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David Poland

By David Poland

The Per-Screen Scam

I am kinda sick of seeing screaming headlines/alerts about movies that are opening to “HUGE” per-screen averages at the end of the year… all the more absurd as studio-level wide release marketing budgets are leading to these HUGE exclusive openings.
I get it… I get it. But it is a scam and journalists should be saying so.
This weekend it is a $64,000 per-screen average – estimated, of course – for Revolutionary Road. That’s – get this – fewer than 350 tickets per screen than Frost/Nixon‘s HUGE opening. And what is all the box office maven buzz this week (coming, not surprisingly, from Rev Road HQ )? That Frost/Nixon is underperforming. (Not really fair… but another conversation.)
And then there are the pesky details… like I did the math and realized that Rev Road on 3 screens was mathematically incapable of grossing $64,000 per. Then I looked… it’s in three theaters… on 5 screens…. which really makes it $36,400 per… estimated.
The Top 10 per-screen launches this year until this weekend… and no, I have not yet checked for actual screen count for the others… I will as soon as I can.
Frost/Nixon – $180,708 – 3 – $60,236 – $2,659,000 – 12/5/08
The Wrestler – $202,714 – 4 – $50,679 – $648,000 – 12/17/08
Gran Torino – $271,720 – 6 – $45,287 – $2,619,000 – 12/12/08
Kit Kittredge: An American Girl – $220,297 – 5 – $44,059 – $17,657,973 – 6/20/08
Milk – $1,453,844 – 36 – $40,385 – $12,281,000 – 11/26/08
Slumdog Millionaire – $360,018 – 10 – $36,002 – $16,693,000 – 11/12/08
Doubt – $507,226 – 15 – $33,815 – $5,000,000 – 12/12/08
Changeling – $489,015 – 15 – $32,601 – $35,417,977 – 10/24/08
Rachel Getting Married – $293,369 – 9 – $32,597 – $9,785,033 – 10/3/08
Che – $61,070 – 2 – $30,535 – $108,961 – 12/12/08

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4 Responses to “The Per-Screen Scam”

  1. T. Holly says:

    I can’t remember, didn’t Ed Douglas take up this cause last year?

  2. martin says:

    This is the boy who cried wolf. If the per-screens worked out to BIG wide release numbers almost every time, then it would make sense to proclaim success with big limited release numbers. But rarely does a limited-release “hit” turn out to be a REAL hit. Even with this PR scam of it being a hit before it’s actually a hit. A quality entertainment journalist should always have an * – “take these numbers with a grain of salt since this is a big budget Hollywood film on a very small number of screens. It may mean the film is popular, or it may mean nothing at all.”

  3. Hardy says:

    I usually hear per theater average instead of per screen average.

  4. Chucky in Jersey says:

    Hardy, you are correct.

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“I really want to see The Irishman. I’ve heard it’s big brother Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece. But I really can’t find the time. The promotion schedule is so tight, there’s no opportunity to see a three and a half-hour movie. But I really want to see it. In 2017, right before Okja’s New York premiere, I had the chance to go to Scorsese’s office, which is in the DGA building. There’s a lovely screening room there, too, with film prints that he’s collected. I talked to him for about an hour. There’s no movie he hasn’t seen, even Korean films. We talked about what he’s seen and his past work. It was a glorious day. I’ve loved his work since I was in college. Who doesn’t? Anyone involved with movies must feel the same way.”
~ Bong Joon-ho

“But okay, I promise you now that if I ever retire again, I’m going to ensure that I can’t walk it back. I’ll post a series of the most disgusting, offensive, outrageous statements you can ever imagine. That way it will be impossible for me to ever be employed again. No one is going to take my calls. No one is going to want to be seen with me. Oh, it will be scorched earth. I will have torched everything. I’m going to flame out in the most legendary fashion.”
~ Steven Soderbergh