MCN Commentary & Analysis

Box Office – Unhinged, 8/23

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.)

14 Responses to “Box Office – Unhinged, 8/23”

  1. amblinman says:

    “ Answers will only really 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”

    I would so love to revisit columns in which you lectured everyone on the realities of what blockbusters need in terms of distro to have a successful opening. OH MY GOD to read you now whimpering about Tenet not needing wide swaths of US theaters to be open and gloss over how wrong you’ve been about streaming this whole time. You swore Mulan was untouchable, for example.

    We are smart, savvy movie folks who actually read the words you write, Dave. Show us a little more respect.

  2. Stella's Boy says:

    Moving the goal posts a bit is he. Not surprised. In late March he said we’d be back to normal by July 1, watching movies in theaters again. He also spent months claiming, with no evidence, that there was this massive anti-movies and anti-movie theater campaign going on. All the while dismissing PVOD and VOD and anyone who has suggested that we might be seeing a shift because of the pandemic.

  3. amblinman says:

    I’m really fucking annoyed at how good The Batman looks. I swore I was done with early BAtman movies but Reeves is so good.

  4. J says:

    ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ is one of the best popcorn movies I’ve ever seen. I’ve watched my 4K about 10 times. It’s jaw-dropping. Reeves is a mega-talent, this will be really good in all likelihood. I’m in love with Reeves since that last Apes movie.

  5. Hcat says:

    Loved the new Apes movies as well, but might still be done on Batman. That four hour Snyder cut of Justice League sounds like absolute torture to me.

    Can’t tell if New Mutants opening is a good sign or bad. I joked before that the world would end before anyone actually got to see it and looking at California and Louisiana I can see it all falling apart in the next 20 hours.

    As for David moving the goalposts, the goalposts were washed away in a flood of lava months ago.

  6. Pete B. says:

    So… The New Mutants isn’t the clusterf*ck that I thought it would be given it’s history, but it sure comes off as the most expensive TV pilot ever made.

    Then again, I may be generous as I’d see AT-J in about anything.

  7. Stella's Boy says:

    Most of the time when a celebrity dies I don’t really feel anything beyond “oh man that’s sad RIP” because I didn’t know them. But sometimes it feels different for some reason, and that’s true of Chadwick Boseman. Fucking bullshit. 2020 sucks.

  8. Pete B. says:

    Does anyone know about the roll out for Bill & Ted Face the Music? It’s not playing at the Regal or AMC, but it’s playing 20 miles away at a NCG theater. Is that because it’s also available VOD? It’ll be here next weekend when our local Cinema Grill opens.

    RIP Chadwick Boseman. More folks should have seen Get On Up. You were exceptional.

  9. SideshowBill says:

    I was gutted by the Boseman death. Gutted. This year is merciless and I have little hope it’s gonna improve.

    Can’t wait to watch Bill & Ted. Did watch The Binge on Hulu . I truly don’t know if it was good or bad but I was high and I laughed a lot lol.

    Peace to you all. Hang in there. Love 💕 on ‘ya.

  10. Pete B. says:

    Tenet. Wow. Have to see it a 2nd time. So much to process. Did not disappoint.
    (Unlike Interstellar.)

  11. Dr Wally Rises says:

    $54 million international opening weekend for Tenet. Under normal circumstances? Atrocious. In THESE circumstances? Who the heck knows. But I think that it sounds to me like a very respectable number..

  12. Pete B. says:

    Sideshow, Bill & Ted 3 is great. So many laugh out loud moments. Nothing will capture the magic of the first, but this comes close. Be sure to check out the after credits scene.

  13. amblinman says:

    Dr Wally: it’s hard for me to look at Tenet’s opening and not think it would have done better on VOD. Invisible Man made 30m opening weekend on VOD.

    The Invisible Man.

  14. amblinman says:

    Just looked it up: Trolls World Tour earned $50m.

    I Googled, got the first answer that popped up. IF there’s some deep-dive that proves these movies made way more or less… ya got me.

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