrams, whose Mission: Impossible III grossed $398 million.

strombergNow, people still dispute whether the $170 million Tron Legacy was a hit or not, and some might feel that with today’s escalating budgets that breaking the first-timer record is no big deal. I’d argue it’s quite an accomplishment. Consider the other highly touted first time shooters who didn’t fare nearly as well. Wally Pfister made his directorial debut after a long career as an ace cinematographer for such filmmakers as Chris Nolan. He helmed Alcon’s Transcendence, the Johnny Depp film that was a colossal flop, costing $100 million and grossing only $78 million worldwide. The other big debut came from Carl Rinsch, the commercials wiz who helmed 47 Ronin. Another massive flop, it cost $170 million and grossed $151 million worldwide for Universal.

Stromberg is the Oscar-winning visual effects artists whose past experience set him up well to handle a fairy tale tapestry. Among his films have been James Cameron’s Avatar, Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland, Sam Raimi’s Oz The Great And Powerful, and Ang Lee’s Life Of Pi. Kosinski held the first timer record for three years. It seems likely that the CAA-repped Stromberg will hang onto it for longer than that.