Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year Box Office Predictions (Jan 1 - 3)

Movie Predicted Gross (m) Change
1. Avatar 65.3 -13.6%
2. Sherlock Holmes 39.5 -36.7%
3. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel 35.9 -26.3%
4. It's Complicated 17.5 -20.8%
5. The Blind Side 10.8 -6.1%
6. The Princess and the Frog 9.6 +6.7%
7. Up in the Air 9.2 -18.6%
8. Did You Hear About the Morgans? 3.9 -22.0%
9. Nine 3.9 -28.4%
10. Invictus 3.4 -15.9%

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

China Weekly Box Office (12/21 - 12/27)

Weekly Gross (yuan/dollar)
Total (yuan/dollar)
1. Bodyguards and Assassins (十月围城)
110m ($16.11m)
184.8m ($27.06m)
2. A Simple Noodle Story (三枪拍案惊奇)
44m ($6.44m)
221m ($32.37m)
3. The Treasure Hunter (刺陵)
8.4m ($1.23m)
59m ($8.64m)
4. The Storm Riders 2 (风云2)
7.5m ($1.10m)
52.5m ($7.69m)
5. Poker King (扑克王)
7.4m ($1.08m)
7.4m ($1.08m)
6. Midnight Taxi (午夜出租车)
6.6m ($0.97m)
6.6m ($0.97m)
7. 2012
4.8m ($0.70m)
460.6m ($67.49m)

(Source, 1 chinese yuan == $0.14645)

A quiet week where we saw only a few smaller local releases, although each performed fine with respect to their budget and size. Instead, the week belonged to Bodyguards and Assassins, which soared 47% with its excellent word-of-mouth and should pass A Simple Noodle Story in total sometime this week. With Avatar moved out of the New Year weekend, it will have another full week by itself, so 400m yuan is within reach.

On a side note, I always thought Transformers 2's total was 430m yuan, but it turned out the unreported gross from its late run pushed the total to 454m yuan in the end, still not enough to keep 2012 from setting the new record a couple of weeks ago.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Avatar Daily Predictions (Dec 28 - Jan 3)

After studying the daily patterns of 1998, the last time Christmas and New Year fell on Friday, I am thinking we could see the following numbers this week:

$19.5m (-19.6%)
$20.0m (+2.6%)
$17.8m (-11%)
$16.0m (-10%)
$25.0m (+56%)
$23.5m (-6%)
$16.0m (-32%)

That would give it a 3rd weekend of $64.5m (-15%) and a 17-day total of $350m. A 4.0 multiplier from there, which could very well be conservative, would yield a $543m total. Folks, we don't get many opportunities to witness something like this, even fewer in December, where holidays make dailies even more interesting to track, so let's enjoy THE box office event of 2009, a fitting way to conclude as well as extend the most eventful box office year in recent memory.

NOTE: I originally didn't realize there was a massive snowstorm happened on the 1999 New Year weekend, so after comparing with the dailies from the more recent years, I'm upping the Saturday and Sunday predictions respectively.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Weekend Box Office Predictions

Movie Predicted Gross (m) Change
1. Avatar 65.0 -15.6%
2. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel 50.0 $13,680 PTA
3. Sherlock Holmes 40.0 $11,030 PTA
4. It's Complicated 12.5 $4,330 PTA
5. Up in the Air 12.5 $6,600 PTA
6. The Princess and the Frog 11.0 -9.8%
7. The Blind Side 9.0 -10.0%
8. Nine 7.5 $5,310 PTA
9. Did You Hear About the Morgans? 5.5 -16.7%
10. The Twilight Saga: New Moon 2.7 -38.6%

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

China Weekly Box Office (12/14 - 20): Bodyguards and Assassins, the last big film of 2009

Weekly Gross (yuan/dollar)
Total (yuan/dollar)
1. A Simple Noodle Story (三枪拍案惊奇)
76m ($11.13m)
177.32m ($25.97m)
2. Bodyguards and Assassins (十月围城)
74.8m ($10.95m)
74.8m ($10.95m)
3. The Treasure Hunter (刺陵)
16.5m ($2.42m)
50.5m ($7.40m)
4. The Storm Riders 2 (风云2)
15m ($2.20m)
45m ($6.59m)
5. 2012
8.8m ($1.29m)
455.8m ($66.79m)
6. Mulan (花木兰)
0.9m ($0.13m)
83.2m ($12.19m)
7. G-Force (豚鼠特工队)
0.75m ($0.11m)
26.5m ($3.88m)
(Source, 1 chinese yuan == $0.14645)

The crowded market is showing its full effect. Mulan, The Storm Riders 2, The Treasure Hunter were all considered strong (or almost shoe-in) contenders for 100m yuan, but it appears none of them will make the benchmark. A Simple Noodle Story is not going to challenge the initial target of 400m yuan either; however, that has more to do with its polarized word-of-mouth. Bodyguards and Assassins, on the other hand, is carrying excellent WOM and could conceivably surpass A Simple Noodle Story in total gross. This week will provide a brief breathing window, and then all eyes will be on the highly anticipated arrival of Avatar on Jan 2nd.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Weekend Box Office Predictions (Dec 18 - 20)

Predicted Gross (m)
1. Avatar
$22,000 average
2. The Princess and the Frog
3. The Blind Side
4. Invictus
5. A Christmas Carol
6. Did You Hear About the Morgans?
$1,730 average
7. The Twilight Saga: New Moon
8. Up in the Air
9. 2012
10. Old Dogs

Avatar, Avatar, Avatar. We first heard it is supposed to be revolutionary. Then we read it is supposed to be very good. Now we will see if it is going to be record breaking. From the very beginning, the buzz for the film had been almost exclusively online driven, from fans who have been religiously following Cameron's decade-long endeavor, until the first trailer was shown on the big screen. General public started to murmur, but most were unsure what to make of all the blue characters and the plot. A month later a longer trailer came out, and media coverage began to rise; more people were converted. Still, except for the segments some had the early opportunity to watch, mystery remained on how the final product would look. Finally the full version was screened to critics a couple of weeks, but with an embargo on publishing reviews, making one wonder if Fox was concerned about the quality. Then last Thursday came the sudden decision of lifting the embargo, and the buzz has simply skyrocketed exponentially. The movie has always had a core audience that would have allowed it to open in the $40-50m range regardless with all the IMAX and 3D screen it plans to occupy, but now with phrases of "revolutionizing the medium", "breathtakingly futuristic", and "a landmark film" being thrown around by critics from major publications, with Best Picture and Best Director nominations from Golden Globe and Broadcast Film Critics Association, it is reaching a much broader audience. Young males will still represent its biggest audience, at least initially, but female and older demographics are becoming interested as well. The word-of-mouth, by all acounts, is going to be splendid, not just because of its technical virtuoso, but because it appears to have a story that could make people's heart weep, and we all know how far that combination propelled Titanic to. Not saying Avatar will reach that far, but I will be surprised stunned if it does not have at least a 4.0 multiplier. In fact, 4.5+ seems very realistic. However, first things first, the present question is if it could break I Am Legend's December opening weekend record of $77m. I'd give it close to a 50/50 chance of doing just that.

Sony intended Did You Hear About the Morgans? to be the counter-programming choice opposite of Avatar, but as the release is approaching, the film has generated no buzz even with its two well-known leads, Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker. It began on the wrong foot right off the bat this week when Major Theater Chain tracking puts its opening number at $6m on Monday, and by today, both # of tweets and Box Office Mojo polls also showed alarming similarity to what Everybody's Fine and Love Happens had on the week of their releases. Another major issue for Morgans is females over 25, their key demographics, could be busy shopping for Christmas and are more willing to wait before catching up on films they are interested. It will also not benefit from spillover business from Avatar as the male audience will choose 2012 or a number of other films over it as their second choice. Combining all those factors paints a terribly gloomy picture, even though it might feel inconceivable for such a movie to open below $5m.

Over the years, the performance of holdovers on this equivalent weekend has fluctuated greatly. In 2007 when I Am Legend opened, the top 5 holdovers dropped an average of 50%, but they also had to face another $44m opener in Alvin & Chipmunks. If we go back two years further, we would see that the top 5 holdovers dropped an average of 42% when facing King Kong, while two more years back, the average decline was even smaller at 28% even though Return of the King and Mona Lisa Smile accounted for $84m total. Normally when only one blockbuster opens, regardless how big it could get, it is more likely to be beneficial to the overall market by generating interests in going to theaters and creating spillover business; it only becomes more negative to the existing films when there are two or more major releases on the same week which could cover a much wider range of population. So for this weekend, I expect most holdovers to stabilize quite nicely, especially we are closer to Christmas this time than the past few years. The ones to get hurt the most will be the male-oriented, R-rated films, e.g. Brothers and Ninja Assassin.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

China Weekly Box Office (12/07 - 13): a gigantic weekend

Weekly Gross (yuan/dollar)
Total (yuan/dollar)
1. A Simple Noodle Story (三枪拍案惊奇)
101.32m ($14.84m)
101.32m ($14.84m)
2. The Treasure Hunter (刺陵)
34m ($4.98m)
34m ($4.98m)
3. The Storm Riders 2 (风云2)
30m ($4.39m)
30m ($4.39m)
4. 2012
23m ($3.37m)
447m ($65.5m)
5. Mulan (花木兰)
9.8m ($1.44m)
82.3m ($12.06m)
6. G-Force (豚鼠特工队)
2.5m ($0.37m)
26m ($3.81m)
7. Twilight (暮光之城)
1.3m ($0.19m)
11.5m ($1.68m)
8. District 9 (第九区)
1.3m ($0.19m)
12.7m ($1.86m)
(1 chinese yuan == $0.14646)

This is the week everybody had been looking forward to ever since the announcement of Avatar joining the crowded winter schedule, the most lucrative time of the year for box office in China, by placing its opening date on January 2nd. It forced the studio to move A Simple Noodle Story, Zhang Yimou's latest and a loose remake of Coen Brothers' debut film Blood Simple, from its original schedule of Dec 18th up a week, creating a logjam of three high-profile domestic films. The Treasure Hunter and The Storm Riders 2 suffered as a result, but both still posted solid results. Combined, the three openers were able to push the box office to a new height, where for the first time ever, the weekly total broke 200m yuan ($29m).

A Simple Noodle Story had a better opening than last December's blockbuster, If You Are the One, but its word-of-mouth is much more mixed, so I highly doubt it will be able to challenge 400m yuan, especially with another major holiday contender, Bodyguards and Assassins, coming up right around the corner.

2012 suffered a big decline as expected. Nonetheless, it finally broke Transformers 2's all-time record and will be first film to cross 450m yuan. Also even though 68.5% looks huge, the drop was still the best among all holdovers in the top 8, another indication of its staying power.

Friday, December 11, 2009

China Weekly Box Office (11/30 - 12/06)

Weekly Gross (yuan/dollar)
Total (yuan/dollar)
1. 2012
73m ($10.69m)
424m ($62.1m)
2. Mulan(花木兰)
42m ($6.15m)
72.5m ($10.62m)
3. G-Force(豚鼠特工队)
9.5m ($1.39m)
23.5m ($3.44m)
4. District 9(第九区)
6.0m ($0.88m)
11.4m ($1.67m)
5. Twilight(暮光之城:暮色)
5.2m ($0.76m)
10.2m ($1.49m)
6. Panda Express(熊猫大侠)
2.2m ($0.73m)
19.7m ($2.89m)
7. Mars Baby(火星没事)
1.0m ($0.15m)
9.3m ($1.36m)

Without any new films entering the market, 2012 continued to hold strong and has set the new all-time record in China some time this week. A phenomenal feat considering the previous record holder Transformer 2 had many built-in advantages over the film. And just in time too since three major, I mean really major, local releases are coming this week between 10th and 11th, and they will take over 90% of the available screens. That shows a current problem where the number of screens are still relatively small comparing to the population. An expansion of 30-50% is expected for 2010, so hopefully films could stay longer than the average run of 3 to 4 weeks.

Mulan rebounded well the second week, but unfortunately it was the only breathing period it has. Doesn't look like it will get past much over 100m.

Weekend Box Office Predictions (Dec 11 - 13)

MoviePredicted Gross (m)Change
1. The Princess and the Frog24.0$7,000 average
2. The Blind Side12.6-37%
3. Invictus10.5$4,940 average
4. The Twilight Saga: New Moon6.5-58%
5. A Christmas Carol6.0-23%
6. Brothers4.5-53%
7. Old Dogs3.9-43%
8. 20123.4-50%
9. Armored2.9-55%
10. Ninja Assassin2.4-52%

The Princess and the Frog has grossed $2.8m total in 14 days while being in just two theaters. It is no question a terrific feat, but we need to keep in mind that such phenomenon is not uncommon for a Disney release (see chart). It does not tell us how the film may perform when expanding beyond Disney's exclusive El Capitan theater. If we look at the other films on that all-time per-theater-average chart, we would see Hercules made $21.5m when expanded to 2,621 theaters, Pocahontas made $29.5m in 2,569, and Brother Bear, released outside the summer, got $19.4m in 3,030. Expect somewhere in between those numbers for The Princess and the Frog. Mid-$20m might not appear that impressive at first, but such a number is in fact very good for a traditional 2D feature, and given this is December, it could easily make to $140m total with that result.

By comparison, The other wide opener Invictus is a more difficult film to gauge. On one hand, Clint Eastwood just had his biggest financial success at the beginning of this year when Gran Torino grossed $29.5m when expanded nationwide before enjoying a terrific leggy run to finish with $148m total. Adding the star power of Freeman and Damon, along with Warner Bros' efficient marketing, Invictus appears to have the right ingredients for at least a high-teen opening. Nonetheless, on the other hand, December-released, adult-oriented films with Oscar aspiration are not going for any big opening numbers, but rather the legs. A multiplier over 6 could be expected for such movie, but the initial return tends to be depressed. As an example, The Blood Diamond, even with DiCaprio starring, director Edward Zwick coming off the success of The Last Samurai, and strong poll numbers at Box Office Mojo, opened to a meek $8.6m in 2006, which would adjust to $10m today. Invictus also has to confront the competition of the red-hot The Blind Side, so witnessing an opening in the low-teen instead would not be a surprise either.

Examining the equivalent frames from the past three years, we see that the holdovers generally had a lower Friday increase than the previous week, leading to a harsher weekend decline when comparing to the midweek numbers. On average, the weekend hold had been 7 percentage points worse than the preceding Wednesday-to-Wednesday hold. However, there is one factor to pay attention: snowstorm. The widespread snowstorm caused lower-than-usual Friday jump last week and has continued to depress the box office since. If the weather improves, we could see some better recoveries this time, although people could just as easily decide to wait further until the holiday.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Weekend Box Office Predictions (Dec 4 - 6)

MoviePredicted Gross (m)Change
1. The Blind Side20.0-50.1%
2. The Twilight Saga: New Moon19.5-55%
3. A Christmas Carol8.5-46%
4. Brothers8.0$3,830 average
5. 20127.0-60%
6. Armored6.5$3,400 average
7. Old Dogs6.5-62%
8. Ninja Assassin5.7-57%
9. Everybody's Fine4.0$1,880 average
10. Planet 513.8-63%
-. Up in the Air1.1$73,300 average
-. Translymania0.3$284 average

The general assumption is that the public would be in recovery mode post-Thanksgiving, both physically and mentally from all the shopping and traveling, so movie studios by and large have avoided releasing anything major this weekend. Such strategy creates a downward cycle where the depressed frame caused studios to think they are correct in avoiding it, and that in turn depresses the same weekends in the future further, even though in 2003, by making $37m combined, The Last Samurai and Honey demonstrated, as many other occasions have before and after, that viewers can and will turn up regardless of the season if they deem the product is worth spending for. During the five years since then, the best an individual film has done is $12.7m from Aeon Flux, and on average a film has opened to a paltry $5.3m. The scenario does not figure to change this year, as none of the four new wide releases are expected to break double digits.

Among them, Brothers looks to be in best shape with reasonable online interests and appearance on the top 5 advance ticket sales list. It possesses the most star power with Maguire, Portman, and Gyllenhaal, and director Jim Sheridan could bring in some additional fans of his as well. Look for it to reach high single digit. Armored will be competing for the young male crowd and does have the rating advantage, but the trailer has not generated much curiosity. A $2-2.5m Friday is likely for a $6-7m weekend. Going into the week, people appeared to have the highest hope on Everybody's Fine given its genre and cast, but such hope is fading fast. The tracking numbers are indicating a sub $5m weekend, and the signs so far are confirming a similar outcome. Even though the film appeals to an older audience, not registering anywhere either online or in advance sales is troublesome. A mere $4m weekend would not be surprising. If a question is asked about if one was aware of what the film Translymania, our final wide release of the week, is before this week, I doubt we would see many hands raised. In fact, even now few know of its existence. The distributor Full Circle Releasing is the new kid on the block, although a more experienced studio would still find headache promoting this one. At least Full Circle Releasing somehow convinced 1,055 theater owners to show the film, but the per-theater-average could challenge the all-time low for a movie released in over 1,000 locations, currently held by Delgo with its $237 average. Nobel Son, which grossed $333,912 in 893 theaters, could be a good comparison.

With wide releases taking a rest, the weekend gives films with limited engagement an opportunity to shine, and this time it is no other than Up in the Air. Long regarded as one of the frontrunners for the year-end awards including the Oscar and fresh off winning NBR, the film has all the momentum to make a long and prosperous box office run. Its ceiling may not be as high as Juno's due to the more restricted R-rating and a more adult-oriented theme, but that will not affect this weekend when it is only released in 15 theaters. The per-theater-average is unlikely to be as high as Precious' $100K since the latter was more strategically placed with more screens per theater, but exceeding Juno's $59K in 7 should be easily within reach. It will gradually expand the next couple of weeks before going nationwide on Christmas weekend.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

China Weekly Box Office (11/23 - 29): 2012 on track for the all-time record

MovieWeekly Gross (yuan/dollar)ChangeTotal (yuan/dollar)
1. 2012118m ($17.29m)-19.2%351m ($51.4m)
2. Mulan(花木兰)30m ($4.40m)New30m ($4.40m)
3. G-Force(豚鼠特工队)14m ($2.05m)New14m ($2.05m)
4. Panda Express(熊猫大侠)7.2m ($1.05m)-30.1%17.5m ($2.56m)
5. District 9(第九区)5.4m ($0.79m)New5.4m ($0.79m)
6. Twilight(暮光之城:暮色)5.0m ($0.73m)New5.0m ($0.73m)
7. Mars Baby(火星没事)3.7m ($0.54m)-19.6%8.3m ($1.22m)
8. The Robbers (我的唐朝兄弟)0.9m ($0.13m)-1.8m ($0.26m)

(Using exchange rate of 1 yuan = $0.14650)

2012 has simply been nothing short of amazing. Four new releases, one highly-anticipated domestic production with three well-known foreign films, were unable to put much a dent in slowing its momentum down. 2012 dropped less than 20% and had the highest third weekend ever. It is now only 80m yuan away from breaking Transformers 2's record for the overall gross and could conceivably achieve it this week as no major release is scheduled until Dec 9th.

Mulan had a fine but not spectacular debut. With fierce upcoming competition looming, reaching 100m yuan may be difficult even though it has good word-of-mouth. G-Force was released on Tuesday, so a 14m yuan opening week could only be considered average, but at least it fared better than the other two Hollywood films. Twilight finally reached the other side of Pacific a year after its domestic release, and with such a delay, the result was pretty much expected. District 9 had a shorter delay by comparison, but it targets more of an Internet audience, many of whom would go and find a pirate copy as soon as it became available. Having 2012 still dominating the headline and screens does not help either. 20m yuan will be a good total after its opening.