Wednesday, September 30, 2009

China Weekly Box Office (09/21 - 27)

MovieWeekly Gross (yuan/dollar)ChangeTotal (yuan/dollar)
1. The Founding of a Republic (建国大业)120m ($17.57m)-3.5%245m ($35.88m)
2. Cow (斗牛)2m ($0.29m)-47.4%11.1m ($1.62m)
3. Jing Tian Dong Di (惊天动地)1.5m ($0.22m)-2m ($0.29m)
4. Yi Meng Liu Jie Mei (沂蒙六姐妹)1.1m ($0.16m)-11m ($1.61m)

(Using exchange rate of 1 yuan = $0.1464)

Some argued that the accomplishment of The Founding of a Republic is not really as impressive as it appears because the market is being artificially emptied to help maximize its number. No major films, foreign or domestic, had been released since Sophie's Revenge on Aug 14th, and there won't be any serious competition in the foreseeable future. Such point is indeed valid, but external factors alone would not have pushed it to gross 250m yuan in just 12 days. We won't see another film with so many Chinese stars for at least 10 years (and I doubt they will try to duplicate the same trick when 70th anniversary comes along), so I am very much intrigued to see how far this one could go. With basically the whole nation on vacation from Oct 1 to 8th, it should not have much difficulty crossing 400m yuan ($58.6m), and surpassing Transformer 2 to become the No. 1 film all-time in China is definitely within reach.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Weekend Box Office Predictions (Sep 25 - 27)

MoviePredicted Gross (m)Change
1. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs21.0-30.7%
2. Surrogates15.2$5,150 average
3. Fame14.5$4,680 average
4. The Informant!5.5-47.4%
5. Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself4.9-50.4%
6. Love Happens4.5-44.2%
7. Pandorum3.8$1,500 average
8. 93.5-37.1%
9. Jennifer's Body2.8-59.2%
10. Inglourious Basterds2.4-37.2%

1. Three more movies are entering the market this week, but dislodging Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs will not be an easy task.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

China Weekly Box Office (09/14 - 20)

MovieWeekly Gross (yuan/dollar)ChangeTotal (yuan/dollar)
1. The Founding of a Republic (建国大业)124.36m ($18.22m)New124.36m ($18.22m)
2. Cow (斗牛)3.8m ($0.56m)-28.3%9.1m ($1.33m)

(Using exchange rate of 1 yuan = $0.1465)

The last week was about one film and one film only: the highly anticipated release of The Founding of a Republic, a tribute to the 60th anniversary of People's Republic of China. The main attraction of the 140-minute film is in fact not its plot, but rather its cast, as it contains almost the entire album of current well-known Chinese actors and actresses domestically or abroad (check out the amazing list at IMDb), with most only getting a few lines to speak. Viewers are competing to see how many actors they could recognize, and they better pay attention to each frame, otherwise they could miss the only appearance of someone famous. With October 1st (The Independence Day) holiday right around the corner and an empty market, the prospect cannot look any brighter for it. It should have no problem at making 300m yuan, and even 400m is a possibility.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Weekend Box Office Predictions (Sep 18 - 20)

MoviePredicted Gross (m)Change
1. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs34.3$11,000 average
2. Love Happens11.2$5,900 average
3. Jennifer's Body11.1$4,100 average
4. Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself10.5-55.2%
5. The Informant!9.0$3,600 average
6. 96.0-44.1%
7. Inglourious Basterds3.9-36.5%
8. All About Steve2.9-48.6%
9. The Final Destination2.1-62.0%
10. Whiteout2.1-57.3%
11. Sorority Row1.8-64.4%

1. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is entering a market desperate for some light family entertainment after being bombarded with R-rated films since early August, and it is primed for delivering a breakout number. The trailer has been very well received, and having good early reviews could only help. Its poll numbers of 14% Opening Weekend and 17% Sometime in Theaters at Box Office Mojo are significantly better than what G-Force (7.8% + 12.2%), Beverly Hills Chihuahua (6.9% + 7.2%), and Open Season (9.7% + 14.9%) had. Adding the 3D/IMAX factor, I have a hard time seeing it open below $30m, and it definitely has a shot at breaking the September opening record of $35.6m held by Sweet Home Alabama.

2. R-rated films will continue to cannibalize each other with two more releases this week. That leaves the door open for Love Happens, the PG-13 romantic comedy, to surprise. The theater count is relatively low at 1,898, and it is only getting one screen at most theaters. However, such obstacle has not prevented past similar films to average more than $5,000 per location on the opening weekend. Jennifer Aniston had demonstrated her drawing power by opening each of her last three wide releases to over $27m, while Aaron Eckhart also helped No Reservations to a respective $11.7m initial frame. Look for Love Happens to crack double digit.

3. Because of the unkind environment, the two new R-rated releases are likely to not each their respective potentials. Jennifer's Body is headlining Megan Fox, but a lot of its targeted demographics, younger males, will have to sneak in. The Informant, on the other hand, may appear too weird to attract a bigger audience. The BOM polls are respectable for both, but we have seen failures in the past with similar or even better numbers. The Black Dahlia opened to only $10m with 21.4% Opening Weekend and 24.4% Sometime in Theaters, and just last year, Blindness failed spectacularly even though it had double-digit percentage in both those categories. With the current condition and neither trailer generating much additional interest, the upside potential looks rather limited.

4. Tyler Perry's films tend to suffer large second weekend declines, with the past three dropping an average of 60%. However, I Can Do Bad All By Myself could benefit from being PG-13 to limit the damage to 55%. Whiteout and Sorority Row, on the other hand, won't be as lucky and will be exiting the theaters quickly when the third week comes around. The Final Destination will also be looking at a huge red number with the loss of theaters in general and 3D screens specifically.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

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

First I apologize sincerely for the long delay on finishing the summer recap. Let's get straight to the top 3.

3. Star Trek making $250m+ total
In any given summer, Star Trek's run could have contended for being the biggest story. Even inflation-adjusted, its $75m opening is 50% better than the previous best of the series, and its final gross also left all of its predecessors in the dust. After the disaster of Nemesis, none of these appeared remotely possible for the next Star Trek installment. Batman Begins was the previous best example of rebooting a popular but faltering franchise back from irrelevance, and it had to rely on its sensational legs to beat Batman and Robin by 92% in the end. Star Trek, by comparison, surpassed Nemesis' total before the end of its opening Saturday.

In addition, Star Trek did not necessarily have a perfect release date for delivering such a notable performance, as the second weekend of May was more known for box office disappointments (Speed Racer, Poseidon, Battlefield Earth) than juggernauts. No film had ever opened to over $50m, let alone $75m, on that weekend. It also had to deal with plenty of direct competitions from before and after, but suffered a 47%+ drop only once (on the July 4th deflated weekend) in its entire run. We could point to various factors for the positive outcome, such as using new actors and re-imaging the franchise to attract the younger generation, but none could sufficiently explain the degree of the success in the end, nor did many see it coming.

2. Ice Age 3's oversea performance
By July 20th, after we could see what the last mega-blockbuster of the summer, Harry Potter 6, was headed to, there appeared to be no more doubt on what the biggest story of the summer is. The debate was over, we thought, until Ice Age 3 kept making money in essentially every territory it opened. In fact, it eventually made the race so exciting that it became almost impossible to decide which performance is more impressive. Just take a look at these numbers: $80m in Germany, $70m in France, $45m in Russia, $44m in Brazil, $41m in Mexico, etc. Being huge in Europe could at least be somewhat expected, given how the first two performed there; it is the performance elsewhere that elevated it to a completely different level. Even with little help from Japan and South Korea (less than $6m combined), two of the biggest Asian markets, it is able to not only comfortably beat Harry Potter 6 for the year's oversea crown, assuming no film surprises in December, but also become the third biggest film ever internationally, behind only Titanic and Return of the King.

The way the Ice Age franchise has grown its popularity oversea is simply stunning. The foreign gross represented 54% of its worldwide total for the original Ice Age, fairly standard for a Hollywood blockbuster, but the number rocketed to 70% for The Meltdown and then 77% this time. Dawn of the Dinosaurs looks to finish with $690m oversea, a whopping 50% jump from The Meltdown. The weakness in dollar no doubt helped, but even in term of admissions, it has surpassed previous installments in many countries, by a large amount in some cases. Although its domestic performance has remained consistent, it is fair to say that the foreign gross is what makes producing Ice Age 4 and more no-brainers.

1. The Hangover
In a summer where the most uneventful month is the one that covered the path of two highest grossing films, it is difficult to say which single film owned it, unlike The Dark Knight last year. However, one film burst onto the scene in early June and still had people discussing its numbers by Labor Day weekend, and that is The Hangover. Separating it and Ice Age 3 is like splitting hairs, but in the end The Hangover's run feels just a little more remarkable and unlikely. For Ice Age 3, it is after all a sequel, and there are historical data we could look back on to see the potential, even though it blew past the expectations. Similarly, four of the five $250m+ grossers are either sequel, reboot, or from established brand (Pixar); The Hangover is the lone exception.

It is not that The Hangover was never expected to do well. The terrific early word-of-mouth indicated this is indeed going to be another crowd-pleaser and successful R-rated raunchy comedy, but the definition of "doing really well" was $30m opening and $120-150m total, not $45m and $275m. On paper it does not have the star power of Wedding Crashers or even Knocked Up, so the expected pattern was an opening no more than on par with those while having similar legs. The average prediction for its opening weekend was around $25m, with a few thinking $30m+ was possible, but $45m? It was the second biggest June opening ever for a R-rated film, behind only Wanted.

In general, the bigger a film opened, the harder it is to achieve an outstanding multiplier, especially for a R-rated film, as any new releases with equal or less rating restriction could be seen as competition, and it would never benefit from sneak-in business. However, this is the area The Hangover shined even brighter, if that is possible. It was in the top 12 for ten consecutive weeks, and for each of those weekends after the opening, it had one of the two best holds among the top 12 films. It never declined more than 41% once for the entire summer and had sub-21% drop on five of the weekends. Probably most impressive of them all, it grossed over $1m for 52 straight days, the longest since Shrek 2 achieved for 54 days. With a 6.1 multiplier, it leaped over Beverly Hills Cop to become the biggest R-rated comedy ever and the third biggest R-rated film all time. A staggering combination of achievements that is unlikely to be matched any time soon.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Weekend Box Office Predictions (Sep 11 - 13)

MoviePredicted Gross (m)Change
1. Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself27.0$12,000 PTA
2. 99$5,450 PTA
3. Sorority Row8.0$3,000 PTA
4. Whiteout8.0$2,900 PTA
5. Inglourious Basterds7.0-39.8%
6. The Final Destination6.5-47.5%
7. All About Steve5.3-52.8%
8. District 94.6-35.0%
9. Julie & Julia3.8-28.6%
10. Gamer3.7-59.6%

1. Tyler Perry's films that featured Madea in general have exhibited more impressive per-theater-average than the ones without ($16K vs. $8.5K). Smartly enough, the studio is putting Madea front and center in most of its ads, even though the role is small here. The demographics is also underserved at the moment, so expect a very good opening, although the poll numbers indicate that challenging Family Reunion's $30m, let alone Goes to Jail's $41m, will be difficult.

2. At first glance, 9's opening Wednesday of $3.1m looked pretty good, but considering it was taking advantage of the obvious 9/9/9 gimmick, the number no longer appears to be all that impressive. Given the past examples of The Omen and Earth, we should see a 60% drop on Thursday, and the key for a double-digit weekend will fall on its Friday recovery. With Tim Burton attached to the project and heavily promoted in the trailer, its level of frontloadedness is likely to be higher, and the Friday increase should be smaller than what a regular family film would have around this time of the year.

3. Sorority Row has an effective trailer, but it is released in an inopportune time, as the market is overloaded with R-rated as well as horror films. The signs are also mixed, with average BOM poll numbers but better online buzz elsewhere. It is the wild card among this week's openers. In the end, I feel the competition and poor screen allocation per theater will prevent it from grossing more than the $3K PTA a post Labor Day opener typically receives.

4. Whiteout also faces the same problem of entering an overloaded market, only it doesn't have an interesting premise to hook viewers in. One advantage it does possess is having a bigger studio behind it, and Warner Bros has done a decent job to push its poll numbers close to what Sorority Row has (10.3% vs. 11.6% Opening Weekend at BOM) that a complete disaster looks unlikely.

5. Except for Labor Day openers, holdovers historically don't suffer big drops on the post Labor Day weekend. One reason is the lack of new interesting films, and the other is the Friday and Saturday increases become much higher in September. I expect films in general to shed 10% off their Wed-to-Wed drops. All About Steve and Gamer, on the other hand, will suffer 50%+ declines due to the poor WOM for the former and direction competition for the latter.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Labor Day Weekend Box Office Predictions (Sep 4 - 7)

MoviePredicted Gross (m)Change
1. The Final Destination17.0-38.0%
2. Inglourious Basterds14.5-24.9%
3. Gamer14.0$5,600 PTA
4. All About Steve11.5$5,750 PTA
5. District 98.6-16.3%
6. Julie & Julia8.1+15.7%
7. Halloween II7.0-57.2%
8. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra6.7-13.0%
9. The Time Traveler's Wife6.0-7.0%
10. Extract5.5$3,450 PTA

Taking a short hiatus

Will be visiting Seattle area for the rest of the week and only have intermittent Internet access. Should be able to post predictions though.