By David Poland firstname.lastname@example.org
Weekend Estimates by Big Weekend Klady
What is lovely about this best-ever Thanksgiving box office haul—unless you are obsessively trying to find reasons to claim that theatrical is dead or dying—is that it wasn’t driven by mega-numbers. There was some real balance. A lot of people going to a lot of different kinds of movies. The biggest Thanksgiving 5-day ever was Potter 1’s $82.4m, 11 years ago. This weekend’s estimated high (do all-too-many media outlets not realize that today’s numbers are estimates since Sunday numbers haven’t happened yet or do they just not care about facts being precise?) was Twilight: The First Series Ends’ $64 million. Bond was about $13m behind that. But there was $64 million in Lincoln and Life of Pi. That’s amazing for two serious-minded films.
Moreover, there was $8.5m more out there for Flight, now nearing 2.5x production cost in domestic gross alone… a heavy flick about high-functioning alcoholism. Silver Linings Playbooks rebounded—for those who saw the per-screen in its first weekend as a problem—with a strong $12k per-screen on 367. Argo is still going pretty strong, ready to cross the $100m mark this next week. And there were some legitimate, if not overwhelming, per-screens for Anna Karenina, Hitchcock, Rust & Bone, and docs Chasing Ice and The Central Park Five.
There are a lot of people with a lot of specific agendas, but overall, this is the ideal of what the Niche Box Office might look like going forward. It’s not all GIANT movies and tiny movies. It’s a solid mix. People still love going to the movies. And go they do. They went to all kinds of stuff this weekend, including animated films and Indian films and docs and high art and high crap and stupid remakes an everything in between.
You want to count tickets? Get a life. Your guesstimates for this weekend—or any weekend—is skewed by 3D and IMAX by, I would estimate, as much as 10%. Ticket counting is often using a macro number to make micro arguments, which doesn’t work.
But that said, the post-theatrical universal has expanded exponentially since the launch of VHS, but even more since DVD sell-thru and the internet. But the lowered number of tickets sold hasn’t dropped exponentially at all. If you include international—which none of the ticket counters ever do, both to make their case and because even estimated stats are barely available—ticket sales are clearly up. But even if you don’t, domestic ticket sales have dropped steadily, but not drastically. This is not another era of TV eating exhibition and the studios. But yes, there is an incursion on theatrical by EVERYTHING out there. But the incursion has been greater on DVD and television. So what is the theory? It’s a lot bigger than “great weekend if you look at grosses, but ticket sales…”