Box Office Archive for December, 2008

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.
Oh.
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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Weekend Estimates by Klady

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The weather outside is a popular cliche’… really.
Estimates may defy accuracy today. We’l see. Klady has Yes Man slipping well under 3x Friday… the other two openers right around there. At least one premature e-estimacator has retracted estimates a couple of times over the weekend.
People sometimes ask why some of this premature stuff irritates me so. It’s 3-fold. One, it’s often inaccurate. But more importantly, the sense of mining movie grosses like they are baseball stats is something that has irritated many for years, as box office has become assured of a Sunday night slot on every news show (and now, ever scroll). But we are getting to the point where we won’t wait for the news to happen before insisting we have the answer. This is not a situation where Traditional Media is doing a single bit of perspective reporting either. And those who are positioning themselves as experts are either completely ignorant of what they are really writing about or they are so busy trying to be first that they are doing a disservice to people who have a legitimate interest in what is going on out there.
And 3… the reason we have incredibly unclear and often no verifiable numbers in areas of new media is that there are so many irresponsible monkeys swimming around the pool in box office these days that the industry is dedicated to hiding every single number they can from her on in.
With due respect, this is AICN Syndrome. Reviewing test screenings has led to a test screening system that no longer works for filmmakers or the foolish execs that overvalued the numbers that came out of those screenings. And we don’t know the real numbers on anything other than box office now because “analysts” dipped too deeply into the well and misunderstood the numbers they did have, creating problems for every studio.
And by the way… here is a touch of what may become news in the days to come… purchasing a web business should require a lot of due diligence work, as word around the box office moat is that a lawsuit for stolen proprietary information is being seriously considered now that one web entity has grown deep pockets. As I have written before, domestic box office that studios hand out each week is not proprietary information. If you have a website or newspaper, you can get on the weekend phone list. But when you are digging past the first 20 or 30 grossers, it is likely that you are using numbers from just one or two actual hands-on box office information brokers aka reporting services

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Friday Estimates by Klady

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One has to go all the way back to 2003 to find a pre-Christmas weekend that was not right on top of Christmas, creating a 4-day or 5-day weekend and that entails. Now, 2003 did have Return of the King burning things up. That level of film has not entered the market this month. But after that, grosses were $11.5m, $11.4m, $7.8m, $5.5m

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Weekend Estimates by Klady – December 14

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Not a lot new to say.
But I will remind again, the Che’ per screen is, in reality, more than double that of any of the other films, as it is a 4.5 hour event, meaning 2 shows a day. It is an interesting inequity that NY is in the massive Ziegfeld and in LA, the film is in a 200 seater at the shiny, new Landmark… which also offered yesterday, a double dip of appearances by Benicio (as well as Laura Bickford, the screenwriter and another actor).
Ironically, the excellent per-screen by Slumdog MIllionaire is closest overall to Rab Ne Bana de Jodi, the actual Indian film in the market.
Really, all the limiteds who are awards trawling can be pleased… some more than others… but basically fine.
I will be accused of writing this because I am not a fan of Gran Torino, but think on this before making it about me…. is there any reason to do a 6-screen release for what is being sold as a wide release movie other than to spin the media? Realistically, you are looking at a movie that would have been no worse than the #3 film in the market this weekend if they were on as many as 1800 screens. So what are they vamping for?

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Friday Estimates by Klady

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Not too much of interest this week. The Day The Talent Stood Still was always going to open. We’ll see how long it lasts once people start talking to their friends about it. Nothing Like The Holidays is going to be dead in the midde of the six prior Overture openers, as it is on screen count.
In terms of the high profile exclsuive releases – 2 to 15 screens – Gran Torino was the strongest per-screen, but not by nearly as much as you might expect for a movie that is being sold 100% commercially. About 6500 people saw it yesterday. But almost 1400 folks went to do see Che’. And Doubt, 13,000. Even The Reader scored almost 4700 people per screen on Friday/Shabbat.
There is a real surprise in that Australia, which has been dragged through the mud before disappearing as a point of discussion, will actually be at almost the same exact gross as Moulin Rouge! after both were in 3 weekends fo wide release, with Australia perhaps going ahead.
ADD, 10:45a – I am told by someone with a vested interest that Che’ sold out its entire Los Angeles weekend yesterday afternoon and that the movie, on its second screen, at NY’s Ziegfeld Theater, was sold out an hour ahead of the start yesterday. The two theaters are doing two shows a day, the full movie, for $12.50/$12 NY/LA for the whole thing in this one-week qualifying run.
So doing the math, that works out to better than double the per-screen per-show that Gran Torino did. And keep in mind, this is after a number of promotional events on both coasts, including an AFI screening in a sold-out Chinese Theater a month or so ago, which is about the same size at the Ziegfeld.
I don’t think we’re looking at a massive box office hit here, but as I have been saying for a while, I do thnk there is $7 million or more in this film from people who really care about film. For Che’ to get to $10 million in America would be a triumph for all film. And more importantly, there is a movie here that should be celebrated, for all of its successes and, if you so see it, failures. It is the kind of film that we in the chattering class all talk about wanting to see from American filmmakers. And is so often the case, it looks like the people who buy tickets will lead the critics to the an appreciation of what has been seen through an all-too-narrow lens.
CORRECTION FOR DUMB MATH ERROR, 3:35p

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Weekend Estimates by Klady

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Friday Estimates by Klady, 120608

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“The thought is interrupted by an odd interlude. We are speaking in the side room of Casita, a swish and fairly busy Italian bistro in Aoyama – a district of Tokyo usually so replete with celebrities that they spark minimal fuss. Kojima’s fame, however, exceeds normal limits and adoring staff have worked out who their guest is. He stops mid-sentence and points up towards the speakers, delighted. The soft jazz that had been playing discreetly across the restaurant’s dark, hardwood interior has suddenly been replaced with the theme music from some of Kojima’s hit games. Harry Gregson-Williams’ music is sublime in its context but ‘Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots’ is not, Kojima acknowledges, terribly restauranty. He pauses, adjusting a pair of large, blue-framed glasses of his own design, and returns to the way in which games have not only influenced films, but have also changed the way in which people watch them. “There are stories being told [in cinema] that my generation may find surprising but which the gamer generation doesn’t find weird at all,” he says.
~ Hideo Kojima

“They’re still talking about the ‘cathedral of cinema,’ the ‘communal experience,’ blah blah. The experiences I’ve had recently in the theatre have not been good. There’s commercials, noise, cellphones. I was watching Colette at the Varsity, and halfway through red flashes came up at the bottom of the frame. A woman came out and said, ‘We’re going to have to reboot, so take fifteen minutes and come back.’ Then they rebooted it from the beginning, and she had to ask the audience to tell her how far to go. You tell me, is that a great experience? I generally don’t watch movies in a cinema at all. Netflix is the future. It’s the present. But the whole paradigm of a series, binge-watching, it’s quite different. My first reaction is that it’s more novelistic, because if you have an eight-hour season, you can get into complex, intricate things. You can let it breathe and the audience expectations are such that they will let you, where before they wouldn’t have the patience. I think only the surface has been touched with experimenting with that.”
~ David Cronenberg