Box Office Archive for May, 2009

I Meant To Say…

One of the major, unique assets that Up has a a leggy summer event is that I expect it to be the strongest animated film since Finding Nemo – maybe bigger – with grandparents looking to share a movie with their grandkids… because of the grandparent/child relationship in the film.
If I were Disney, I’d be working on a Labor Day re-release strategy now, along with emphasizing all other holidays when the grandparents get control of the “what are we doing today” button.

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Friday Estimates by Klady

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As noted yesterday, It’s reasonable to guess that an animated opening weekend will turn out to be anywhere between 2.8x the Friday estimate to 3.5x the Friday estimate. In the case of Up, that’s a $15 million potential swing, from a low of $59.9m to a high of 74.9m… or it could be something else. It’s not news until it’s news…
…as Crazy Nikki reminded us by erasing her ill-conceived post that attempted to claim knowledge of the weekend numbers based on east coast matinees… something no one who knows much about box office would ever do. As Wrecktum pointed out, the posted numbers were, indeed, an accurate representation of the matinee numbers at least one studio had for Friday. Those are facts… but are they news… especially when they cannot be interpreted except in the broadest way, in this case off by almost 30%?
But I digress..
Up‘s opening could be right in line with the two big animated movies last summer, Kung Fu Panda and Wall-E… or it could be the 3rd biggest animated opening of all time, behind only the last 2 Shreks. My guess is more the former than the latter. But my point remains… it’s only news when its news. And when civilians are so anxious to narrow down every piece of “analysis” into a defining context, invariably prematurely, it is the media’s responsibility to be responsible about the context in which we present information.
Drag Me To Hell looks to land an opening somewhere between Death Race and The Strangers from last summer’s race. It’s not a bad number… it’s not a great number.
What’s the difference between this opening and what Screen Gems would have done with the film? Women… girls. The much verbally wanked over poster, which does indeed play as much of Ms. Lohman’s sensuality as it does the horrors of the underworld, is a rather talented piece of design. On the other hand, even though Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series appealed almost exclusively to boys and geek hags, having a woman at the center of this story was a great opportunity to grab the teen girl horror junkies that made so many Screen Gems movies a bigger success (from Underworld to The Exorcism of Emily Rose to Resident Evil to The Messengers). Screen Gems was not alone in working this, as movies like The Ring and The Grudge also took that road.
It’s ironic that this Sam Raimi film ended up at Universal when the last one, Boogeyman, was at his Spider-Man home, Sony. Boogie’s opening will be a little better than this one… a strong piece of marketing. But I think that Universal would have done as well with that film as Screen Gems did. It was a very straight forward boy sell, with its biggest challenge being getting the rating in at PG-13. Drag Me also got the PG-13… though I have no idea how it did it, aside from not stripping Ms. Lohman nude or emphasizing green bodily fluids and not red. But with a woman in the middle of the action, it seems to me that there was a chunk of money left of the table this weekend that could have been mined by emphasizing the woman’s strength and not just the fun house elements. This is a Sony specialty.
In an industry that is all about single-digit margins these days, a movie that does $40 million – $50 million doing $55 million – $65 million makes a big difference. It’s not that Universal did poorly. They didn’t. They delivered the core and pushed a little past it. But it’s always an interesting game to think of what other studio could have done more with another studio’s titles. For instance, what if Sony had The Hangover and WB had The Taking of Pelham 123?
Congrats to Paramount on $200m for Star Trek. $230m domestic seems real – though they are still spending an unusual amount this far out on national television buys – and with much of Asia still untouched, the hope of the slingshot effect of being a big hit here remains in effect. (Foreign is still under $100 million as of this writing.) The film will come out of this weekend about $10 million behind Wolverine, worldwide, but should pass the X-prequel sometime in the next 11 days or so. Star Trek is looking more like breakeven at this point, though DVD estimates for all theatrical films are getting smaller and smaller, which is a danger.
The story of the summer – in spite of the rush to “box office is booming!” stories – is that by this time last year, not the 3 trilogy year, we had two $300m domestic films launched… this year we have none. On the other hand, we will have six $100 million domestic grossers out of this month this year, up from last year’s four. So how do we define success?

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Box Office Hell goes Up

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Based on east coast matinees, C. Nikki Finke and her keepers have already projected ‘Up’ For $17M Friday, $55M Weekend; ‘Drag Me To Hell’ $7M/$18M.
Perhaps I should not point out that, even if we assumed that the Friday guess should be taken seriously after so small a sample, that the opening non-summer weekend for Monsters vs Aliens was $16.8m and the weekend was $59.3m (3.5x Friday), aka Up is a a guess of a bigger Friday and smaller weekend.
I have no idea what standard whoever gave these guesses to La Finke is using, as it doesn’t correlate to Madagascar (3.4x Friday), Cars (3.1x Friday), Ratatouille (2.8x Friday), Kung Fu Panda (3x Friday) or the aforementioned mva.
3.2x Friday… interesting…
(EDIT, 6:42p – first chart posted did not include Drag Me To Hell… fixed now.)

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Friday Estimates by Klady – Terminator @ The Museum

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So… T4 will definitely not be the first $100m weekend of the summer. We’ll have to wait for Tr2.
The first ever $100 million weekend was 2002’s Spider-Man launch. The only May that has not had a $100 million kick-off since then was 2003… when X-Men 2 opened the summer with a very Wolverine-like $85 million. (X2 had stronger legs… but also, less competition.)
After all the talk about the strength of the box office this year, is this a sign of a downturn? Of course not. It’s the movies, stupid. There have never been more than four $40m+ openings in May before… this year, it looks like we wlll have five. The money is being spent, it’s just more spread out.
I would argue that this, however, IS the sign of a trend. More big, mid-sized openings, but fewer and fewer mega-openings. Studios need to adjust to this thinking, and as I have written before, they seem to have already started doing that, as there are fewer mega-priced movies – as well as overly expensive mid-price movies, like the $100m+ comedies – this summer than in years past.
These numbers are looking to be in the Madagascar/The Longest Yard range. TS is not looking much different – though in very different initial release patterns, making direct comparisons awkward at best – than T3. For Museum 2, Day 1 is higher than for the first film, but only about 25%, and the original was released in the days before X-Mas, when there is more shopping than movie going. The original came out of its second weekend with $127m… not likely to happen here. Plus, it faces a lot more competition, starting with Up, than the original did against a January release schedule.
Pretty decent numbers at the art house this weekend, including the experimental release pattern on GFE and the Jessica Biel sell that is only partially a Jessica Biel sell.

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Weekend Estimates by Klady – Trek Treds Where Angels Can't Quite

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The studios spins/makes reasonable arguments…
“Angels & Demons delivered at the high end of the studio’s expectations…
$104.3 m overseas from 96 countries where the adult thriller debuted. Worldwide A&D took in $152.3 million.
We couldn’t be more pleased with the film’s performance.
Neither the filmmakers nor the studio expected we would replicate the kinds of numbers we saw on The DaVinci Code. That film was based on a true cultural sensation that fueled sales of more than 80 million books.
Angels & Demons is based on a novel that sold less than half as many copies as DaVinci and its debut is a true success in its own right. It is the biggest international opening of a film since Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Opening weekend demographics for Angels & Demons shows the audience was slightly more female than male (52% F/48% M) and the age break down was evenly split 50% under 30 and 50% over 30.”

I do think they could be more pleased with the film’s domestic performance… but I also think they don’t find this drop off of DaVinci shocking and are surely thrilled by the international success so far. As I wrote yesterday, $450 million worldwide, which $152m ww this weekend suggests is completely doable, would put the film in the high end of this summer movie group… likely more than Trek or Wolfie or anything other than what looks to be the Top 3 (T4/Trans2/Potter6).
But $50m or $60m at home would have still felt and looked a lot better.
Our Trek estimate is a little below some of the others, but either way, a nice hold, as any opener over $50 million dropping less than 50% is a good word-of-mouth achievement these days. $225m domestic is looking possible.
Next weekend, the bloodbath… two franchises that have not had mega-openings in their histories ($44, for T3 and Night 1 was $30m)… but each of which has very strong marketing, both to their niches and to leak-over for both. Both films are set up for brickbats if they don’t open to at least $50 million each, given expectations these days. But both also has the potential to shock with a much bigger number.
The closest piece of history for a weekend like this that I can find right now is Sandler’s version of The Longest Yard vs Madagascar over Memorial Day Weekend 2005. Both films ended up doing $47 million for 3 and Madagascar did 2.4 million more than Yard over 4 days with $61 million. The big difference was that the films had to face Darth Wars sucking more out of the box office in its second weekend than either of the newcomers with just over $70 million for the 4 day. Neither of the holdovers topping this weekend’s chart looks to be anywhere over $30m for next weekend.
So… it would be no real shock if next weekend’s duo delivered a near-tie with each film opening to more than $70 million… or if Terminator Salvation, which has a wider, if less committed base of interest, opened closer to or even over $100 million while Museum still did over $50m. Both studios will surely spend the next few days lowering expectations.
The top historical 1-2 for Memorial Day was 2007 with Pirates 3 and Shrek 3 pulling in $168 million between them over 3… and $206m over 4.

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Friday Estimates by Klady – Demons

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Those who compared Angels & Demons to Narnia: Prince Caspian are, on the box office face of it, pretty close… A&D will actually launch a little smaller… and interestingly, the first day vs first day drop for Narnia is not nearly as severe. Day One of DaVinci was a reported $28.6m… Narnia 1, 23m vs Narnia 2’s $19.4m. In other math, A&D is 42% off… N2 was off 16%.
Still, if the entire run of A&D ends up being off 42% worldwide, they still have a $450 million grosser… which looks like it would be the high grosser of the first three mega-movies of this summer.
That may not happen. But it might.
The irony for all of those who have puffed up the false notions that critics drove Star Trek‘s better-than-originally-expected opening is that DaVinci was slaughtered by the critics and the reviews for A&D have been much gentler, even when negative, but generally speaking, not terrible. It seems to be a better movie.
Speaking of Star Trek, the 61% drop isn’t terrible or unexpected, though the question of what the drop is vs the real Friday numbers, as opposed to the Thursday night/Friday numbers remains a bit of a blur. Either way, it will even out, putting the drop in the low-to-mid 50s by weekend’s end, putting the movie just under $140 million. That would be “The Star Trek Effect.”
This is a reminder, yet again, of how important marketing is to the box office, even up against word of mouth. Trek does, in my experience, have Iron Man-like word-of-mouth, though perhaps with less specific enthusiasm (as in “Downey is God”… I don’t really hear a single focused repeated notion of why Trek works… just that people really have a good time and so often, that they were not Trek fans.) But it is really really really hard to change a made up mind when it comes to selling a movie ticket… especially in summer, where The Next One is coming every single weekend. Trek is certainly getting some good w-o-m money in this weekend, but by next weekend, T4 will be all the buzz… and if someone who had no intention of buying Trek tix gets to next weekend thinking, “I hear good things about Trek… maybe I WILL go,” you are then up against, “But T4 is hot… all those friends who rushed to see Trek on opening weekend are going to T4 this weekend… if I want a big action movie, why go back to Trek when I like the Terminator franchise more… etc.”
The extra weekend that Paramount marketers had last summer for IM to strengthen its legs before Indiana Jones, combined with the singular kind of focus on Downey, was worth, it seems to me, at least $50 million.
Trek probably has around $85 million in it after this weekend… could be $10 million higher or lower. That’s a win vs expectations, if not profits, for Paramount. The only problem with the Batman Begins theory, however, is that Nolan’s second movie stunk of being much bigger and better than the relaunch. Can Trek be any bigger than this one under the director of JJ Abrams?
The Brothers Bloom is pretty much dead, given that on 4 screens, it is opening to the same per-screen as Summer Hours on 2… even with a marketing budget about 10 times bigger. (Still not massive… but much, much bigger.)

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Box Office Hell for Angels, Demons

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Am I Crazy, Or…

Is Terminator Salvation, with a PG-13 and enough marketing shots of machines with big personalities to choke a geek, looking like the first $100 million opener of this summer… and likely the #3 opening of the entire summer, behind Transformers 2 and Potter 6?
In some ways, TS seemed like a top-tier also-ran a month or two ago. Effects looked cool, but it wasn’t Ah-nuld or Linda Hamilton or Cameron… like the last one, which did $433 million worldwide in spite of landing with a bit of a thud. (Jon Mostow’s comeback effort, Surrogates, lands in September, more than 6 years after T3.) That was down $85 million or so from T2.
This film’s marketing seems mostly uninterested – unlike The Dark Knight‘s campaign – in reminding the audience of the good old days. Stan Winston’s Terminator endoskeleton, without skin, is an iconic design. And that is what WB is selling.
Ironically, it feels a lot like a reboot, which is what people are talking about re: Star Trek… except that this franchise is much stronger, at least in terms of box office history.

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Weekend Estimates by Klady – May 9

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Weekend estimates are all over the place, from the studio-placed $76.5m to Klady’s $73.5m. $3 million isn’t much to argue about at these levels, given that these are still complete guesses about how the film will perform on Mother’s Day… but drama it shall be.
My guess is that the studio REALLY doesn’t want to be seen opening behind Fast & Furious over 3 days, which just passed $150m domestic this last week. But the fact that people are talking about how HUGE the difference between the mid-60s estimates that have been out there for weeks and current estimates of about $10 million more… “better than the guesses” is great, but… we are in overhyperspace on this one, folks.
I don’t want to continually rub the studio’s nose in the price of this film, especially when they are so aggressively selling the film as a cultural event on every talk/variety show they can find, along with a faux price tag. So, let past entries speak for themselves. I’ll just say, facts don’t change because you like or dislike the movie. But how people use those facts can change a lot.
The question remains, does the media bubble – hating Wolverine for doing more… loving Trek for doing less – matter? Will it move the box office needle? And will word of mouth mean more $s in a dense release period? We’ll see.
Ironically, the estimated drop for Wolverine, via Mojo, is the same exact % as Cloverfield. (Of course, Clover met the cash cow known as Meet The Spartans in its second weekend, which could stop any movie in its tracks.) Putting it in more appropriate perspective, if this number holds, it will be behind only Hulk ‘s drop amongst movies that opened over $50 million. On the other hand, it follows a long list of third films in franchises that opened big and dropped over 60% the next weekend, including Spidey, Pirates, X-Men, Matrix, and Potter.
Obviously, the drop is not thrilling to Fox. But profitabilty looks to be around $300m – $325m Worldwide (after post-theatrical is added) and that looks like a cakewalk, given that there are a lot of world markets where the film still hasn’t launched.
Next Day Air is Summit’s ninth opener… and is dead in the middle of the pack n first weekend grosses. Twilight remains the hero franchise. Knowing was a modest success by box office standards. And the only other Summit release to open to $10 million, Push, not so much.
I don’t think Summit is suffering from any failure that any other independent distributor would now. Twilight was the kind of monster – summer cover of EW – that was a marketing wet dream. Knowing has Cage in National Treasure mode, which some may not like, but which is a money machine. But without a big hook, Summit is stuck with pounding through the movie media din without spending the same insane amount of money.
Counterprogramming Star Trek is fine if $4 million is a good number for you or if you have a female-skewing comedy for which $80 million domestic is a good result. (From J-Lo to Diaz to Garner… who’ll have to settle for 50)
Rob Friedman & Co face the same problem that every one of these indie distributors who have had a huge hit face… what’s next? And while they could, in fact, sit on their money and wait for the congratulations in November when Twilight II does big numbers again, the ego pressure is, “we have this team that could do that… so we should be able to do it for something else while we wait.” But without ego, there is the reality that it is really hard, really expensive, and often a game of percentages to be in the $100 million grosser game. It is not a reflection of how good the team at Summit is… though they can produce better and worse work.
I am a big fan of Hurt Locker and think it can be more commercial than some think. But opening it the weekend of Transformers 2 and the weekend before Public Enemies… really? Sony Classics faces a similar challenge with Moon, a well-loved little thinker… but they are Classics and expectations are skewed to that. If it performs incredibly well, it is a success of overperformance. Summit carries the burden of more mainstream expectations. So they must be very careful not to get caught up in that game, as it has taken more than one of these companies right out of business.

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Friday Estimates by Klady – Trek

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Putting Star Trek in historical perspective at this point is tough. It’s the fourth best Friday of this year… but there is more money from Thursday “sneaks,” but Thursday sneaks started at 7pm, which for a weekday is at least 75% of the business anyway. Comparisons to Iron Man make some sense in spirit, but the reality is that at the end of the day Friday, regardless of how you count early showings, ST is no less than $8 million behind IM or about 20%. In terms of long-view comparisons to IM, Trek has one week less of relative space before hard core competition arrives. (IM had No Racer and What Ashtons In Diaz, then Narnia 2, before it hit Indiana Jones. Trek has The AnGel & DeMon Code before hitting the PG-13 Terminator AND Museum 2 a week later.)
Again, without regard to the “early shows,” I consider most opening weekends to be where a movie is at the end of its first weekend. Wednesday launches are different… but not. I’ll save that for another day. But the only $70 million opening, so far, that didn’t lead to $200m domestic was Fast & Furious. But there are hints from this last year that the future will see more, creating another panic for studios that have felt safe in chasing a big opening and then coasting.
Even with an $85 million opening, Wolverine, which will be just over $125 million on Sunday night, is looking like it will come up short. Twilight, with its $69.6m launch, “only” got to $192 million. With F&F, that means ALL THREE $70 million openings since The Dark Knight, last summer, may fail to get to $200 million. With all the talk of booming box office, there has been no $200 million domestic grosser since The Dark Knight.
So… what does this mean?
Good question.
We may have reached a genuine tipping point.
Don’t get me wrong… there is the real liklihood that Star Trek will get to $200 million… not my point. I think by the end of this summer, we will have had between five and seven $200 million domestic grossers. But even with the DVD downturn, multiples are still going down. There are still leggy movies… but they are becoming leggy on a smaller scale.
Blart had 5 weekends over $10 million… Taken and MonstersVA had 4… F&F had 3… none hit $200m.
Now, Iron Man went 5 last year… but had the advantage of being on the first weekend. For the rest of the summer, movies good, bad, and indifferent had shorter Big Legs as the competition of summer grew. The hits were all 4s and 3s. Even the phenomenon and 2nd highest grossing domestic film of all time, TDK, went only 6 weeks over $10 million. (Titanic, for the record, went 16 weeks over $10m.)
Wolverine is looking like 3 and out, in this regard. A week later, Trek faces the nature of the business… which would make more than 4 weeks over $10m likely, but 5 very, very unlikely… no matter how much love there is for the film. This is not criticism… it’s math.
A minimal drop to $40 million (for 3) next weekend and a generous $20 million for the weekdays in between, puts the film, generously, at $140 million at the end of two weekends. Another generous drop of just 35% over Memorial Day weekend puts the movie at $185 at the end of that holiday 4-day. The film could crack $200 million the following Saturday (May 30), hitting $210m after four weekends. $255m is about the max, given very gentle drops the entire way.
A less generous

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Box Office Hell – May 8

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Sunday In The Park With Klady

My laptop mail is thousands of e-mails behind and not catching up quickly, so you’ll have to look at he MCN Weekend page to get the whole chart when it posts.
Short version – Wolverine, $85.5m, Ghosts, $15.4m, Battle For Terra $1m.
To find an opener this big that didn’t get to $200 million, you’re looking at $10 million less, with The Simpsons Movie opening to $74 million. After that, Fast & Furious with a $71m opening. After that, Twilight with a $69.6m launch.
But this does bring up a very interesting trend line. Two of those 3 are in the last year. Next on the unpleasant list are two clear quality disasters, The Day After Tomorrow and Burton’s Planet of the Apes. But then we’re back to the current trend; Quantum of Solace and Madagascar 2. That covers ALL of the $60m+ openers not to hit $200m. Seven films (out of fifty-four total qualifiers) in the history of the industry… four in the last year.
As can be expected, the failure to hit $200m becomes more normal in the $50m-$59.99m range. Thirty-one films… only nine made it to $200m. None since 2006…and that was the controversial – $200.08m – Superman Returns. Nine of the films failed to get to $150m. Five of those have been since Summer 2007.
Opening just isn’t the kind of guarantee is once was. More often than not, things go to form. But – and I am now feeling bad about rubbing it in – with a film opening to $55 million failing to even do 2x opening, studios have to be even more nervous. Do they do more second weekend marketing… spending more? Is that an answer? Is there an answer? The DVD window is too short, in my opinion, but has been pretty stable for a while. Why is the multiple issue still getting worse?
The only real answer is cutting the cost of the films themselves. And for all the screaming – and needless abuse of the talent unions – the studios are facing this on the higher end product, but not on the middle class of films… as in, $30 million for Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is about right, on the high end. A dollar more is asking for trouble.
I will write more on this later, bt I still think that we are looking at a 30% – 40% “correction” in this industry… and that most of the studios are still behaving like it’s a 10% – 15% shift. This means more blood will spill before it’s over, no matter what the box office revenues.
And no movie wants to be The Cleopatra or Doctor Doolittle of this shift in film history.

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Klady's Friday Estimates – May 2

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What can one say?
Not quite an Iron Man start, more than the X2 start. Only the 2 “first weekend of summer” Spideys and Downey in suit will have opened the summer stronger. And it’s as much that slot as many other things.
Yes, the issue of legs will be an issue. But so far. Twilight is the only movie in history to have an opening day of more than $31 million to not get to $200 million domestic. (There are 19 such films in total. And btw, Watchmen remains the only film in history to open over $20 million to not get to $110 million.)
And this will be the worst Matthew McConaughey rom-com opening since he cracked that nut in 2001 with a $13.5m start for The Wedding Planner. None of those successes have been in the summer. Lesson learned.

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Box Office

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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