What can one say about an opening day like that?
One can say that “If you make a good movie, they will come” is a notion stupid enough to go to the movie executive hall of fame… but is forgivable in an excited puppy peeing on the floor kinda way. That said, “If you make a movie franchise that is truly beloved over a decade by a committed base of fans and they know that the last movie is the strong pay-off of the story, they will show up in a front-loaded theatrical exhibition world in massive numbers on opening day and would even if the reviews were brutally bad,” you would have the part of the equation that speaks, somewhat, to quality as an issue in this opening.
This represents a 25% leap over the previous record-holder in this category… the last two Twilight movies… which, for the record, had brutally bad reviews and a seriously committed base of fans.
The odd part of all of this, I think, is that we really don’t know how a number like this plays out in the run of a film anymore. The frontloading and shortened window for theatrical has just turned it all pear-shaped. For instance, $710m is still the top for the Twilight franchise, in spite of those record-setting (at the time) openings. Those are great numbers, but Alice in Wonderland and Pirates 4 did a billion each, right? The Dark Knight just barely cracked a billion, the lowest grossing member of the 10-figure club. And Trannies 2 stopped at $837 million.
I think, as I and many others thought months ago, that Potter 7b will be the first Potter film to hit $1b worldwide. And hyping up opening day is part of the push for that to happen. It’s worthy of hype. But it’s also a short-term tactic.
What interests me about the mega-openings is the mythology of theatrical sell-outs and the expansion of the market to fit some of these movies. I would estimate, roughly, that there were 18 to 21 million seats available to see Potter in the domestic market yesterday. Say 15,000 actual theaters at 4375 venues… 200 seats per… 6 shows a day on an expanded event schedule? That’s 18 million. Probably a little low. Average ticket price? Say $9.50, balancing matinees, kids prices, and the 3D bump. That’s $171 million in inventory. It’s probably closer to $200 million.
Regardless, selling 50% of all available ticket inventory to a movie on more than a dozen screens on any day is a mammoth achievement. Don’t think I am undercutting the success of the film by rolling out these numbers. I’m just trying to offer up something that might not be the same 3 paragraphs on this that everyone is writing this morning. A different angle. But 50% is HUGE. Especially now.
Over the years, I have developed the habit of checking in with busy urban theaters to see how many shows the big openers are selling out. You rarely see those sell-outs more than an hour in advance of anything but the 1 or 2 prime-time Fri/Sat screenings anymore, even in the most popular theaters. It used to happen all the time. But the availability of seats has expanded to meet the demand. It was an industry goal to give everyone who wants to see a movie on opening weekend the opportunity to see it and not to send them scurrying away, afraid they’d never get in, because they might not come back on the second or third weekend… especially with shorter Home Entertainment windows.
So now, huge as Potter 7b is, it will be a bit of a challenge to quadruple opening day or to double opening weekend domestically. The Dark Knight, which played very leggy, didn’t do 3.4 times opening weekend domestically. In fact, Of the Top 10 domestic grossers of the last 5 years only Avatar got to 4x the gross at the end of their opening weekend. (Transformers got to 4x their first 3-day weekend, but only because it was doing big numbers for 4 days before it got to its first weekend.) And one, Alice in Wonderland, came up short of 3x opening.
That doesn’t diminish the success, but it is instructive about how the numbers bounce around now. The top summer movie in each of the five years from 1995-1999 did 6-6-4.9-7-6 times opening. All the openings were between $30m and $65m.
2002 was the first $100m opening. 2001 was the first $90m opening. 1997 was the first $70m opening. 1995 was the first $50m opening.
Maybe it was that 1997 mega-opening that signaled change. The Lost World: Jurassic Park was the film. It opened to a record $72 million. And grossed “only” $229m domestic. Men in Black opened with $51 million and did $251 million.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon passed The Hangover: Part II for the seasonal domestic lead last Sunday and may get to enjoy it for less than 2 weeks. Tr3 should pass $300 million this weekend domestically and has already taken the series lead from Tr2 internationally and can expect at least $100 million coming in from 4 international markets where the film hasn’t opened yet. Can it get to a billion? Hard to be sure. But it is still on track to be the highest grosser in the series.
Horrible Bosses is running pretty close to the Bad Teacher target.
Bridesmaids hits $160m. And Woody Allen passed Hannah & Her Sisters yesterday domestically, making Midnight in Paris his highest home grosser ever.
A bit of an underwhelming launch for Undefeated, the Sarah Palin campaign ad that averaged $2870 per screen yesterday or about 287 people a day per screen or about 60 people per screening. Other better indies did worse… but none had the marketing might of FoxNews behind them.