By David Poland email@example.com
Give It A Name: Media Shakeout Sidebar – Media Movie Obsessions That Don’t Matter
THESE THINGS SIMPLY DO NOT MATTER… NO MATTER HOW MUCH THE MEDIA HARPS ON THEM
Outliers – The vast majority of media stories about the movie business focus on outliers, not the industry as a whole. Those outliers, good and bad, have never been a good representation of the health of the industry.
Tickets Sold – A recently popularized stat, there are few things more irrelevant, except if you are analyzing the exhibition business. I believe a healthy exhibition business matters greatly, but for studios, this stat is actually inverted. If you can raise revenues while showing a film to fewer people, that’s a plus, as the potential non-theatrical market is bigger. Obviously, increases in both is the most preferable scenario. But the argument that fewer tickets sold is a problem does not take into account that product is being exploited by the same distributors in non-theatrical markets. The bottom line matters. How a film gets there does not matter much to the investors in films.
Weekend-vs-Weekend Annual Comparisons – Simply silly on the face of them… which is about as deeply as most reporters think about this. There are at least a dozen significant variables that change from year to year and make these comparisons specious, aside from being a starting point for analysis, not analysis on its own.
Domestic Gross Only – For some, like Adam Sandler, the domestic number is still king… though even he has made significant inroads into better international grosses in the last few years, scoring three $100m international grossers since 2008. But when comparing him to others, intentional matters. And when looking at movies, foreign is now more important than domestic in a majority of studio releases. Even this summer, with Thor as the outlier with 60% international, The Avengers will be the #2 Marvel-produced Marvel title in international percentage ever, with somewhere between 55% and 60% coming from international when all is said and done, delivering more than 2.5x the previous top M-p-M-t’s international (Iron Man 2). The international improvement alone represents almost a third of the total worldwide box office for this film.
Weekend Box Office Rank – Pure marketing bullshit. It can mean something, but only because of the other contexts in which the success is reflected. The most profitable movie of Summer 2008 was Mamma Mia!, not The Dark Knight… and it opened to $27.8m and never was #1 in any weekend. At this point, I believe this stat does more damage to movies not being hyped as #1 than it does help films that are already winning a weekend or weekends.
Studio Market Share – An oldie, but a goodie. Completely meaningless. How are the movies funded? Is the studio just distributing or is it making money on the production side? Or is it doing bug numbers distributing films that are losing money? And what about international?
Social Media On Opening Weekend – There is, simply, no consistent information even suggesting that what is huge in Social Media converts to tickets sold. Moreover, there is no consistent data that shows any correlation between Saturday grosses and Social Media. The same foolishness has been attached to cell phones, text messaging, MySpace, and now Twitter. Going to the movies has a different kind of call to action than Social Media. This is not to say that word of mouth doesn’t matter and that much of it is now via Social Media. But when something like this becomes hip to cite, I look to consistency, not experiential hype.
AND TO A LESSER DEGREE…
Theatrical Gross Without Context – A $200 million production in 2012 that grosses $400 million worldwide is likely to lose money. (Not so much in 2007.) A $30 million production that grosses $80m domestic is likely to make good money. It’s that simple and that complex. There are broad equations we can use to guess at profitability, though no journalist has all the details needed and sometimes we can get closer than other times floating on the details we do have available to us. But it’s all about context.
Quality – I have always said that opening weekend has nothing to do with quality. This is a slight overstatement. But only in outlying situations. Much as we all like to believe that quality counts, the truth is that in most situations, the opening week pretty clearly defines the box office grosses to come. I’d say that 10% or so of films break that cycle, up or down.
Awards – They can matter for indies and events, like The Oscars, can be used effectively in strategizing release choices. But in and of themselves, not very important.
People Over 35 – Sorry. I am in this category too. And we can make some films hits and very profitable. But in a good year, that’s 10% of the domestic market. (I am neither an expert in local international markets nor on the revenues from local films in each market, so breaking my own rules, I can’t include non-major-studio international in this issue.) The theatrical movie business is driven by the under-35s… even if they are spending money we gave them in allowance. (a joke.) But as important as we are to ourselves and as much as we love movies, we don’t show up often enough and in big enough numbers to be a primary focus of major studios. We are a niche.