Thursday, July 30, 2009

Weekend Box Office Predictions (Jul 31 - Aug 2)

MoviePredicted Gross (m)Change
1. Funny People31.0New
2. G-Force20.6-35.0%
3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince19.0-35.5%
4. The Ugly Truth14.5-47.5%
5. Aliens in the Attic8.0New
6. Orphan6.6-48.7%
7. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs5.5-34.6%
8. Transformers: The Revenge of Fallen4.7-42.1%
9. The Proposal4.7-26.3%
10. The Hangover4.6-28.8%
11. (500) Days of Summer2.4+46.7%
-. The Collector1.3New

None of this week's new releases look particularly strong. Funny People is certainly in the best shape, with star power and good reviews. However, seeing Major Theater Chain tracking significantly lower than Reel Source is a concern. The reactions to its trailer are also not very enthusiastic. Aliens in the Attic is attacking a crowded market for families and likely to crash pretty hard. Getting to double digits in its opening weekend will be considered a success. The box office poll for The Collector is very similar to Captivity, and Freestyle Releasing has shown little success in the past. There is no indication the film will open above $2m.

Among holdovers, G-Force has seen excellent midweek numbers after a somewhat weak opening IM. 3D screens are definitely helping its legs, and Aliens will not be strong enough to post a serious threat. To compare, Ice Age 3 dropped only 33.8% on its second weekend, but that was partly due to having July 4th falling on its first Saturday. Still, G-Force just needs 40% Friday increase to have another $20m+ weekend.

Harry Potter 6 received an expected bump on Wednesday for the start of its IMAX showings, and the stabilization should continue into the weekend as well, even though IMAX will make the Friday increase a bit smaller. The Order of the Phoenix saw a 53.6% Wed-to-Wed drop translate to a 45.5% weekend decline; The Half-Blood Prince's Wed-to-Wed decline was 39%, so a 35% drop for the weekend is very much achievable.

After a very positive opening, The Ugly Truth will face its biggest obstacle for sustainability in Funny People, as films of the same rating that target similar demographics tend to cannibalize one another. Fortunately for The Ugly Truth, it should retain a lot of its older female audience, which is a big percentage according to the survey. That could be enough for it to avoid a 50% drop.

Orphan's midweek has been surprisingly strong despite a mild opening, a possible indication that its good WOM among horror fans is spreading. However, Funny People could make its Friday increase rather small with its direct competition. On the other hand, Transformers 2 successfully survived losing IMAX theaters to HP6 and should have another reasonable hold. So will Ice Age 3, as it had already lost all its 3D screens and no longer needs to worry about that this weekend. The Proposal and The Hangover will have the best drops of any top 10 films again, while (500) Days of Summer will continue to make its rise by expanding to 266 theaters and still maintaining a high PTA.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

China Weekly Box Office (Jul 20 - 26)

MovieWeekly Gross (yuan/dollar)ChangeTotal (yuan/dollar)
1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (哈里波特6)48m ($7.03m)-43.5%133m ($19.47m)
2. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (冰川世纪3)34m ($4.98m)-18.1%113m ($16.54m)
3. McDull-Kungfu Ding Ding Dong (麦兜响当当)25m ($3.66m)New25m ($3.66m)
4. Overheard (窃听风云)24m ($3.51m)New24m ($3.51m)
5. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (变形金刚2)15m ($2.20m)-51.6%423m ($61.92m)
6. One Night In Supermarket (夜店)4.3m ($0.63m)New4.3m ($0.63m)
7. Looking for Jackie (寻找成龙)1.0m ($0.15m)-58.3%15.0m ($2.20m)
-. Ma Lan Hua (马兰花)0.2m ($0.029m)-63.6%8.2m ($1.20m)


(Using exchange rate of 1 yuan = $0.14638)

Three new local films were released last week, with McDull, a HongKong-mainland co-production, winning a tight race over the latest HK cop film Overheard. Some may consider it an upset, but McDull has become a beloved cartoon character among Chinese ever since the first one was released in 2001. It also opened at an excellent time, as the market had not seen a Chinese animated film since spring.

HP6 had a rather steep second week drop for a Wednesday opener. Look like its natural frontloadedness and mediocre WOM among local viewers are taking some toll. $26m total is a more realistic goal now. On the other hand, even with new direct competition, Ice Age 3 has shown nothing but endurance since it opened, becoming the 12th film of the year to cross 100m yuan this past week. $20m total is possible. As for Transformers 2, it will continue to be around for a few more weeks and build on its record. Look for a $65m finish.

The box office fell a little bit from previous week to 152m yuan ($22.2m), but it was still an increase of 81% from 2008, with the admission jumping 68.5% to 4.6m.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Weekend Analysis (Jul 24 - 26): G-Force wins

Comparing estimates with my predictions:

1. G-Force - 32.2m (predicted: 28.0m)
Not too much a surprise, as the tracking from Major Theater Chain was pointing to a $30m opening. I went lower because of a relative average BOM poll and my own feeling, but it appears 3D screens helped again to elevate it over the mark. The tiny Saturday increase is a concern, and Aliens in the Attic will provide direct competition right away next week, so $100m is no sure thing yet, although 3D should help its legs.

2. Harry Potter 6 - 30.0m (predicted: 29.0m)
The Sunday projection of 16% drop from WB is too generous, as it dropped 25.5% the first Sunday. I expect the actual to be right around 29m, a large decline for sure and an indication that the audience for a HP film has not grown, and there is a cap on how much it could gross in total. However, it will start getting IMAX help on Wednesday, which should stabilize it enough to eventually cross $300m.

3. The Ugly Truth - 27.0m (predicted: 23.0m)
MTC had it tracked at 25m, so again there were some signs. Still, this should be deemed as the biggest surprise of the weekend, as most predictors had it in the $20m range. With Knocked Up, 27 Dresses, and now The Ugly Truth, Katherine Heigl is showing her consistency and proving herself to be one of the most bankable stars for the romantic comedy genre. The general WOM is not as awful as the reviews from critics, but with Funny People and Julie and Julia on its heels, its endurance will probably be short. Look for an $85m total.

4. Orphan - 12.8m (predicted: 12.0m)
Right at what most were predicting, a typical opening for a generic R-rated horror. The leg is unlikely to be any different either, despite good feedbacks from horror fans. A $32m finish should be in store.

5. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs - 8.2m (predicted: 11.5m)
The biggest error of the week in judgment, as I was 1) fooled by the midweek numbers; 2) vastly underestimated the effect of direct competition, and more specifically, the loss in 3D screens. Simply, I should have known better from the past history. Ice Age 3 was hit big time by the double-edge sword, and now $200m is in serious jeopardy. Instead, a finish between $190-195m is most likely.

6. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen - 8.0m (predicted: 9.0m)
Overpredicting the holdover will be a recurring theme of my week. Transformers 2 in fact had a good hold for the second consecutive weekend, but I was predicting another 12% better, thinking the weak new competition would allow it to have at least a 50% Friday increase. With IMAX engagement coming to an end on Wednesday, $400m is not a lock yet, but I do expect Paramount to push it over once it gets close.

7. The Hangover - 6.5m (predicted: 6.6m)
The gravity-defying run continues, as two R-rated films The Ugly Truth and Orphan, just like their predecessors, are unable to put a dent into The Hangover's momentum. This now could be regarded as one of the most eye-popping, out-of-the-left-field, runs of the decade or beyond. Simply incredible. It has squarely set its eyes on a $270m+ total.

8. The Proposal - 6.4m (predicted: 6.1m)
Not to be overshadowed by The Hangover, The Proposal is making an impressive run of its own. It will finally see some direct PG-13 competition for its female audience in two weeks from Julie and Julia, but $160m total is there for the taking.

9. Public Enemies - 4.2m (predicted: 5.0m)
The third consecutive weekend where PE dropped around 45%. The midweek dailies fooled me again, as it appeared to be stabilizing more. It's on track to make $98m, but since it will be so close, the studio may as well squeeze it past $100m, or even $101m, making it the biggest movie ever for Michael Mann.

10. Bruno - 2.7m (predicted: 3.5m)
Bruno is having one of the worst runs ever for a $30m+ opener. It could fail to reach a 2.0 multiplier from its opening weekend, unheard of for a summer release. I'll put its final number at $60m.

Outside the top 10:
As I mentioned in the previous post, (500) Days of Summer and The Hurt Locker held up well as they continue to expand in limited release. Similar to Ice Age 3, Up suffered a bigger-than-expected drop, and any hope of reaching $300m is dashed in the meantime.

Rating the weekend: ** out of *****; pretty boring overall
Rating my predictions: * out of *****; terrible for a relatively easy weekend

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Two indie films to keep eyes on

Watched two of the better films of the year today: The Hurt Locker and (500) Days of Summer. Although two could hardly be more different in terms of subject matter and tones, both have gotten excellent reviews and are among the shortlist of candidates from the summer to have awards aspiration down the road. This makes their respective box office runs exciting to track.

The Hurt Locker
Week 1: $145,352, 4 theaters, $36,338 PTA
Week 2: $131,202, 9 theaters, $14,578 PTA
Week 3: $641,168, 60 theaters, $10,686 PTA
Week 4: $740,224, 94 theaters, $7,875 PTA
Week 5: $1.4m, 238 theaters, ~$6,000 PTA
Total so far: $4m

Due to its subject matter, The Hurt Locker is no doubt the harder sell of the two, as viewers have shown significant reluctance to see movies of Iraq war in theaters. The PTA decline in the second weekend despite not increasing many theaters only added to the worry. The good thing is that the WOM appears to finally take over and is steering it toward a long and healthy run. After four more weeks, its PTA is still holding above $5K, while the film has expanded to more than 200 theaters. It should be able to take $2m a week for the next month or so, and $20m total is definitely within reach.

(500) Days of Summer

Week 1: $834,501, 27 theaters, $30,907 PTA
Week 2: $1.6m, 85 theaters, ~$19,000 PTA
Total so far: $3m

(500) Days of Summer first jumped into people's radar at Sundance. Critics were hailing its original screenplay, especially for the genre of romantic comedy, and Fox Searchlight has become a pro in promoting such a film, both awards and box office wise, as seen from their past success in Juno and Little Miss Sunshine. This one won't break $100m, but $50m is a possibility, given the robust PTA it has received the first two weekends. It's tracking similarly to Little Miss Sunshine so far, and the key factor will be if it could expand to as widely as LMS did, over 1,000 theaters. If it gets stuck in the 800 range as Garden State was, it could stop before reaching $40m. Currently I'm thinking $45m.

Friday, July 24, 2009

China 2009 Box Office (By 07/19)

The top grossing films for the year so far, in local currency:
  1. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (变形金刚2) - 408.3m yuan
  2. Red Cliff: Part II (赤壁下) - 261m
  3. City of Life and Death (南京!南京!) - 165.3m
  4. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (博物馆奇妙夜) - 120m
  5. Terminator Salvation (终结者2018) - 112m
  6. Silver Medalist (疯狂的赛车) - 108.5m
  7. Look for a Star (游龙戏凤) - 103m
  8. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (哈里波特6) - 85m
  9. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (冰川世纪3) - 79m
  10. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (金刚狼) - 78m
  11. Pleasant Boat and Big Big Wolf (喜羊羊与灰太狼) - 76m
  12. Transporter 3 (玩命快递3) - 59m
  13. Dragonball Evolution (七龙珠) - 62m
  14. Star Trek (星际迷航) - 59m
  15. Valkyrie (行动目标希特勒) - 58m
  16. Slumdog Millionaire (贫民富翁) - 54m
  17. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (马达加斯加2) - 36m
  18. Monsters vs. Aliens (大战外星人) - 32.2m
  19. All's Well, Ends Well 2009 (家有喜事2009) - 31m
  20. Fast & Furious (赛车风云) - 30m
  21. Ashes of Time Redux (东邪西毒终极版) - 27m

China Weekly Box Office (07/13 - 07/19): Harry Potter excelled

MovieWeekly Gross (yuan/dollar)ChangeTotal (yuan/dollar)
1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (哈里波特6)85m ($12.44m)New85m ($12.44m)
2. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (冰川世纪3)41.5m ($6.07m)+10.6%79.0m ($11.56m)
3. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (变形金刚2)31m ($4.54m)-58.1%408.3m ($59.77m)
4. Looking for Jackie (寻找成龙)2.4m ($0.35m)-66.7%14.0m ($2.05m)
5. Terminator Salvation (终结者2018)1.3m ($0.19m)-69.0%112.0m ($16.39m)
6. Ma Lan Hua (马兰花)0.55m ($0.081m)-45.0%8.0m ($1.17m)

(Using exchange rate of 1 yuan = $0.14638)

The box office in China continues to be on fire. The best any of the first 5 Harry Potter movies did in total was 145m yuan (by Order of the Phoenix), a number Half-Blood Prince should reach before the end of this week. Even though the word-of-mouth among Chinese moviegoers appears to be lukewarm, It is on pace for $30m+ total.

Ice Age 3 built upon its healthy opening and will become the second highest grosser ever for a foreign animated film, after Kung Fu Panda. With help from 3D screens, it could reach $20m total.

Transformers 2 got hit hard as expected, but became the first film ever to break 400m yuan in China. a magnificent feat. Probably won't have the stamina for $70m, so look for a $66m finish.

No new domestic films were released last week. Nonetheless, the market grossed 162.5m ($23.7m) in total, an increase of 23% from 2008. The admission rose 15.4% to 4.7m.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Weekend Box Office Predictions (Jul 24 - 26): G-Force battles HP6

1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - $29.0 million (-62.7%)
2. G-Force - $28.0 million (NEW)
3. The Ugly Truth - $23.0 million (NEW)
4. Orphan - $12.0 million (NEW)
5. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs - $11.5 million (-34.5%)
6. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen - $9.0 million (-34.3%)
7. The Hangover - $6.6 million (-19.3%)
8. The Proposal - $6.1 million (-26.4%)
9. Public Enemies - $5.0 million (-35.5%)
10. Bruno - $3.5 million (-57.9%)