Box Office Archive for June, 2009

Weekend Estimates by Klady – 6/21/09

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So… what does this mega-opening learn us, Jethro?
Well, Jed, investing personal ego in box office numbers is a fool’s errand.
They sell more hamburger than filet mignon in this world. And big sales – which is what opening weekend tickets are – defines neither. The Dark Knight and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen are the same this weekend. And yet, the differences are obvious… and not so obvious.
It is human nature to want to be on the winning team… that’s always the “right” team. Except when it isn’t. The vanity of being “anti-big box office” or “anti-studio” or “anti-tentpole” is as dangerous a game as being “anti-art,” “anti-adult,” or “anti-intellectual.” We are not on teams. And life and art are more complicated than “scoreboard,” though it is in the nature of our society to work hard to slide into simplifications that make it easier to distinguish winners from losers.
The two people who should most be celebrated in this moment are Don Murphy, for truly believing in this concept being a big screen home run, and Michael Bay, for understanding the images that will draw massive numbers of people based on 2 minutes or less worth of image. Obviously, a ton of people worked hard and well to make the film a reality. And Paramount’s decision to pick-up half the film, which then became the entire film on the occasion of leasing DreamWorks for a few years, is the single best decision made by Brad Grey and Tom Freston in their tenure.
It’s not very clear, still, what the ultimate number of Tr2 will be. Trajectories are changing fast. And while the film is clearly assured of doing more than the original domestically ($319m), the difference between the first and the second at the end of the first weekend is $46 million, which could spread further… or not. If the film does 2.5x opening 3-day weekend, the domestic total lands at $370m. Figuring a similar foreign leap – to about $450m – that would put the film at $820m worldwide, into the rarefied air of the all-time worldwide Top 20 and in the company of the mega-franchises. Odd to say it, but anything under $800m would probably disappoint Par – based on this opening – and $900m would be above expectations.
What is amazing about modern franchise business is that at $800 million, about $440 million come back to the studio in rentals… about $325m of that goes into production and marketing… at least $100m of it goes into the pockets of points players… so with ALL that money, you’re still looking at the profits coming primarily in post-theatrical. Back when the first film was made, that would mean at least $300 million in profits. In the new DVDuh era, that’s likely to be under $200 million, even with the DVD selling as many or more units than TDK did last year.
This reminds us, once again, about what the most profitable film of the last two years has been… Mamma Mia!. Put that in your gap-n-gold toothed robot and smoke it…
Up, the year’s #2 film, will pass $250 million domestic tomorrow… Star Trek will pass 250 before the end of next weekend… The Hangover will hit $200 by the end of next weekend. So that’s four $200m+ films this summer, with Potter a sure bet and Ice Age 3 the best shot at a sixth. The record remains seven, set in summer 2007. Last year was six.
The Hurt Locker had the best per-screen in the nation, albeit on 4 screens. Summit has the #1 non-studio release this summer so far, with $3.1m for The Brothers Bloom. Let’s hope that THL finds a bigger audience because genre fans will love this movie if they get into the theater.

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Friday Estimates by Klady – Box Office of The Fallen

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What can one say about the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen opening? It’s a huge sequel number. But keeping it in perspective, only Spider-Man, Iron Man and Harry Potter had the first film in their franchises open stronger. So, this number shouldn’t be that shocking.
This film is about $20 million ahead of the first at the end of the first Friday. Friday was about 50% higher than the first Friday last time, but last time, the film rolled out a day earlier in the opening week because of the placement of the 4th of July holiday. So, for instance, the end of business Wednesday was behind the last film’s end of business Wed by $5 million or so. But that also included one more business day. On the other hand, history shows us that the end of the first weekend tends to repeat historic norms, no matter whether it was a 3-day, 5-day, or 6-day launch. Thus it makes some sense that the first weekend day had a big bump.
It is possible that Sat/Sun will also be up 50% a day from the first film, which would make for a $199 million 5-day. On the other hand, it is possible that those two days will be up just 30% from the last time, given a much harsher word-of-mouth on the film, leading to a $189m 5-day. It could be “worse.” But in this case, the worst reasonable estimate for the rest of the weekend still has this as the 2nd biggest first 5 days of all time. It would also be #2 if you counted it as a 6-day opening.
Of course, the story of this year at the box office is not only the ongoing march to bigger openings, but to record lows in multiples. So what the end game of Tr2 is remains an unknown. $300 million seems like a cakewalk. But this is the year that Wolverine did about 53% of its domestic box office in its first 5 days, which looks like it will become a new record for post-opening futility. But Fast & Furious and Watchmen also ended up in a similar position.
Even if Tr2 ended up breaking X3’s unhappy record of the opening 5 days being 55.5% of total domestic gross and the opening 5 was 60% of the total, $300 million is still the result. And it may well do better than that.
But comparisons to The Dark Knight in any kind of perspective are specious. TDK did $203 million in five days starting on a Friday with no holiday weekend involved… so days 4 and 5 of the record opening were weekdays tagged onto a $158 million 3 day. If Tr2 ends up doing $20m-plus on any weekday in the upcoming M-Th week, I will willingly acknowledge that I was wrong. But I would expect the low teens to be what we’re looking at this next week before a decent hold over the holiday weekend.
The Hangover continues to roll, around $40 million ahead of Wedding Crashers as of this point in its 2005 run. It’s also ahead about 12% on fourth-Friday vs fourth-Friday. WC had another $73m in the tank, domestically, after this point. If Hangover follows in its steps and we consider the uptick so far, Hangover is looking at near $250 million.
Up is the #2 Pixar film after 29 days in release, behind only Finding Nemo (by about $4 million). The film will pass Cars and Toy Story 2 to become the #4 Pixar film ever domestically with plenty of box office to be expected. And it should pass Monsters, Inc. and The Incredibles by the end of the Fourth of July weekend to grab that #2 slot with Nemo just over $70m away at that point. The film is a long way from defining itself internationally, still not open in any of Pixar’s Top 5 international markets and not due in some of them until the fall.
After a slow start, the summer is beginning to look more like prior summers. We’re now looking at two $200 million-plus films (Star Trek/The Hangover) and two $300 million-plus films (Tr2/Up). Potter 6 and Ice Age 3 look to add another pair of $200m domestic films to the mix. We have been rather spoiled by the three-quels and so forth, but this will only be the third time in history that we’ve had as many as six $200m+ movies in a summer, topped only by 2007’s seven.
A strong start for The Hurt Locker in a 4 screen release, but I worry that Summit will Che’ the film into ecstatic obscurity by opening it as an indie event. It’s very challenging to open a film wide without stars. But this one hypes itself. People really get it once they see it. And there is The Hangover as a template this summer. These are the films that turn marketers’ hair gray.

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Weekend Estimates by Klady – 6/21/09

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Pelham’s drop was not happy, though the opening was not out of line with either star’s history. And if it lands in the 70s, as it may, it will pretty much be in line with the two stars’ normal numbers. The certainly weren’t looking for Ladder 49, but…
Not only is this opening for Sandra Bullock double her best prior ever, but it looks like the film will be the fourth $100 million movie in her career. And it will put Anne Fletcher right in line with Adam Shankman and Shawn Levy as top comedy directors outside of the Stiller/Apatow/Sandler boy crews… whether you like it or not.
Year One is on the low end of the Apatow scale. If it gets to $60 million against a cost of $60m to produce (I am just trusting the studio-believing BO Mojo on this one… no insight of my own), they will lose some money on this one, given that Jack Black as Jack Black does not do foreign box office. As a Panda, yes. As a wild man, no. It will be a modest loss, but a loss nonetheless.
This is the first attempt to build out a Woody Allen movie from this few screens in 20 years. It’s okay. But it isn’t a big win until they can convert strong, nit not blow out numbers in NY and LA into a national release. My guess is that Sony Classics has invested less in this one so far than the cost of a month’s rent in their offices and will be perfectly fine just taking in DVD receipts. But they were probably hoping for better as well.

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Friday Estimates by Klady – 6/20

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The Proposal will be about twice as big an opening as any Sandra Bullock movie ever. It’s funny to me, since I feel like it’s another success for WB, since it smells of that studio’s product. But it’s not. Disney… where they seem to be on a mission to get into the chick flick business… not so successfully with Shopaholic, but much more so here and Last Song and When In Rome coming next year.
The dirty little secret of this movie is that it’s pretty good. Casting matters and both Bullock and Reynolds are top of their field in this genre and Betty White is turning out to be this summer’s Chris Walken.
Year One is pretty much your Jack Black/mid-range Apatow opening. Sony found that core. Now it will be up to the movie to build or bail.
The Hangover actually does look to have a real shot at $200 million now. Wow. And there isn’t anything coming up to fill the gotta-see void until Bruno lands in a few weeks.
Up continues strong and will become the summer’s highest domestic grosser just about in time to be swamped by Transformers 2. The film seems to be destined to fall into that Pixar sweet spot between $245m and $260m domestic with the target of #2 all-time Pixar film The Incredibles at $261.4m domestic.

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Weekend Estimates by Klady – 6/7/09

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The race for #1 is too close to call, though it is likely that Up‘s final number will go up and that The Hangover‘s number will go down a bit. Nevertheless, a very, very strong showing for WB’s comedy. The notion that this film of unknowns could out-open Terminator has got to be a mind blower to all involved. It still looks like the #3 R-rated comedy opening of all-time, behind only the American Pie sequel and Sex & The City.
When writers write about the idea that Hollywood needs to make better movies, it is generally self-indulgent bull. But when a studio likes what they have made, it creates the opportunity and the will to grass roots a movie, as they did with The Hangover… and in that, there is a real benefit to “good.” Of course, not everyone loves this film. Some hate it, in fact. So “good” remains subjective, but if “people like it” is the criteria, this film is very “good” and the studio did a much more hands-on, dirty handed job than they (or other major studios) do on most pictures.
If this ends up being the right number or if the number gets better, Up will have the best second weekend hold for a Pixar film since The Incredibles (28.7%) after delivering the third best opening ever for the company (again, behind The Incredibles… and Finding Nemo, whose second weekend was off 33.7%).
This film and Coraline this spring should be instructive to studios. You have to be able to sell the thing… but people really do like something more or more complex than they were expecting. Up, like Slumdog Millionaire, is an unexpected emotional rollercoaster. People cry. But people feel great coming out of the theater. Going back a few decades, that would also describe The Sound of Music and Titanic.
Summer Hours seems to be well on the way to being the rare non-awards-season foreign language film to crack $1 million in the US these days. Away We Go won the per-screen race with a 4-screen release… and didn’t make enough this weekend to cover travel expenses for the film’s talent making TV appearances. It makes you wonder what could happen for a quality arthouse film that the media hyped up as much as they did this one because we all have a crush on Maya Rudolph and John Krazinski.

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Friday Estimates by Klady – 669

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Apparently The Hangover overcrowded Land of the Lost.
Ironically, the only non-sequel R-rated comedy to open better than The Hangover looks to be opening? Sex & The City. Ying and yang.
The internal discussions at studios will be the 300 (according to director Todd Phillips) screenings of The Hangover in recent months, building word of mouth for the comedy that can’t be sold as roughly on TV as they want people to know it is and has no natural box office draw starring in the film. Of course, the problem with duplicating this is that people have to actually like the movie for it to work. But I can tell you that going back to Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, New Line kicked themselves (after the fact) for not taking that route.
Phillips talks about the screenings in the DP/30 conversation: “The studio bar was moved because they came and saw our first test screening and saw that this was something special and said,

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More Excuses For Mediocre Numbers

Pamela McClintock at Variety is smart enough, but this story is misleading. (Pamela ends up posting some of the same stats I am bouncing around below… but leads and continues the lie of overcrowding as an issue. It doesn’t pass the smell test.)
Why does every event in movie history have to become a trend story… and why are 90% of them wrong on the face of them?
In the first place, both of the last two Mays had MORE movies in the market place.
Second, films released in the month of May have generated between $900m – $1.17 billion every year in the last five years… pretty consistent. And the threequel year is not the biggest year of May releases… last year was, with two $300 million movies and six releases that ended up over $50 million while the threequel year had only those three movies grossing over $50 million.
Third, this May has set a new record with seven releases grossing more than $50 million. Never happened before.
So what’s wrong with this summer? It’s not overcrowding (which, btw, is a chant that distributors and exhibitors love to make and is almost always irrelevant). It’s the movies, stupid.
Star Trek, the biggest hit (for now… UP may well pass it when all is said and done) will end up at least $80 million behind last May’s top draw, Iron Man. Current #2 Wolverine will be at least $130 million behind last year’s #2, Indiana Jones.
Night at The Museum and Angels & Demons may match Sex & The City and Prince Caspian.
The last three Over $50m titles are Terminator Salvation, Up, And Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, which have already grossed about $50 million more than last May’s 5-6-7 with Up good for another $100m – $150m.
So in the end, thanks to UP being in May, the final results for May may look a lot like years past… in fact, it may become a record for movies released this month.
Here’s another whopper of a stat… the Top 7 openings this May opened to MORE than the top 8 openings last May!
And how about this… the top opener of May, Wolverine, looks like it will be in the bottom 3 all-time for multiple of opening weekend, currently at about 2.03x opening, just recently passing Watchmen.
What we haven’t been is a supersmash run with supersmash openings. And you know what… Hollywood pushed the issue of opening weekend long and hard… and this summer, when it didn’t work as dramatically as they liked, boo hoo hoo.
And thus, Variety dips its toe into the waters of “SLUMP!” first… a dumb trend that should be stopped before it gets out of hand. Year after year after year we learn… it’s the movies… not the trendlines. 2%… 4%… okay. I’ll buy that some years. But not this year… because it’s no true.
They didn’t stay away from Terminator Salvation or Angels & Demons on opening weekend – and thus, through the runs – because of too many films. If 3 of the films were massive hits, okay… there is a giant sucking sound that comes from that. But there are no true mega-hits this summer so far. There is one blockbuster, in Star Trek.
If you give them the movies they want… they will come. “They” have been good with audiences this summer… but not smashing. And that’s what they want. And that is going to be the story of this summer in the end. Numbers will not be off by much from last year’s second-ever $4 billion summer. But it looks like there are only two movies left with a shot at $300 million.

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Box Office Hell has a hangover

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Box Office

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“We don’t have any idea what the universe is. Wise people have always told us that this is proof you shouldn’t think, because thinking leads you nowhere. You just build over this huge construction of misunderstanding, which is culture. The history of culture is the history of the misunderstandings of great thinkers. So we always have to go back to zero and begin differently. And maybe in that way you have a chance not to understand but at least not to have further misunderstandings. Because this is the other side of this question—Am I really so brave to cancel all human culture? To stop admiring the beauty in human production? It’s very difficult to say no.”
~ László Krasznahorkai

“I have a license to carry in New York. Can you believe that? Nobody knows that, [Applause] somebody attacks, somebody attacks me, oh, they’re gonna be shot. Can you imagine? Somebody says, oh, it is Trump, he’s easy pickings what do you say? Right? Oh, boy. What was the famous movie? No. Remember, no remember where he went around and he sort of after his wife was hurt so badly and kill. What?  I — Honestly, Yeah, right, it’s true, but you have many of them. Famous movie. Somebody. You have many of them. Charles Bronson right the late great Charles Bronson name of the movie come on.  , remember that? Ah, we’re gonna cut you up, sir, we’re gonna cut you up, uh-huh.

Bing!

One of the great movies. Charles Bronson, great, Charles Bronson. Great movies. Today you can’t make that movie because it’s not politically correct, right? It’s not politically correct. But could you imagine with Trump? Somebody says, oh, all these big monsters aren’t around he’s easy pickings and then shoot.”
~ Donald Trump