Monday, August 24, 2009

2009 Summer Recap: The Top 10 Stories (Part I)

With the summer coming to an end, it is time to do a recap on what exactly happened. There were a lot of uncertainties when the summer started. Outside the two behemoths in Transformers 2 and Harry Potter 6, there was no guarantee that we could see another $200m grosser, but with many possible candidates competing for the No. 3 position. Few thought we would have 3 additional films breaking $250m, making it only the second summer ever to have 5 $250m+ grossers (the other being 2007, the biggest box office year in history). On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have some spectacular failures as well. Here I present my top 10 stories of the summer for 2009:

10. Harry Potter 6's $22.2m midnight
Almost all aspects of Harry Potter 6 - the $77.8m opening weekend, its dailies after, the 2.85 overall multiplier - make it indistinguishable from its predecessor the Order of the Phoenix. Almost all, except for one number: the opening midnight figure from 3,003 theaters. It broke The Dark Knight's record by $4m (23%) and basically single-handedly accounted for the difference in total over the Order of the Phoenix. It also makes the rest of its run feel rather anticlimactic, including the Wednesday number itself ($58m) even though it bested any of the previous HP films by 31%.

9. District 9's $37.4m opening
August looked uninteresting on paper, but it turned out to be way exciting than July, even without a $170m+ grosser. District 9 is one of the key contributors. It kicked off its buzz at Comic-Con and never looked back. The $37.4m was the second best August opening for a R-rated film (although it didn't hold the title for long, as we'll see later) and already enough to cover its budget of $30m. It also one-upped Cloverfield, the film it tried to follow the success of, in the legs department with some terrific holds so far and could reach $100m by Labor Day.

8. Inglourious Basterds' $38.1m opening
One $35m+ opening for a R-rated film in August is rare enough, but two? And back-to-back? The reason I ranked Inglourious Basterds higher is that its expectation was lower, even though it had a named director and a star lead. The average prediction for District 9 was around $30m, while the average for IB was $26m. There were concerns about its 2.5 hour length and the poor performance of Grindhouse, which Tarantino co-directed, but it turned out to be his biggest opener by 51%. The internal multiplier is also encouraging, in particular the small Sunday drop of 19%. A $100m+ total looks set as well. Brad Pitt has been a star for 15 years, but for the most part of the 90s, his box office draw was heavily skewed to the international side. Not any longer. Inglourious Basterd will be his 7th $100m grosser domestically in the last 8 years.

Will come back later with No. 4-7.

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