Archive for the ‘Money’ Category

Weekend Fix: Paul Blart Can’t. Be. Stopped.

January 26, 2009

Man, this week has really taken a toll on me, and I apologize for the lateness of this post. Basically, if you’re a fan of the box office, you’ve already read 20 different recaps of the weekend (unless my little operation of The Box Office Junkie really is your #1 box office source, in which case, I’m flattered!), so you can survive a week without my analysis. It’s been an especially hectic time right now (this is the same time I put my blog on hiatus last year), but I promise I’m sticking around for the long hall. Anyway, I don’t have time for a full post, so here’s the numbers, along with five observations:

1. Paul Blart: Mall Cop is the most popular thing since Obama.

2. R-rated movies are doing quite well right now. 7 of the Top 12 are rated R.

3. Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans did fine. When you consider that it was originally intended as a straight-to-DVD feature, it did great.

4. Sorry, Inkheart. Reading still isn’t cool.

5. Slumdog Millionaire is the most popular thing since Paul Blart: Mall Cop. After 11 weekends, it still has the highest per theater average in the Top 12. It will easily surpass $100 million.

Top 12 For January 16-18
# Movie Title 3-Day Gross % Change AVG. Total
1 Paul Blart: Mall Cop $21,500,000 -32% $6,838 $64,800,000
2 Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans $20,700,000 New $7,036 $20,700,000
3 Gran Torino $15,985,000 -27% $5,250 $97,561,000
4 Hotel For Dogs $12,360,000 -27% $3,779 $36,955,000
5 Slumdog Millionaire $10,550,000 +80% $7,477 $55,915,616
6 My Bloody Valentine: 3D $10,050,000 -53% $3,966 $37,770,000
7 Inkheart $7,725,000 New $2,910 $7,725,000
8 Bride Wars $7,000,000 -40% $2,671 $48,702,264
9 The Curious Case Of Banjamin Button $6,000,000 8% $2,651 $111,044,000
10 Notorious $5,700,000 -72% $3,473 $31,794,846
11 Defiance $5,432,000 -39% $3,030 $18,329,000
12 Revolutionary Road $5,268,000 195% $4,979 $11,867,000
All Numbers Provided By Exhibitor Relations Co.

You know how it goes… Sound off in the comments!
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Welcome To The Era Of Easy Entertainment!

January 20, 2009

We’re in the middle of a huge economic recession, millions of people are out of work, the news is consistently depressing, the earth is apparently so polluted that a Wall-Eish future seems likely, we’re still fighting what seems to be a never-ending battle in the Middle East, and Paul Blart: Mall Cop just earned $39 million over four days in theaters. What is going on in the world, and why are all these terrible things happening at once? To be honest, I can’t really tell you anything about those first five- you’d have to ask a Washington insider about those. But when it comes to the issue of Paul Blart: Mall Cop raking in huge profits, let me offer up this explanation: In light of the economic, political, and social struggles that currently permeate our society, we have reached a new stage of culture: The Era of Easy Entertainment (EEE), where popular entertainment has become valued more as a distraction than an artform.

You see, it seems to me that in these tough times, the last thing people want in their lives is any more stress. And yes, if you’re wondering, there is a such thing as stressful entertainment. Over the last few years, movies centered on war have completely stalled at the box office. Even high profile releases like The Good German ($1.3 million), Flyboys ($13 M), The Great Raid ($10 M), and Flags Of Our Fathers ($33 M) have had trouble finding an audience. The best performing war-themed picture was 2005’s Jarhead ($62 M), but even that failed to live up to expectations. Still, if these films were to be released right now, I predict that they would do even worse at the box office than they did in their original theatrical runs. Why? Because people are tired of bad news! People are tired of war and fighting and not knowing what is going to happen next! And now, as the economic foundation of the country starts to crack, people are eager for something consistent and comforting. Where have they turned? To easy entertainment.

With exception of Nothing Like The Holidays ($7 M), every single comedy that has been released in the last two months has been a solid hit. Role Models earned $67 million. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa earned $178 million. Four Christmases earned $120 million. Bolt earned $113 million. Yes Man earned $93 million. Marley And Me has earned $134 million. Bedtime Stories has earned $105 million. Bride Wars has earned $40 million. And Paul Blart: Mall Cop opened to $39 million! The average T-Meter on RottenTomatoes for these films is 39%, so it’s not like these are just the best films out there right now. Yea some of them are great, and others are truly awful, but I think it’s more that right now, people just truly want to laugh and smile. Think about all the people who lined up in droves to go see Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Don’t you think they knew that it wasn’t going to be a magnificently memorable work of art? What they did know was that it would be safe enough and fun enough to provide them with a pleasant distraction from the reality of life, if only for a couple hours.

But this trend isn’t just limited to film. Look at the general trends of television viewing this season. The sitcom, which many pronounced as “dead” a few years ago, is now back in full force. Shows like The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, and 30 Rock have seen massive 35-45% increases in their viewership this season, despite network television ratings being universally down. And it’s not just comedy that makes up the EEE. No, some entertainment is just “easy,” like television’s number one new show, The Mentalist. The show does absolutely nothing to break the mold of a typical CBS procedural crime drama. It follows a very predictable formula each and every episode, and audiences aren’t complaining. In fact, because it requires so little thinking, and the mystery is always wrapped up by the end of each episode, it’s pulling in almost 19 million viewers every week. Shows like Lost or 24 should be glad they launched when they did, because they would never break out in 2009- they just require too much thinking, too much stress!

There’s no telling how long EEE will last. It is the reason that films like The Unborn and My Bloody Valentine: 3D have done so well lately. These are horror flicks, yes, but they are also proedictable and fun. It is the reason dogs are the hottest thing in Hollywood now. They don’t need to be able to act or speak- they’re cute and make people feel good. So long as people are worried about our failing economy, horror films and comedies and movies that advertise the fact that they are fun, will continue to thrive. Already, the box office is having an incredibly lucrative winter season because people have made it very clear that right now they don’t need a ton of drama- they want some simple comfort instead.

DVD Sales: Pineapple Express Is High…On The Sales Chart, That Is

January 20, 2009

DVD Sales Notes for the week ending January 11:

Pineapple Express found a solid debut on the home market with about 1.5 million units sold, for a $31 million week. Along with horror movies and geek-oriented films, stoner comedies tend to be pretty frontloaded (buying these DVDs is perhaps the only time that potheads will actually rush to do something), so it’ll probably descend quicker than most other films. Still, this is a nice opening week for an $87 million earner

Righteous Kill, Babylon A.D., and Bangkok Dangerous are three films that I probably would have forgotten about completely had I not seen them on the DVD Sales chart this week. A sore reminder that Robert DeNiro, Vin Diesel, and Nicholas Cage will basically take whatever work they can get, these films earned $40 million, $22 million, and $15 million, respectively, in theaters. So, while their opening week of DVD sales, with debuts in the $10 million range, is pretty poor, it’s not so bad when you look at the theatrical grosses.

-I never understand why TV series do this! Battlestar Galactica – Season 4.0 ($7 million in sales) came out on DVD just a few days before the premiere of its final season. I prefer when television shows, like The Tudors ($2.8 M) or Lost ($2.9 M), give audiences a few weeks to refresh their memories before the new season starts.

-You have to give The American Girl brand a little bit of credit: they just won’t give up on trying to parlay the popular dolls ito a viable film franchise! Unfortunately, they hit another bump in the road with An American Girl: Chrissa Stands Strong, which sold a meager 84,873 copies, for a $1.4 million week. But don’t cry- stand strong, Chrissa!

-It’ll be another two or three weeks before Prince Caspian crosses the $100 million mark, but diehard Narnia fans are already bashing Disney for their decision to disassociate with the franchise. I’ve already seen numerous people use the “solid DVD sales” of Caspian as evidence that Disney should have stuck with the fantasy films. Well, I hate to break it to you guys, but The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe wasn’t struggling to hit $100 million on DVD. It earned $354 million in DVD sales!

Top 30 DVD Sales For The Week Ending January 11
Rank Title Units this Week % Change Total Units Sales this Week Total Sales Weeks in Release
1 Pineapple Express 1,481,203 -.-% 1,481,203 $31,394,098 $31,394,098 1
2 Righteous Kill 571,596 -.-% 571,596 $12,080,167 $12,080,167 1
3 Babylon A.D. 421,550 -.-% 421,550 $10,676,808 $10,676,808 1
4 Bangkok Dangerous (2008) 419,181 -.-% 419,181 $9,737,114 $9,737,114 1
5 Eagle Eye 344,972 -73.9% 1,857,596 $6,419,860 $39,215,777 2
6 Dark Knight, The 226,772 -63.9% 12,850,580 $4,564,716 $270,419,281 5
7 Battlestar Galactica – Season 4.0 216,552 -.-% 216,552 $6,927,498 $6,927,498 1
8 Mamma Mia! 214,182 -59.4% 5,689,946 $5,018,070 $124,212,688 4
9 Duchess, The 144,804 -26.6% 342,121 $2,519,705 $6,015,472 2
10 Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia 134,790 -.-% 134,790 $2,694,452 $2,694,452 1
11 Horton Hears a Who! 127,175 -43.8% 4,032,389 $2,221,289 $70,158,862 5
12 WALL-E 115,534 -58.1% 10,602,018 $2,007,854 $182,041,468 8
13 Iron Man 114,793 -11.5% 9,954,260 $2,428,354 $186,193,549 15
14 Disaster Movie 114,497 -.-% 114,497 $2,517,789 $2,517,789 1
15 Tudors – The Complete Second Season, The 111,683 -.-% 111,683 $2,790,958 $2,790,958 1
16 Resident Evil: Degeneration 109,461 -63.4% 408,479 $2,394,722 $8,372,092 2
17 Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, The 104,129 -63.2% 2,461,139 $1,853,923 $44,879,412 4
18 Kung Fu Panda 103,684 -41.5% 9,025,059 $1,838,048 $148,831,122 9
19 Step Brothers 103,240 -43.1% 3,274,060 $2,128,747 $60,551,855 6
20 Wanted 102,499 -63.7% 4,261,795 $2,017,129 $87,780,491 6
21 Hancock 94,501 -50.6% 5,703,418 $2,067,805 $113,804,505 7
22 Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, The 91,390 -63.8% 5,906,713 $1,448,577 $97,479,068 6
23 Death Race 89,465 -63.4% 1,002,433 $2,128,211 $23,994,322 3
24 Burn After Reading 88,428 -64.8% 994,924 $1,565,282 $18,054,525 3
25 Traitor 85,720 -35.2% 776,943 $1,465,838 $13,753,095 4
26 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull 85,465 -.-% 6,246,354 $1,534,233 $129,528,738 13
27 American Girl: Chrissa Stands Strong, An 84,873 -.-% 84,873 $1,441,992 $1,441,992 1
28 Ghost Town 84,571 -43.0% 232,956 $1,740,894 $4,873,108 2
29 Lost – The Complete Fourth Season 79,308 -32.0% 1,050,209 $2,975,422 $39,997,807 5
30 Tropic Thunder 71,939 -42.8% 3,148,433 $1,542,811 $62,423,371 8
All Numbers Provided By Nash Information Services via The-Numbers

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Weekend Fix: At The Box Office, Dogs May Be The New Penguins, But Fat Guys Are The New Will Smiths!

January 18, 2009

What a crazy world we live in! Even before we’ve gotten to the Monday of MLK weekend, the 3-day frame was one of the 10 biggest weekends in the history of the box office! The Top 12 films grossed a fantastic $170 million, increasing a whopping 29% over last year! This is shocking for January, but really cool! There’s so much to talk about! Here’s my rundown of each film:

Paul Blart: Mall Cop – Sony – $33.8 million – $10,751 per theater average
Fat Man #1. This opening is the second highest January opening of all time, behind 2008’s Cloverfield ($40 M). Maybe after Kevin James starred with Will Smith in 2005’s Hitch, and with Adam Sandler in 2007’s I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry, he’s garnered some of their box office drawing power, because this debut is just huge, and it still has MLK day tomorrow to rake in the big bucks! Mark this off as a huge success for both James as a leading actor and Sandler as a producer. Paul Blart: Mall Cop was benefited by its strong advertising campaign, and the relatively low comedic expectations of moviegoers. (Though I will confess that I sounded a bit pretentious in my Weekend Preview.) In these recessionary times, it looks like no one wants to think too hard when they go to the movies. Welcome to The Era Of Easy Entertainment! (EEE)

Gran Torino – Warner Brothers – $22.2 million – $7,481 PTA

Clint Eastwood continues to draw in audiences, who have really found a strong connection to the film. Due to the holiday on Monday, the film saw a very soft 24% decline, and with a $73 million total and a great venue average after two weekends in wide release, Gran Torino is headed for at least $130 million. A much needed return to profitability for the director, after Flags Of Our Fathers ($33 M), Letters From Iwo Jima ($13 M), and Changeling ($35 M).

My Bloody Valentine: 3D – Lionsgate – $21.9 million – $8,642 PTA
Shame on you, Supernatural fans! According to my calculations, there are still about 1.5 million of you who did not go see your beloved Jensen Ackles this weekend on the big screen! I thought you were the most dedicated fans of any TV show, like, EVER. Still, enough of you came out for the 3D slasher flick to have a pretty solid opening of $21.9 million, further proving that horror is back on the map and in perfectly good shape. Come 2010, audiences will probably be tired of it again, so studios, cash in while you can! MBV:3D has already revealed some of its frontloadedness, since its Friday numbers were higher than Saturday’s, but I expect that this will have slightly better legs than most other horror films, due to its good reviews.

Notorious – Fox Searchlight – $21.5 million – $13,126 PTA
Fat Man #2. This is truly the surprise of the weekend! Admittedly, I’m a former prep school kid from southern Virginia, who grew up more in the time of Eminem than B.I.G., so maybe I’m a bit out of touch with the hip hop legend’s drawing power, but I think even Fox Searchlight has to be unbelievably surprised with how well Notorious performed. It’s sizzling venue average is nothing short of amazing, and although it only played in 1,638 theaters, audiences turned out in huge crowds to see the biopic. Like most other films marketed to urban audiences, though, this one will be a victim of frontloadedness. Even with the holiday weekend effect, Notorious still came up with an internal multiplier (weekend gross divided by Friday gross) of 2.55, which is pretty low, so I’m expecting this to fall pretty quickly. Not that that matters, though! Notorious has already made its mark, and I’m sure it’s already covered its production budget, so it’s all gravy at this point. I bet somewhere, a Tupac movie just got the greenlight…

Hotel For Dogs – Paramount – $17.7 million – $5,413 PTA
This is the fourth successful dog release in the last four months. In October there was Beverly Hills Chihuahua ($94 M). In November there was Bolt ($105 M). And in December there was Marley And Me ($132 M so far). Emma Roberts has redeemed herself after the lackluster performance of last year’s Nancy Drew ($22 M), and even with a lower venue average, Hotel For Dogs will probably go further than both Notorious and My Bloody Valentine: 3D, due to its family friendly nature. But let me talk for just a second about dogs. I’m going to be honest: I’m a little put off by the rise of dogs in society lately. I mean, they’re cute and fluffy, and I love them as pets as much as anyone else, but I think that people are starting to think that dogs are humans. Between the rising numbers of clothing stores for canines, the onslaught of ASPCA commercials, the intensity of the anti-fur movement, their sudden box office viability, and the constant talks of “animal rights,” and I just have to wonder whether people realize that we are, in fact, people, and dogs are, in fact, animals. Call me once every human in the world has rights. Then, I’ll start to worry about whether the dogs do. Rant over.

Bride Wars – Fox – $11.8 million – $3,640 PTA
I still don’t feel like talking about this film, but I’ve got it to give it credit for its good box office run thus far. It’s the girl version of Paul Blart: Mall Cop, and it’s probably headed for a $60-65 million finish. Like I said, welcome to EEE!

The Unborn – Universal – $9.8 million – $4,175
I know it was aided by the holiday weekend effect, but a 50% drop is pretty good for a horror film in its second weekend opening against another frightfest. With $33 million so far, this is a huge victory for Universal, who solidly advertised the film. You know, I’m seeing a trend here, Hollywood: If you believe in the films you put out and advertise them effectively, they do well at the box office! Weird, huh?

Defiance – Paramount Vantage – $9.2 million – $5,146
Okay, I’m saying it now. Outside of the Bond franchise, Daniel Craig is box office poison. The whole release kind of confuses me, actually. I heard almost nothing about this film, which cost a hefty $60 million, and after two weeks in very limited release, it failed to light up with moviegoers. Add in lackluster reviews, and you have a true misfire.

Slumdog Millionaire – Fox Searchlight – $5.9 million – $10,137 PTA
Seeing that my second-favorite film of 2008 just had an incredible 56% increase on the heels of its Golden Globes win erases any of the malice I was feeling towards Paul Blart and Bride Wars. There is hope for audiences yet! It really is quite amazing that in its tenth week of release, Slumdog Millionaire still has a per theater average of $10,137, the second highest in the Top 12. If this gets the Oscar for Best Picture (and it’s looking more and more like it will), we could be looking at a $100 million earner here!

The Rest Of ‘Em
You don’t really need to hear me talk about Marley And Me, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, and Bedtime Stories anymore, do you? It’s hard to believe that they came out just 25 days ago, because I feel like Ive been talking about them for forever! Suffice it to say, they were all solid performers of the Christmas season that kicked off what could be a historic winter at the box office. The full 3-day weekend numbers are below:

Top 12 For January 16-18
# Movie Title 3-Day Gross % Change AVG. Total
1 Paul Blart: Mall Cop $33,800,000 New $10,751 $33,800,000
2 Gran Torino $22,235,000 – 24.6% $7,481 $73,232,000
3 My Bloody Valentine 3D $21,900,000 New $8,642 $21,900,000
4 Notorious $21,500,000 New $13,126 $21,500,000
5 Hotel for Dogs $17,707,000 New $5,413 $17,707,000
6 Bride Wars $11,750,000 – 44.2% $3,640 $37,577,125
7 The Unborn $9,848,825 – 50.3% $4,175 $33,087,980
8 Defiance $9,206,000 +13401% $5,146 $9,547,000
9 Marley & Me $6,325,000 – 44.5% $2,143 $132,734,283
10 Slumdog Millionaire $5,900,000 + 56.0% $10,137 $42,737,205
11 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button $5,599,000 – 39.2% $2,519 $102,624,000
12 Bedtime Stories $4,848,000 – 44.9% $1,851 $103,753,000
All Numbers Provided By Exhibitor Relations Co.

For the record, at the end of the day, I’m okay with Paul Blart: Mall Cop being on top of the charts. It isn’t going to kill me, and hey, I might even chuckle once or twice if I watched it. You know, my little sister, who’s six years old, loves slapstick comedy. She’s as sweet as a peach, but if I stub my toe or poke my eye or trip and fall, the girl can not contain her laughter! So who am I to say that Blart isn’t comedy?! It’s not comedy that I necessarily want to see, but I’m not about to totally discount the collective consciousness. Now let’s hear what you think about the weekend!

The Original Cast Is Back For "Fast And Furious." Can They Rev Up The Franchise?

January 15, 2009

“Original Parts, New Model.” This is the tagline that runs at the end of the new trailer for Universal’s Fast And Furious, the fourth installment in the popular (to varying degrees) street racing franchise. For this one, the original cast of The Fast And The Furious has come back, and at this point in their careers, they’re sort of a motley crew of former stars. We have Vin Diesel, who turned his back on the franchise after the first film, but is now desperately in need of a hit, considering his last success was 2005’s Disney film The Pacifier ($113 million). I guess that’s what you get when you bite the hand that feeds you… Also returning is Paul Walker. Though Walker appeared in 2 Fast 2 Furious, he did not appear in The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift, and his career has stalled since 2006’s Eight Below ($81 million). Finally we have, Michelle Rodriguez, who seems to have replaced her headshots with mugshots in the last few years, after getting killed off of Lost. Suffice it to say, these three actors could use some box office success. But will they be able to fight off the diminishing returns the franchise has witnessed over the years? Take a look at what I mean:

2001 – The Fast And The Furious – $144 million

This was a nice surprise for Universal, as the film only cost $38 million to produce. The breakout hit put Vin Diesel on the map, and took Paul Walker out of his high school stage after She’s All That and Varsity Blues. A franchise was born.

2003 – 2 Fast 2 Furious – $127 million

Although the budget doubled to $76 million, people had trouble getting as excited about a sequel that was missing one of the main characters, since Vin Diesel did not return. Although, 2 Fast 2 Furious did give us Eva Mendes, so I can’t be too hard on it…

2007 – The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift – $62 million

Universal’s attempt to relaunch the franchise with new face Lucas Black did not work out so well, and the third installment, which featured none of the original cast, grossed less than half of its predecessor. People did praise director Justin Lin for some eye-popping chase scenes, though.

Personally, I’m rooting for them! Maybe it’s because I was 12 years old, and finally allowed to go to the movies by myself, when The Fast And The Furious came out, but I just can’t help but support this franchise. (I think there is something about entertainment you watch between the ages of 8 and 13 that makes you ever-nostalgic for it. Power Rangers, Lizzie McGuire, where have you gone?) These films don’t take themselves too seriously, the chase scenes are pretty amazing, stuff blows up, the dialogue is ridiculous, I have a ton fun, and now I’m finding myself so excited that the original cast is back. Fast And Furious has wisely chosen a Spring release date of April 3, 2009, away from the crowded Summer action slate, and Tokyo Drift director, Justin Lin, has returned to helm the reboot. The stars seems to be aligned for a speedy (hah!) comeback, and I think that Fast And Furious be headed for at least $100 million, and probably more. Vin, Paul, Michelle, you’re going to get your careers back on track because I know there are other people out there who are just as excited as me! Right?! Right? …right? …..oh gosh, this is embarrassing.

Hannah Montana Vs. The Jonas Brothers: Disney Channel’s Box Office Battle Royale!

January 13, 2009

Last week, The Walt Disney Company released trailers for two of their highly anticipated spring features. Highly anticipated, that is, if you are a 8-14 year-old girl. Disney has long been in the business of grooming (programming?) an army of massively marketable pop star sensations, but their two biggest success stories come from Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana and The Jonas Brothers. For the last year, it seems like everything that these kids touch turns into gold, and Disney is wisely striking while the iron is hot, before the tweens move onto the next pop star on the production line.

After the incredible success of 2008’s Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best Of Both Worlds Concert Tour 3-D, which grossed an amazing $65 million, Disney is giving the Jonas Brothers pretty much the exact same treatment, and on February 27, Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience will debut. It’s fascinating how quickly The Jonas Brothers have taken over the tween set, considering just one year ago they were the opening act of the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus…Tour 3-D. I’d be willing to bet that Disney plans on giving Demi Lovato (who opens for The Jonas Brothers in this film) her own 3D movie in the near future. Here’s the trailer:

Then in April, Miley Cyrus will return to the big screen, but this time, it’s not exactly a concert movie. Giving the wildly popular television show the film treatment, Disney will open Hannah Montana The Movie on April 1o, 2009. Disney successfully did this once before in 2003 with the Hilary Duff vehicle, The Lizzie McGuire Movie, which earned a solid $42 million, but served mostly as a merchandising platform and star-showcase for Miss Duff, who went on to sell millions of records and start a girls fashion line. Hannah Montana The Movie will tell the deep story of the fictional pop star having to move from Hollywood back to her home in Tennessee. The trailer for the film is below. (Watch for the hilarious moment at the end of the trailer, when some random, deep-voiced cowboy encourages you to see the film! )

Here’s what I want to know: Which of these films will earn more? I’m going to give the edge to Hannah Montana The Movie, mostly because Miley Cyrus has established herself as a family fixture for longer than the JoBros, and parents will be more willing to sit through an actual scripted movie, rather than just a concert film. But will either of them be able to outgross Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best Of Both Worlds Concert Tour 3-D? Hmm. This is tough, but I actually don’t think so. Best Of Both Worlds benefited from hefty $15 tickets across the country, and unless Disney pulls a similar stunt this time around, I think the $65 million total will be tough to match. Plus, I think Miley may have already hit her peak last year. I want to hear from you all though! Which film do you think will earn the most? Comment away!

Also, Tyra Banks managed to capture a role, and Taylor Swift is pimping herself out to Disney! You see her in both trailers! She’s trying to play both sides of the fence here, but Taylor, you’ve got to choose: Jonas Brothers or Miley Cyrus- you can’t have it both ways! And why has Disney decided to drop the hyphen in 3D?

Friday Estimates: GRAND Torino At The Box Office

January 10, 2009

I’ve just got to be real with you- I way underestimated the box office of the premiering films, and I overestimated the holdovers. Things just took a rather unexpected turn this weekend, but don’t worry, I’m not about to sit here and dwell on it. After all, pretty much everyone got it wrong!

This weekend proved to be a pretty big draw for American audiences, as all three openers debuted to pretty good results. Gran Torino, after launching into wide release in its fifth week, earned an estimated $9.8 million on Friday, which is fantastic. The NFL playoffs should detract from its overall multiplier a little bit, but it’s still headed for around $29 million for the weekend. Much to my dismay, Bride Wars also opened well with $8 million on Friday. It should make it to around $24 million for the weekend. I don’t want to talk about it. The Unborn also managed an $8 million Friday, and because it will be front-loaded, I’m seeing an $18 million weekend. Still, that’s a fairly good debut, which means that audiences may be ready for horror movies again after two years of disappointing receipts. Give it a month before people are tired of these movies again… The only other new film hitting the charts was Not Easily Broken, a small film playing in just 724 theaters. It opened in 7th place, $2 million on Friday. Look for a $6 million weekend.

With the new options shining so brightly, there were some very large drops among returning features. Among holdovers, Marley And Me is looking at $10 million for the weekend, Benjamin Button should find $9 million, and Bedtime Stories $8 million. Here’s the Top Ten Friday Estimates:

Friday Estimates for January 9th
1. Gran Torino – $9.8 million
2. Bride Wars – $8 million
3. The Unborn – $8 million
4. Marley And Me – $3 million
5. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button – $2.7 million
6. Bedtime Stories – $2.1 million
7. Not Easily Broken – $2 millino
8. Valkyrie – $1.9 million
9. Yes Man – $1.9 million
10. Seven Pounds – $1.1 million

Weekend Preview: Sorry Clint Eastwood, Bride Wars And The NFL Are BFF’s

January 9, 2009

January has historically been a rather bipolar month at movie theaters. On the one hand, studios often dump some of their very worst films in January, and this month’s releases are pretty much awful more often than not. On the other hand, however, January is also the time when studios will expand their quality, smaller titles, hoping to capitalize on the positive effects of awards season and build enough buzz to garner the ever elusive Oscar nomination. The second weekend of 2009 follows this tried-and-true formula to a tee: There are two new wide releases, Bride Wars and The Unborn, which are getting absolutely obliterated by critics, and then Clint Eastwood’s buzzy Gran Torino, which is launching into wide release after four weekends in a limited count.

I truly hate that I’m writing this, but the top spot this weekend could go to Bride Wars, the utterly derivative wedding comedy from Fox. Okay, Kate Hudson’s choice of role has always been rather questionable, but how Anne Hathaway ended up in this dreck is beyond me. I’m sorry to sound so cynical, but I can’t be the only person who is so over Hollywood’s love of stereotypical bridezilla comedy. The movie follows two lifelong friends, whose weddings are suddenly scheduled on the same day. When they find this out, they launch a war to take down the opposing bride, completely forgetting that they are best friends. Obviously, these are well-developed, three-dimensional characters who actually act like real human beings, and it sounds hilarious, right? Wrong. Unfortunately for all mankind, Bride Wars does actually have a good amount going for it. Last year, 27 Dresses, another wedding-centered film targeting women, opened to $23 million, which bodes rather well for Bride Wars. Also helping will be the fact that the NFL playoffs are this month. While millions of men are glued to the TV screen, millions of disinterested wives will go to the movies, and Bride Wars has made it clear that it is a cinematic destination for women only. I have to give Fox a little bit of credit for wisely counter programming. Advertising has been very strong, but I think that its box office will be limited to a small extent by its horrendous reviews. I only say “to a small extent” because when movies are exclusively targeting women, females seem to settle for some truly bad entertainment. Men do it too. So do Christians. I don’t quite understand it. Anyway, the comedy is out in 3,226 theaters, and I’ll give it the narrow victory this weekend, with a $19 million opening.

Completely switching gears, Warner Brothers’ Oscar bait, Gran Torino, is expanding from 84 to 2,808 theaters, and it will be duking it out with Bride Wars for the top spot. The Clint Eastwood-directed drama is targeting older males, pretty much the exact opposite audience of its main competition, and though the NFL playoffs will help Bride Wars, they should have a negative effect on Gran Torino‘s performance. Still, the venue averages for Gran Torino have been amazing solid, up in the $20-30,000 range these past few weeks. While these numbers will come down to earth over the next few days, they tell us that Gran Torino should still start off pretty well in wide release. The racial drama’s good reviews and word-of-mouth will certainly help it as well. I’m predicting an $18 million weekend, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up coming out on top.

The final new wide release of the weekend is The Unborn, a typical January horror release. It’s funny- this is a film that is probably just as bad as Bride Wars, but I just don’t seem to mind. I feel like horror is never really that good, and if I consistently expect nothing, I’ll always be delighted! In truth, poor reviews don’t matter much for the Universal fright-fest. Teens will be the main audience for The Unborn, and they are pretty much review-proof. This should play out like almost every other horror title: Teens will rush out the theater this weekend to watch it, and then it will plummet in its second weekend, and then it will earn some dough on DVD. The Unborn will definitely benefit from being the first of four horror movies this January, and the ads have actually been pretty scary, so I think this one should do alright. Playing in 2,356 theaters, it should earn $14 million.

Among holdovers, there should be some pretty standard (for January) 30-40% drops. Former top dog Marley And Me will stick by its constant companions, Bedtime Stories and The Curious Case Of Benajmin Button. The films might garner similar weekend totals of $13.5 million, $13 million, and $12 million, respectively. Bedtime will cross the $100 million milestone, and Button will be only a few million dollars behind. Here are my full Top 12 predictions:

Predicted Top 12 for January 9-11
1. Bride Wars – $19 million
2. Gran Torino – $18 million
3. The Unborn – $14 million
4. Marley And Me – $13.5 million
5. Bedtime Stories – $13 million
6. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button – $12 million
7. Yes Man – $8.5 million
8. Valkyrie – $8 million
9. Seven Pounds – $6 million
10. Slumdog Millionaire – $3.9 million
11. The Tale Of Despereaux – $3.8 million
12. Doubt – $3.6 million

Also, if you guys use Digg, Delicious, Furl, StumbleUpon, etc., I’d really appreciate a tag! We’re a small little group of Box Office Junkies around here, so let’s invite a few more people to the party!

Ever Wonder Why Popcorn At The Movies Is So Expensive?

January 3, 2008

     One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to provide you all with more frequent, thorough analyses of the economics of the box office system, and today I answer a question that many moviegoers ask: Why are snacks at the movie-theater concessions stand so overpriced? You’ll probably be surprised to know that it isn’t just because theater-owners are greedy. To the contrary, they’re simply trying to get by.
     In the 1940’s, during the golden age of American cinema, seven big movie studios ran every single part of the film industry. Twentieth Century-Fox, Paramount, MGM, Universal, Columbia, Warner Brothers, and RKO Pictures not only produced films, but also owned and operated extensive distribution systems. The seven studios were the sole creators and distributors of all content, shooting films that would play in their own theaters. With no third party in the way, 100% of theater grosses went back to the respective studio, and ticket prices were kept low, at an average of about 40 cents. These low costs were a driving force behind the huge annual ticket sales of about 4.7 billion (over three times as many as today). Fueled by bargain prices and huge profits, the studio system was unbelievably effective.     All of this changed in 1949, when the studio system met its match in the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 (depicted above). Fearing that studios were gaining too much power, the Supreme Court case US vs. Paramount Pictures Inc. arose in 1948, and a ruling was made a year later that would forever end the power of the studio system. The Supreme Court granted exhibitors the right to play movies from any production company that the theater owner wanted. This decision had massive consequences.
     No longer would studios ever earn the enormous, untouched profits they once had, for deals suddenly had to be made with theater owners to govern who-got-what of the ticket revenue. For the first time, the theaters and the studios had to share profits, and a system was quickly devised to dictate how funds were split up among studios and distributors. It went (and still goes) like this:
     Except for a small operational fee paid to theaters, for the first two weeks that a movie was playing in theaters, 100% of ticket revenue went to the studio. In the third week, the studio would take about 90% of ticket revenue, while the theater would earn 10%. The fourth week, they’d split revenue 80/20, then the next week 70/30, then 60/40, until the level reached 50/50, where the division of money stayed until the end of the movie’s run. (Keep in mind that these 10% incremental drops are merely examples. All theaters do give the studio 100% of the ticket revenue for two weeks, but the percentage drop in the subsequent weeks varies movie to movie until the 50/50 split. The 10% drops are reasonable figures, though.)     Back in the 1930’s and 40’s, this system made sense. 60% of Americans saw a movie every week, and the idea of a monster opening weekend simply didn’t exist. Movies played in theaters for a long, long time, often for many months, or even over a year. Gone With The Wind opened in 1937, and played until 1939! The system of splitting ticket revenue was appropriate for the time being, and both the studios and the theaters were getting a fair share of revenue. However, times have changed. These days, theaters are not making nearly as much money. Movies open big and fall fast; a long movie run is three months, and theaters are not getting a big enough slice of the pie, as the studio typically takes in about 75-80% of all ticket revenue. Let’s look at an example:
     Last year’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer earned $131 million, but $105 million of this was earned in the first two weeks alone. This means that the 3,963 theaters that played the film could only receive a tiny fraction of the small $26 million that Rise of the Silver Surfer would go on to make. However, since the picture was declining so quickly, after the second week (when distribution contracts are up), many theater owners dropped the picture because it could not give them enough profit, and they needed screens for other blockbuster openings. As you can see, on ticket revenue alone, a theater could never survive.
     Now we get to the answer of my original question. Since ticket revenue provides theaters were so little money, in order to turn out any kind of profit, movie theaters must sell their concessions for extremely high prices. When Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer opened with $58 million in July 2007, theaters may not have gotten any money from ticket sales, but they did receive a good amount of money from sales of popcorn, soda, and candy to moviegoers who came to watch the movie. Theater owners truly need to charge such high concession prices in order to survive in todays marketplace.     All of this is not to say that ticket sales don’t matter- they still do. This is the reason that ticket prices continue to go up. In order to earn any reasonable amount of money from tickets, theaters must charge higher prices. Of course, this causes less people to attend the movies, and though less people attend, the decrease in attendance is small enough that theaters will raise ticket prices even more. The movie industry relies on the seemingly never-ending demand for new movies in order to keep people coming to the theaters, and ticket inflation is a gradual, ongoing cycle that has gone on since 1949. However, I have to wonder how far Hollywood can stretch the public’s pockets. Tickets are not selling like they used to, and the huge pricetag that comes with an outing to the movies is a major reason why. I worry that ticket sales (which actually increased .08% in 2007 because of the strength of the pictures released) will decline in the future if these prices continue to rise, but these prices will never drop unless the theater owners can create a new plan for ticket revenue. And without a new system, your popcorn is not getting cheaper any time soon.
If you’d like to know more about this or subjects like it, read Edward Jay Epstein’s tremendously insightful look into the movie business, The Big Picture.