Currently, I feel sandwiched between two weekends that boast wisely placed movies on the box office calendar. We’re hot on the heels of Dear John‘s fantastic debut, which was lifted by its brilliant counter-programmed Super Bowl release date, and this coming weekend, Valentine’s Day will surely find strong numbers, thanks to the fact that Sunday is Valentine’s Day. What I want you to take away from this post is that release dates matter a lot. The American public likes gimmicky release schedules, and when a movie’s title and/or release date give people an obvious choice of which movie to see, it often pays off in spades. Thus, because it is List Wednesday, I thought it might be fun to take a look at some of the smartest release dates in recent history, all of which directly led to solid box office results. But that’s enough talking from me- go ahead and check out these seven movies with great release dates, and then let me know what movies you thought had great release dates in the comments!
A movie about the devil! 666! The devil’s number! WOW, that is just so clever! I have to go see this! Sadly, that really was the train of though for many moviegoers. Kudos to Fox for pumping up the release gimmick effectively. The Omen opened to $12.6 million on a Tuesday (at the time, Fox boasted that they had achieved the best Tuesday opening ever… a dubious distinction) on its way to $54.5 million. Pretty good for a pretty bad horror flick.
Four Christmases (11/26/08)
I wish every Christmas movie would follow the model set by Four Christmases. Open directly after Thanksgiving and plow through a month of solid box office results. Four Christmases was just a silly romantic comedy, but it earned a great $118 million during its run. I wonder how much bigger A Christmas Carol could have been if it had opened closer to, I dunno, Christmas! (I warned you)
Independence Day (07/03/96)
In 1996, July 4th fell on a Thursday, so Fox wisely took the opportunity to open this Will Smith blockbuster on Wednesday the 3rd. The result? $45 million in two days of ticket sales, followed by a tremendous $50.2 million weekend. The July 4th weekend was officially signed over to Will Smith later that month.
The Devil Wears Prada (06/30/06)
Another case of counter programming at its finest. Back in 2006, The Devil Wears Prada decided to open directly against the über-hyped Superman reboot. Hoping to attract the disinterested female audience, Fox (who is proving they know how to release movies well) was bold to go head to head with the man of steel. Many were sure that the fashion film would get lost in the shuffle, but Prada silenced the doubters, opening to a robust $27.5 million (vs. Superman‘s $52.5 million) on its way $124.7 million.
The one-two punch of the innovative Saw movies (in plot, not in gruesomeness) over Halloween weekend in 2004 ($18.3 million opening, $55 million total) and 2005 ($31.7 million opening, $87 million total) helped fortify a robust franchise for Lionsgate, which framed Saw III, IV, and V as the go-to event films of the next few Halloween weekends. Unfortunately for Lionsagate, Paranormal Activity stole all of Saw VI‘s thunder, and now, Saw 3D and Paranormal Activity 2 are both eyeing the lucrative Halloween weekend release date for this year.
Here’s a film whose opening weekend wasn’t the reason it blew up (controversy took care of that), but it placed the film in such a way that theater owners didn’t want to take it out of theaters for a good while. Easter fell on April 11th that year, and every knew that a movie about Jesus would do well over that frame, which is why The Passion was still playing in 3,240 theaters during that, its seventh, weekend. The film came in first place that weekend with $15 million, and then fell all the way down to tenth the very next, earning $4 million. Newmarket wisely ensure Mel Gibson’s religious film would play in theaters for quite a while with their strategic release date.
Sony knew they had a solidly marketable romantic comedy with two widely appealing leads, and they probably knew it could perform solidly. They took things to the next level, though, by releasing it over Valentine’s Day weekend, making it clear the choice for all couples. After a good $10 million Friday, 50 First Dates shot way up $19.8 million on Valentine’s Day, a figure which accounted for almost half of the films $39.9 million debut, which set it up for a nice $120.9 million run. Sony learned from their success and opened Hitch a few days before Valentine’s Day in 2005. Hitch opened to $43 million before trucking along all the way to $179 million.