| March 6, 2022
I thought it would be worth doing a deeper dive into Unhinged‘s weekend “win” because the trades are being indulgent in their coverage and this is the start of a few weeks, at least, of the effort to reopen theatrical.
The most generous reading of the Unhinged weekend is that the film did $2,195 per theater. Why is this generous? Because the “screen count” we were used to is really a count of theaters, most of which are now multiplexes, and thus, the window for this “B” movie is wider than it would ever be in a normal time for distribution. In places where it would normally appear on one or two screens, it is on three or four.
No one should expect pre-pandemic numbers from any movie opening for some time to come. New York, California, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, Oregon, North Carolina and Arizona are all still closed for movie theaters. Still, that is less than half of the Top 30 markets in America.
$2196 per theater is still just 75 tickets sold per day per theater. And that math gets thinner as you spread it out over multiplex screens.
The #1 theater in the country for Unhinged was The Paramount Twin Drive-In. With social distancing accounted for, they have room for about 600 cars at two screens, each of which has two showings a night. The ticket cost is $10 per adult. So if they did $25,000 this weekend, that would be 2500 people over 12 screenings, averaging 209 people per screening or, say, 100 cars per screen or 33% capacity. This estimate could be a little high or a little low. I don’t have the exact figures for The Paramount or the average viewers per car.
It’s hardly an embarrassing number… especially for this movie. But as the only theatrical window in the Los Angeles area… protected by staying in your car… is… meh. It seems like good business for Solstice Studios, which has taken a terrible, offensive movie with a fallen star and turned it into a classic B movie success by the standards of the moment.
I don’t know if WB will book The Paramount Drive-In for Tenet. Apparently, The Paramount doesn’t know either, as its screening schedule stops on Thursday. I would drive the hslf-an-hour, even though they don’t have digital ticketing (so, no guarantees about getting in), to see Tenet in a second.
I would also go see Mulan, even with the PVOD option on Disney+. But it seems that Disney isn’t going to let that happen.
I agree with Anthony D’Alessandro of Deadline that reflexive dismissal of this box office number is wrongheaded. But I also think that treating it as some big win is also iffy, at best. It fits right in with Trolls World Tour and The King of Long Island and the other experiments in varied releasing methods. There is no North Star yet. None of the efforts have been a disaster.
Answers will start to come with Tenet, for better or worse. We won’t be at 100%. But that issue is overblown. Very few theaters do 50% occupancy outside of Friday or Saturday night or Saturday and Sunday morning for kids movies. The limitations in the theaters may prevent old highs. And NY/LA/etc being closed is also a slowing factor. But Unhinged doing $8 million instead of $4 million this weekend was not caused by seating limits. (And by the way, suggesting that $8m would be a good open for Unhinged in normal days is false.)
| March 6, 2022
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May 1, 2022
"Netflix, the great disrupter whose algorithms and direct-to-consumer platform have forced powerful media incumbents to rethink their economic models, now seems to need a big strategy change itself. It got me thinking about the simple idea that my film and TV production company Blumhouse is built on: If you give artists a lot of creative freedom and a little money upfront but a big stake in the movie’s or TV show’s commercial success, more often than not the result will be both commercial (the filmmakers are incentivized to make films that will resonate with audiences) and artistically interesting (creative freedom!). This approach has yielded movies as varied as Get Out (made for $4.5 million, with worldwide box office receipts of more than $250 million), Whiplash (made for $3.3 million, winner of three Academy Awards), The Invisible Man (made for $7 million, earned more than $140 million) and Paranormal Activity (made for $15,000, grossed more than $190 million).From the beginning, the most important strategy I used to persuade artists to work with me was to make radically transparent deals: We usually paid the artists (“participants” in Hollywood lingo) the absolute minimum allowable by union contracts upfront, with the promise of healthy bonuses based on actual box office results—instead of the opaque 'percentage points' that artists are usually offered. Anyone can see box office results immediately, so creators don’t quarrel with the payouts. In fact, when it comes time for an artist to collect a bonus based on box office receipts, I email a video clip of myself dropping the check off at FedEx to the recipient."
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