Box Office Archive for August, 2009

Weekend Estimates by Klady – August 30

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Well, 3D advocates, The Final Destination is good fodder for you. The series opens went up 60% from 1 to 2, 19% from 2 to 3, and now up 47% from 3 to 4 when you would expect a drop, not a rise. Assuming that 25% of that is 3D pricing, that’s still a healthy 10% – 15% rise in actual attendance for the fourth movie in the dying franchise.
The question remains… 3D: novelty or trend?
Others have Inglourious Basterds holding even better than Klady does… but either way (and even if it turns out to be 52% in the “finals”) the hold is about right for the opening and the genre.
Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2 gave The Weinstein Company – pronounced dead by much of the media just a week or two ago – two of the top three films for the weekend. And maybe that was the point. If you have a company that has been treading water for 7 months, barely showing a public face, and you want to tell your investors that you are serious about your future, what more could you ask than two of the top three at the box office, plus a record-breaking launch for Project Runway on your TV side?
The answer to that normally rhetorical question is: #1 and #2 at the box office instead of #2 and #3. Had Zombie’s H2 opened like his H1 and TFD opened like FD3, it would have been a 1-2 punch for Harvey.
These are also the #2 and #3 openings EVER from The Weinstein Co/Dimension on its own and #4/#5 for The Weinsteins since Disney, MGM or not.
Still, the statement, albeit a tiny bit gentler than they might have liked, has been made.
(I hate to say this, but I must… it is often when companies seem to be coming out of the woods like this that the other shoe drops. Last summer, for instance, WB laid off 300 in Burbank shortly after Dark Knight broke box office records. This is also how the media often misses the story both coming and going. For the sake of the staff at TWC, let’s hope that the smiling public face matches the inside face right now.)
Julie & Julia had a great hold… est. 20%… as it continues to make a play for $100m… which is probably out of reach. Thing is, Sony got the movie to the oldster release period… the older audience that doesn’t go for the first few weeks, but finally gets there on word of mouth. A mini Big Fat Greek Wedding if you will. They must have been patterning on Mamma Mia! numbers, which had drops in the 20s in weekends 5 and 6 and then a 25% positive bump over the Labor Day 4-day. If Sony can pull that off, the film will be near $85m at the end of next Monday.
Also working that leggy chick flick thing, The Time Traveler’s Wife is becoming a major surprise movie. It probably won’t get to the $81 million of The Notebook, but this drama is steaming along towards the high 60s/low 70s. Few people would have put this one in their Top 20 of Summer 2009 movie grossers and it is heading there.
A bunch of landmarks this weekend… The Ugly Truth passes $85m, The Hangover passes $270m, Up is just two days shy of $290m, (500) Days of Summer passes $25m to become the #3 release by a Dependent this year (behind Focus’ Coraline and Searchlight’s own Notorious), Trannys 2 will hit $400m by this time next week, Harry Potter 6 could hit $300m by the end of next weekend’s 4 days and if not, will get there by the weekend after.

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Friday Estimates by Klady – H2FD

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Halloween 2 is down a few million on opening day from the last one… The Final Destination in 3D is up a few million from the opening day of the last one. Combined, they are about a million off of the horror opening high of the year, Friday The 13th, which started with $19.3 million in February.
Questions –
Why would you put both of these films out on the same day? M.A.D.
Is this a better indication of what the 3D thing can do commercially for a movie? This looks like the best FD opening day by about 25%… so how did that break down with the 3D, which charges a premium of about 25%.? Did the audience increase or was it just the same audience as in the past paying 3D prices?
Did FD shoot its 3D load in one night? We’ll see.
Based on these numbers, H2 should be looking at about $40m domestic and TFD at about $65m domestic. But history is not always kind to these films at this time of year.
Inglourious Basterds dropping 59% is not a big deal. The weekend should end up with more like a 50% drop, which is about normal these days for a strong opener with a niche appeal… and though more women went than expected – according to TWC’s claims about exit polls – it is still a niche film. And yes, niche films can do $100 million now.
District 9 is holding fine, but is not growing… even though Sony threw some new ads at Weekend Three this week. The drop is normal. Anyone who uses the words “Best Picture Nomination” in the same sentence as the title, “District 9″ needs a trip to the optometrist to have their to have their August perspective checked… quickly.
Interestingly, Inglourious and D9 are traveling in near-lockstep at the box office. D9 was about $500k ahead of where IB is after the second Friday. The two movies, compared day by day, have split “top spot” almost evenly. And on Friday 2, Inglourious is up. Will it hit D9’s $7.2m second Saturday? We’ll know tomorrow. But it looks like the two films will run neck-n-neck to the end, each ending with between $110m and $125m domestic.
GI Joe looks like it is heading to a $300m worldwide final. 6 years after Hulk did $245m worldwide, you’re looking at a similar financial situation. GI Joe will be trying to get out of the red ink for years to come – a couple of million DVD units will make the difference between a loss and a breakeven film – but is not an unmitigated financial disaster. Then the question of the sequel… and if you think an announcement is the same as a film getting made, you are too green to live. Marvel lost money on The Incredible Hulk, even though it did a better job of giving the core audience what it wanted. It grossed slightly more than the first Hulk film… but cost more – which says so much, given that when Universal made the first film in 2002/3, it was their priciest effort ever – and it lost money.
So do you make a GI Joe sequel? Do you try to rein in the budget? Didn’t the kids come to see stuff blow up real big? It’s not like they spent the budget they had on actors. I don’t know. Does this studio want to be dragged through a sequel? Remember the public apologies that came out of Charlie’s Angels; Full Frontal. Remember all the drama around M:I3? Could they mistake $300m from GI Joe for $700m from the first Transformers? And dare we invoke Superman Returns and its $391,081,192 worldwide gross? (No sequel for YOU, Bryan!)
Taking Woodstock opened with a splat. A pity. Mr. Martin was fine in the lead, but Jake Gyllenhaal would have given them a better shot. So would Emile Hirsch. But we’d be talking about the $2.8m Friday instead of the $1.2m Friday. Shia LeBouf… maybe then you’d be looking at a $6m Friday and a $15m opening weekend.
Nice number for The September Issue. Valentino: The Last Emperor announced its upcoming, self-distributed release on DVD and Blu-ray this week. Which film will be more popular in the end… and in history? I would say that they belong together in a double box… perhaps with Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags , a movie I haven’t seen yet, but which is heading to Toronto and seems like a good fit.

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Box Office Hell – August 28, 2009

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Weekend Box Office by Klady

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So… the claim out there is that Inglourious Basterds opened to an estimated $37.6m, which coincidentally is $259k more than District 9 opened to last weekend. Hmmm….
On the other hand, Klady’s estimate has IB at $38.4m.
Either way – since beating D9 is a meaningless victory – a great weekend for The Weinsteins and another chance for the media to not fall of their hype swords… just to wipe them down, waiting for the next chance to declare the boys dead.
It looks like QT will have his second $100 million movie. And Brad Pitt’s muscle at the box office still has to make you scratch your head and wonder who wouldn’t want a $58 million Brad Pitt movie.
D9 had a perfectly reasonable hold. In fact, the only Sony movies to hold second weekend better this were Fired Up (against a $5.5m opening) and the family phenom known as Paul Blart: Mall Cop. The film will easily best $100m and could pass Angels & Demons‘ $133m to become Sony’s #2 domestic movie of the year.
The Time Traveler’s Wife isn’t going to quite get to the number for The Notebook, but it’s going to get a lot closer than anyone really thought.
Disney’s efforts on behalf of Miyazaki are bearing fruit. Ponyo is looking like it will get into the teens, which is not terribly impressive out of context, but is another big step on terms of seeding a young audience to accept the feel and look of his legendary animation.
The Hurt Locker is in the much-discussed-here freefall, losing screens weekly, and now looking like $13m is a far-away goal.

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Friday Estimates by Klady – Inglaugust23

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There are various ways to chew over this opening for Inglourious Basterds. You can put it on Pitt’s doorstep, though it would be his best opening n the last couple of years. You can put it on Tarantino’s doorstep, though it is his best opening ever. You can put it on the space that a late August opening gives a movie with profile, though it will be, if it opens to more than $36.4m, the #1 all-time opening after the second weekend of August. (If not, it will still be only the third $27m+ opening in the second half of the month/after 2nd wknd/Aug 15 or later.)
The world didn’t change for The Weinstein Co yesterday. They did a very good job with what they have to work with. As I have written before, the “life and death” angle was well overstated. This may be Tarantino’s biggest opening, but the movie still has a long way to go before it pays to run Nine through the Oscar labyrinth with the goal of a win.
One thing is clear… Inglourious Basterds will be profitable. The math works out to breakeven – considering all revenue streams – being somewhere around $130m worldwide. Even with $100 million domestic not assured – and it’s not – $130m worldwide and better seems quite likely. This is clearly not Grindhouse, on which the company swallowed $20m – $30m.
But keeping perspective, this opening looks to be between G-Force and District 9.
Ironically, WB chose to roll out a Robert Rodriguez film, Shorts, on the same day as QT’s latest. All they need is a short in between with Jordan Ladd being comedically raped by a Nazi with a CG instrument to make it a Grindhouse 2 double feature. Anyway… the opening didn’t work, though WB didn’t spend a ton advertising it. Chicken/Egg.
Fox dumped Post Grad on Avatar Day. One IMAX screen got more attention from the studio than this wannabe Prada. Zzzzzzz…
There’s a lot of strong indie stuff at the theaters right now, but while Art & Copy did pretty well for a doc, World’s Greatest Dad and its one screen didn’t break out much, perhaps suffering for its VODness. X Game 3D opened wide… and averaged about 20 people per screen seeing it yesterday.

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Ingglouurioous Boux Ouffice Heill

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Weekend Estimates by Klady – Aliens Beat GI Joe

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(Chart Error Corrected, 12:03p)
Rollercoaster ride for Paramount. Last weekend, they won the battle of Joe. This weekend, they get a reasonable drop for a film like this but have to watch a $30 million film with good effects – but virtually the opposite philosophy of the stunt-to-idea ratio – open to roughly 67% of what they opened Joe to… a film that cost at least 6 times what D9 cost. Joe is now running slightly ahead of Terminator Salvation‘s 2nd weekend… but it opened $12m stronger and is now, at the end of Weekend 2, about $8 million ahead of TS.
As for D9, again, smart marketing combined with the Peter Jackson commodity and a visual package that has a lot of bang for the buck. The machine catching the missile at the end – which is a sad giveaway to one of the film’s best moments – is an instant winner… and at that point, it doesn’t mater what the film cost.
Julie & Julia had a reasonable drop… not great, not terrible… like everything about the film’s commercial journey so far. $80 million is not an unreasonable expectation of the final numbers, though the challenge of holding the screens to get there will increase in another week or two.
Another 60%+ drop in your third weekend is a little devastating, no? Funny People is now looking at about $55m max domestically… which will cover a little more than half of Universal’s marketing costs on the film. It was a risk that the studio was right to take. Apatow’s personal film track record was strong enough and Sandler added to the upside. But it was The Sad Clown Film that could not. If it bends, It’s funny… but cancer broke it. Spanglish, which was visited upon Sony, has now been visited upon Universal. Meanwhile, for Mr. Sandler, it seems to me that he needs to rip the tape off of his aspirations and do a hard drama with humor, not a soft one that wants us to love the people in it for being so comfortable that it hurts. Time to put a call in to Fincher.
Ponyo didn’t arrive with a big number, but it was a big number for Miyazaki in America and his previous high of $10.1 million for Spirited Away looks to be within range for this one.
Tranny 2 continues to crawl towards its goal of $400m… getting closer. Ice Age 3 is going to come up just short of $200m domestic while it continues to build on its record international animated gross – also #1 of any film this summer – and still aspires to becoming the #3 all-time animated film behind Shrek 2 and Finding Nemo.
(500) Days of Summer hold strong and continues to rack up strong indie-minded numbers. In The Loop becomes IFC’s second million dollar movie of 2009 in theatrical, rolling out on a faster track than any IFC film in a while and looking like it will top the distributor’s strongest titles of the last two years, Summer Hours, Gamorrah, and Che’ in theatrical. Sony Classics did a really nice job getting the heat going in the niche market for It Might Get Loud.
And, sadly, The Hurt Locker is done theatrically. The instant classic crossed the $10 million barrier this weekend, but dropped nearly in half as it also started losing screens. No real surprise here. And $15m now seems unlikely. $13.5m seems about the best it can do. The team at Summit did very, very well in executing the strategy that they chose. But I will, unfortunately, live for many years with the bug up my buttocks that they chose the wrong strategy. They believed in it as an arthouse film and did a solid job delivering on the arthouse film. But it is more than an arthouse film.
And now we will find out whether Summit is prepared to have their first Oscar nominee. I worry that they will rely on the 10 slots to get the film in, simply on the strength of the film. Maybe that will work. Maybe it won’t. Obviously, I have a vested interest in the awards season, in that Summit will or will not buy ads on MCN. But, given how tough I have been on them, I wouldn’t be shocked to see them spend, but spend elsewhere. And that’s fine. But more than box office, this film not getting an Oscar slot, when it will surely be one of the critics’ Top 10 for the year and – if the budget and funding sources qualify it – the likely Indie Spirit winner, would be a shame. Bigelow deserves serious, serous consideration by DGA. Renner will likely get support from at least one major critics group for an acting nod. Mark Boal’s screenplay seems to be the one Oscar lock, with the 10 nominees there. But Picture… deserved.

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Friday Estimates by Klady – D9 Flies

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Opening District 9 as a aliens-in-your-backyard action movie worked rather well and looks like it will be Sony’s #2 opening this year, behind only the sequel, Aliens & Demons. After a not so thrilling first quarter this year (The Pink Panther 2, The International, Fired Up, Not Easily Broken) that was salvaged by Paul Blart: Mall Cop, things have been better ar Sony, especially in marketing. Year One and The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 both had $20m range openings that didn’t seem to offer the hope of better starts, just stronger legs. Julie & Julia opened fine, but not quite as explosively as one might have hoped, given all the great publicity. And there were clear wins with a $28.6 start for Obsessed, a $27.6 start for The Ugly Truth, and now, an over-$30m launch for District 9.
Only Disney has had a run of films in which every opening wast $20 million ($19.6m to be precise) or better since March 1. And that will end for Disney this weekend with Ponyo, though that is an anomaly for them too. For others, it is wide-release movies with big intentions like Land of the Lost, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, My Sister’s Keeper, Aliens in the Attic.
The evolution at Sony from Valerie Van Galder alone as marketing chief to she and Marc Weinstock as co-chiefs to next year’s transition to Val as hands-on, globe-hopping consultant with Marc taking the full responsibilities of the day-to-day in that job seems to have worked out as a legitimate success for the company and for the two of them. Congrats to them both and to Marc in particular, as he heads off to his honeymoon with his brainy and adorable bride on a note of success with the D9 launch, which indeed, was really his baby.
The Time Traveler’s Wife is another movie that New Line wasn’t so thrilled about that is having nice opening thanks to the holdover New Line marketing team working with/for the Sue Kroll’s WB marketing team. The film could match the Julia & Julia opening, which has to be a thrill for WB, as it was a little disappointing for Sony. What does it mean? There is a “chick flick” market that is loud and strong… and Rachael McAdams, as a brand from The Notebook, means something, even if she continues to fight the superstardom that seems to be her destiny.
The Goods is a dump, desperate enough in the end to put what is probably Will Ferrell’s entire cameo in ads, so squeezing out $5 million isn’t bad, considering. It could end up being the biggest opening weekend in the history of the now-deceased Par Vantage, though obviously, many of those openings could have been better, but were rolled out in limiteds or exclusives on opening weekend.
The Fri2Fri drop on GI Joe isn’t shocking… and not because the movie sucks (or doesn’t, if you feel that way). The real tale will be told over the rest of the weekend and into next week. The weekdays didn’t show a massive drop either, but the question will be whether the movie has shot its load or if it will start to be the movie to return to for kids.
At 31 days, HP6 is still the fastest Potter out of the gate. It will probably be the #2 Potter all-time domestically, though $300m is still pretty far away.
Spread did a shockingly bad $400 per screen. Really, Ashton could have just written himself a check. So much for Twitter-power. And the really odd part? The movie is good enough to have found a commercial audience. But Anchor Bay doesn’t have the money to push that movie out and they completely abandoned the real story of the film… Kutcher as American Gigolo, Jr. and the unpromoted, high-potential starlet Margarita Levieva (the object of lust in Adventureland who still makes a point of acting on stage) as the gigolette who does it better and harder than him. It’s a dark little movie with Anne Heche throwing her naked body around like nobody’s business. She hasn’t looked that good in years and is unlikely to again. It’s not a great movie… but it was a movie with some commercial potential… certainly more than 400 a screen on 101 screens.
And Bandslam, which I haven’t seen, did about the same # going wide… and from what people who have actually seen it… not so bad. Sounds kinda like a hipper, indier Josie & The Pussycats. Kind of a shock for Summit, which has shown it can do better. One wonders whether the movie was intentionally booted… even with this screen count. But as I say… critics seem to think it’s better than this.

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Box Office Hell – 8/14/09

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Distribution On The Slow Roll

(500) Days of Summer is doing nicely in its expansion, but not shockingly. It passed previous 2009 top indie slow-roller-outer Sunshine Cleaning as well as the still-in-the-fight The Hurt Locker. Still, Searchlight took a little Sundance movie with mixed reviews and built that thing into a $30m to $35m domestic cash machine.
But please note… 500 Days is rolling out twice as fast as Napoleon Dynamite (dom gross – $44.5m) did 5 summers ago. And while no indie tried this approach last summer to a gross over over $6.5 million. (Brideshead Revisited – $6.4m dom, never over 501 screens).
This summer, we have a parade of these higher-profile efforts to build and roll-out, which seems to me to be reflective of the current distribution climate.
There have been 29 films released this year on 30 screens or less that have grossed $500,000 or more. From the biggest distributors, there have been 7 from Sony Classics, 4 each from Magnolia and IFC, 2 each from Focus and Summit, and 1 each from Fox Searchlight and Overture.
There have been 8 from small indies (or essentially self-distribution), the most successful being the 42West-driven Is Anybody There? with $2 million. From that group, the widest expansion is IAT?

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Weekend Estimates by Klady – Joe, Julie, G

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Not much more to say than was said yesterday. GI Joe opened… hitting profit still looks like a challenge. Julie & Julia‘s opening is a little soft, but it will rely on legs and foreign. Funny People didn’t recover much from its 70% Fri-to-Fri.

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Friday Estimates by Klady – GI Cobra

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Mwaa ha ha!!!! So you puny film critics and writers thought you could outwit The Cobra Commander of Marketing. Mwah ha ha!!!
I know there is a conversation out there about how “this kind of movie opens to this kind of number,” but that doesn’t really give credit to Paramount’s marketing team. Remember, an established brand with Batman leading the way, Terminator Salvation, still only opened to $42.6m. This number for GI Joe: Rise Of The Cobra is going to be bigger than that. How much bigger no one really knows… because everyone is guessing about today, just as everyone was guessing about yesterday all day.
The new spin, rolled out to Nikki Finke by Rob Moore, that the movie was sure to tank and didn’t and that the likely losses on the movie will be covered by Paramount’s piece of the licensing on movie-branded versions of GI Joe toys… both a load of it. As I have written before, the anger in the media had a lot to do with a real sense that the movie WAS going to open well and the already impotent critics class was taking a hit for no reason while Paramount tried to backdoor raves even beyond the quote whores and junket class, by selecting geeks – most of whom hated Trannys2 – to deliver a very specific media message that the studio wanted. There were a few who would tell you that the movie would outright stiff on opening weekend, but those people were few and far between. $50m million was the presumed weekend for weeks… and it will probably be slightly higher, but not much. There is NO surprise here.
As for the math on the film… assuming the $175 million is true… it may be a bit low… but let’s start there. Though the studio is selling the gossips that this is going to be a mega-DVD title, about the max they can expect to ship on this is 7.5 million units. So let’s go about $140m in post-theatrical. So to cover (a generous) $300 million in production and marketing, the film needs to do about $290 million worldwide to break even.
Iron Man did 10% more here than overseas. The first Transformers did 10% more overseas than here. But either way you cut it, GIJ:ROTC needs to get to a minimum of $135m domestic to have a shot at breakeven. 2.5x opening, regardless of all the drama around this release, is no lock these days… especially in genre… unless you are “a hit with audiences.” With GIJ:ROTC be that? We’ll see.
Friday estimates on Julie & Juila have varied by a not-insignificant amount. Our Len Klady has it at $6.4m. Finke has it at a Sony-friendly $7.5m (though that number dropped out of her headline a couple of rewrites ago). Steve Mason came out with a $7m guess late last night. A million swing on what Friday was could mean a 10% variation (or more) on what the weekend is.
I like Julie & Julia, am sure of a Streep nomination for this performance, and if the film legs out $100 million, I like its odds in getting a Best Picture nomination come January. However, this is not a great opening number for this film. The Hangover, The Proposal, Bruno, and The Ugly Truth have all opened stronger, as comedies, this summer. The opening is right between Funny People, which got eye-rolled last weekend after opening to $22.7m and Year One, which was written off as a disaster with a $19.6 million opening.
That said… Hangover and Proposal have been very, very leggy… around 6x and 5x opening. And The J&J Cooking Factory is much more of the leggy mode than the other 3 films that opened better than J&J will. So, a $20m opening could lead to $80m or $100m without that legged out success being shocking. And that would likely take the film from being the #5 comedy opened to being the #3 comedy of the summer. And, as Nikki noted, the film is relatively cheap… around $50m.
One of the big questions will be how Juila child draws in Europe and the rest of the world. Streep’s comedies have played better overseas than her intimate dramas – Prime did double what it did here over there – and she is blazing hot from Mamma Mia!, which is the only non-effects/non-animation/non-comic book film other than The Da Vinci Code to gross over $400 million overseas (it did $458m). Ratatouille did $65 million in France alone. So the film looks like it could end up breaking even on the US alone and then making some nice profits “over there.”
Funny People… well… I am really sick of the Universal pile-on. It’s a trend story that’s become grossly overstated. As I keep noting, Bruno keeps getting called a disaster when it’s actually a success financially. Public Enemies is slowly moving to $100m domestic and breakeven status. Drag Me To Hell is profitable. But yes, Land of The Lost lost. And State of Play and Duplicity are being overly focused upon as iconic examples of the box office slump of drama and film stars over 40.
All that said, Funny People won its first 5 days in the box office wars and fell off Wednesday to #3, stayed there Thursday, and actually picked up a little by estimatedly passing Potter yesterday for a day. The Friday Drop has become a battering ram for writers, including me at time. I don’t think the 70% drop is the focus. Truth is, the movie opened about as well as it was going to open. And now, we are seeing word of mouth (in spite of Twitter being down for a day… looking forward to Forbes quantifying the loss) play out. This is an Adam Sandler drama with some comedy. Spanglish was off 77%, first Friday to second Friday and ended up off just under 47.4% from the first to the second weekend. Look for the film to top out around $55m here, to do about $25 million overseas, and to lose money. And life will go on.
Meanwhile, The Ugly Truth will land in the $80m range that Robert Luketic pretty much does in the US, but this could easily be his biggest film overseas, with Gerry Butler and a very Euro-ad-friendly premise to work with.

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Box Offiice GI Hell

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Summer Grosses So Far

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this chart was inspired by Variety’s piece on ice Age 3 becoming the biggest grossing animated film overseas ever. It’s still #3 in total worldwide gross for animated films.
And for reference:
The Hangover has opened in all major international territories.
Star Trek has played out in most major international territories.
The Proposal has a few biggies overseas left.
Up has barely opened overseas.

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Weekend Estimates by Klady – People Funny or Sad?

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So… in Sane World, Funny People opening to $23.3 million puts it behind Angels & Demons and Public Enemies (perhaps also Pelham) in terms of opening something dramatic without kid appeal. Given that it’s the only original piece of the four, not really bad at all in what seems to be the current market for adult drama.
On the other hand, they put this out there as an Aptowian comedy… and still, not really terrible. Thing is, Knocked Up has a clear, clean premise that Universal could sell with little more in outdoor than Seth Rogan’s then-little-known mug… “Would you sleep with this guy?”… or as the campaign expanded, “What happens when a hot blonde TV chick gets drunk and has sex with a ne’er-do-well stoner and gets (insert title here)?”
So here is Universal Marketing getting 76% of the opening gross out of, “Adam Sandler has been diagnosed with a deadly disease… but along the way, there will be some laughs and a hot blonde chick of an appropriate age,” and people are COMPLAINING?!?!? Really?
I got into this yesterday, so I won’t roll out the math, but there is nothing wrong with this opening other than the expectations of others… and indeed, perhaps some insiders.
And while I am on that, let me speak to the creeping terror of Slump talk I am beginning to notice out there. We are up about $400 million this year so far. Last year, even with The Dark Knight, was pretty much flat versus the year before… but the good kind of flat… as in 2007 and 2008 were The 2 Biggest Domestic Box Office Years In History. And this year – without 2007’s 4 $300m summer movies and last year’s 3 $300m summer movies (we are at 1 with the possibility of 2), all of which had rolled out by this time of the summer – the box office is still up.
There was no great box office event suggesting that people were going to go to the movies more than ever in a recession in the first quarter… and four weekend comparisons – compared against TDK’s first 3 weekends – is not a slump. Sharon Waxman’s bullshit use of weekend vs weekend comparisons out of context poisoned the well 4 years ago and is still poisoning that well (for those of you who wonder why I get so angry about things that seem to be passing minutiae to you).
Box office is both extremely simple and extremely complex. It is complex for those who chase it. They need to find that connection with audiences for each film that launches. And while it occasionally seems to “sell itself,” it is mostly a load of work, tying to narrow it all down to something that makes people want to leave their homes and pay $10 or more per person for a ticket to share an experience with others watching a big screen.
But what’s simple is… either it hits or it misses. Audiences either buy or don’t. And after that, they very rarely break the standards of how they behave after opening. When things change, they tend to change systematically.
But what is hard is making the exceptions happen. It was 7 years between There’s Something About Mary and Wedding Crashers as R-rated comedy phenoms. It’s been 4 long years between Wedding Crashers and The Hangover. Doesn’t the industry know that people like R-rated guy comedies with relative unknowns in them? Well, using Box Office Mojo’s genre chart, there have been 50 shots at the “R-RATED YOUTH” comedy since There’s Something About Mary and 9 did over $100m domestic… and 25 of them – half – did under $20 million.
But I digress…
How do we end up with week-to-week slumps? Well, all five May weekends this year (including the Memorial Day 4-day) were up this year from last year… even though last year, there were two $300 million movies in that month and this year there were none. June was split, 2 up, 2 down. July started with a 2009 win, as Tranny2 won 2009 for the holiday weekend as it had for the last week of June.
Then, The Fake Slump of Summer 2009… Last year, Journey to The Center of The Earth opens along side Hellboy 2. This year, Bruno and I Love You, Beth Cooper. $21m for Journey and $4m for Beth more than explains the separation between the two years.
Then… The Dark F-ing Knight… released on a Friday. Potter 6 released on a Wednesday. End of first weekend, TDK has $158m. End of first weekend, Potter has $158m. But in comparing the weekends, Potter is crushed… because the comparison is 3-day weekends. Truth is, Mamma Mia! would have still been enough for last year to win the weekend battle if Potter was a 3 day… but just barely. (No movie dared to open opposite Potter).
Weekend 30… Dark Knight does $75 million, breaks the record. Potter does $29 million. G-Force, The Ugly Truth, and Orphan outgross 2008 newcomers Step Brothers and X-Files 2 by $31 million… but it’s not enough to overcome TDK.
Weekend 31… this weekend… TDK at $42 million… plus openings of Mummy 3 and Swing Vote in for another $47 million. Funny People, Aliens In the Attic, and The Collector combine for about $35 million. Was someone really expecting Funny People to out-open Mummy 3? Does anyone think that a $42 million 3rd weekend hold for TDK – more than the difference between last year’s #31 and this year’s – means that we are in a box office slump of some kind?
I guess so… if you just assume that a Dark Knight is going to come along every year.
Okay… sorry… I didn’t roll out the Apatow math, but the anti-slump math came out in a fury.
As I have written… I do think there are changes afoot. But this “we’ve been in a slump for weeks” crap is bad hoodoo. And even when it is positive, as it was in Jan/Feb… it’s the movies, stupid. The trend wasn’t that more people were going to the movies to escape recession blues. The trend was that Fox put out a thriller that people wanted to see a lot more than Jumper and that Sony put out a family comedy that had star power and a strong premise, which no one had really even tried since 2006, when Sony made Pink Panther a family sell and Fox tried Big Momma’s House 2 and they did $152 million between them… or $6m more than Blart.
It’s not a big mystery. It’s just hard to actually deliver, year in and year out. It’s a dozen giant souffles for each studio each year. Perspectives get bent. There will be more no-name comedies trying to do Hangover business… WB and Marvel will both drive themselves to distraction (and some bad movies that flop) trying to recreate TDK and Iron Man while avoiding Superman Returns and The Incredible Hulk. And of course, we will have The Book of Eli, Takers, and Edge of Darkness chasing Taken numbers and Hoodwinked Too, The Tooth Fairy, and The Spy Next Door chasing the Blart money next January… pretty much assuring that while the six films will gross over $300 million between them, none of them will be a $100 million movie because of oversaturation.
And so it goes…
The Hurt Locker did well again in another small expansion. But the movie is looking like it will peak out – because of this release pattern – next weekend with, say, 650 screens and a gross of about $2.1 million? That’ll get them up near $10 million. Then it’s $1.45 million… $900k… $560k… and downwards… just about a $15 million grosser. And that may be enough to get it the Oscar nod… just barely.

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“The word I have fallen in love with lately is ‘Hellenic.’ Greek in its mythology. So while everyone is skewing towards the YouTube generation, here we are making two-and-a-half-hour movies and trying to buck the system. It’s become clear to me that we are never going to be a perfect fit with Hollywood; we will always be the renegade Texans running around trying to stir the pot. Really it’s not provocation for the sake of being provocative, but trying to make something that people fall in love with and has staying power. I think people are going to remember Dragged Across Concrete and these other movies decades from now. I do not believe that they will remember some of the stuff that big Hollywood has put out in the last couple of years. You’ve got to look at the independent space to find the movies that have been really special recently. Even though I don’t share the same world-view as some of my colleagues, I certainly respect the hell out of their movies which are way more fascinating than the stuff coming out of the studio system.”
~ Dallas Sonnier

“My first objective relationship in life was with the camera. I didn’t understand anything but then I realized the camera is my friend. It doesn’t lie to me. It doesn’t manipulate me. It only reports what I’m doing. And therefore, for me to work with a camera and the camera to be directed by an artist, a craftsman, someone who knows what he or she wants, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
~ Elliot Gould