Thursday, January 28, 2010

Weekend Box Office Predictions (Jan 29 - 31)

Movie Predicted Gross (m) Change
1. Avatar 29.5 -15.6%
2. Edge of Darkness 21.0 $6,850 average
3. When in Rome 10.5 $4,280 average
4. The Book of Eli 8.3 -47.2%
5. The Tooth Fairy 7.4 -42.9%
6. Legion 5.9 -66.3%
7. The Lovely Bones 4.8 -43.0%
8. Sherlock Holmes 4.5 -32.1%
9. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel 4.4 -31.3%
10. It's Complicated 4.4 -24.3%

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

China Weekly Box Office (1/18 - 1/24): Avatar broke $100m

Movie
Weekly Gross (yuan/dollar)
Change
# of showings
admissions
Total (yuan/dollar)
1. Avatar(阿凡达)
172m ($25.20m)
-26.8%
42,963
3,352,826
694m ($101.66m)
2. Confucius(孔子)
28m ($4.10m)
New
13,894
802,062
28m ($4.10m)
3. The Spy Next Door(邻家特工)
23m ($3.37m)
+39.4%
23,961
743,134
39.5m ($5.79m)
4. Detective Conan(名侦探柯南)
3.2m ($0.47m)
+236.8%
7,423
102,008
4.15m ($0.61m)
5. Bodyguards and Assassins(十月围城)
2.2m ($0.32m)
-66.2%
4,072
65,750
292.2m ($42.80m)
6. Huang Di Xia(铠甲勇士之帝皇侠)
1.3m ($0.19m)
New
1,130
46,017
1.3m ($0.19m)
7. Short Of Love(矮仔多情)
0.8m ($0.12m)
New
700
23,350
0.8m ($0.12m)
(Source, 1 chinese yuan == $0.14650)

(NOTE: now the same source, which is supposed to be the official reporting agency, has changed Confucius' number to 38m yuan and admissions # to 902,062, even though the # of showings is not updated; very suspicious)

Contrary to initial (although unconfirmed) report, Avatar broke the $100m mark on Sunday instead of Friday. This will undoubtedly lead to more conspiracy theories that the numbers are being underreported. From all the evidences users are laying out on various Chinese forums, it is hard to dispel the notion, and the actual gross to date could in fact be 30-50m yuan higher. However, I would rather focus on the official numbers since they are what the record book will show and the pure awesomeness the run has been. It was down only 26.8% for the week despite losing most of the 2D screens to Confucius over the weekend. A good percentage of theaters are getting Avatar's 2D copies back this week, but how many showings they are going to give back to Avatar remains in question. In reality, 3D screens have been the driving force of this run, so any gross 2D could add from now on is just gravy.

Monday, January 25, 2010

China's 2009 Box Office Chart

RankMovieTotal Gross (yuan)
12012465.4m
2Transformers 2(变形金刚2)455m
3The Founding of a Republic(建国大业)419.23m
4Bodyguards and Assassins(十月围城)290m
5A Simple Noodle Story(三枪拍案惊奇)260.6m
6Red Cliff Part II(赤壁下)260m
7The Message(风声)216.3m
8City of Life and Death(南京!南京!)165.3m
9Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs(冰川时代3)156.9m
10Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince(哈利·波特与混血王子)156.35m
11G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra(特种部队:眼镜蛇的崛起)130.5m
12Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian(博物馆奇妙夜2)121.32m
13Terminator Salvation(终结者2018)112.32m
14Silver Medalist(疯狂的赛车)108.5m
15Look For A Star(游龙戏凤)102.3m
16On His Majesty's Secret Service(大内密探灵灵狗)100m
17Sophie's Revenge(非常完美)94m
18Up(飞屋环游记)90.7m
19X-Men Origins: Wolverine(金刚狼)87.1m
20Overheard(窃听风云)86.6m
21Mulan(花木兰)83.2m
22Niu Qi Chong Tian(喜羊羊与灰太狼之牛气冲天)80m
23McDull, Kung Fu Kindergarten(麦兜响当当)70.7m
24The Treasure Hunter(刺陵)67.75m
25Dragonball: Evolution(七龙珠)62m
26The Storm Riders II(风云Ⅱ)59.52m
27Star Trek(星际迷航)58.85m
28Transporter 3(玩命快递3)58.5m
29Valkyrie(行动目标希特勒)57.3m
30Slumdog Millionaire(贫民窟的百万富翁)53m
31Metallic Attraction:Kungfu Cyborg(机器侠)51.5m
32This Is It(迈克尔·杰克逊:就是这样)48.3m
33Astro Boy(阿童木)45.45m
34Gasp(气喘吁吁)40.7m
35All's Well, Ends Well 2009(家有喜事2009)40m
36Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa(马达加斯加2:逃往非洲)40m
37Monsters vs. Aliens(大战外星人)32.2m
38Knowing(神秘代码)31.83m
39Fast & Furious(赛车风云)30.15m
40The Taking of Pelham 123(地铁惊魂)30.15m
41G-Force(豚鼠特攻队)26.55m
42Ashes of Time Redux(东邪西毒)26m
43Deux mondes, Les(时空穿越者)25.4m
44Tie Ren(铁人)22.6m
45Rogue(逃亡鳄鱼岛)22.6m
46Empire of Silver(白银帝国)22.3m
47Stubborn Robot(倔强萝卜)21.35m
48Les femmes de l'ombre(超级女特工)21m
49My Fair Gentleman(窈窕绅士)20.25m
50Panda Express(熊猫大侠)20.2m

Saturday, January 23, 2010

More Avatar in China Update

Sunday 5pm update: More confirmation from China news outlet.

The theater chains from Shanghai and other cities have confirmed (indicated in the post No. 9 and 10 at this thread) that for theaters without 3D screen or equipment, they are allowed to show the 2D version of Avatar, while for theaters with 3D screens, they are no longer encouraged to show the 2D. So it's theater-based rather than city-based, and that is good news since it means all of the 2D-only theaters could start showing Avatar again regardless of their locations.

Here is the official notice sent out to theaters:


On the actual gross front, the early report shows Avatar has broken $100m in China by the end of Friday. The battle between China and France for Avatar's biggest international market is on.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Avatar 2D is back in China

Source #1
Source #2 
(both in Chinese)

What a week. After the enormous uproar the news of pulling 2D screens off theaters in China has created, the latest report says the decision has been partially reverted. For the cities which don't have 3D screens, they are allowed to show the 2D version of Avatar again this weekend and beyond. For theaters who have already sent the 2D copy back, the distributors are re-mailing them out, and they should receive it by Sunday. There are also forum posts saying that even some cities with 3D screens are getting the 2D ones again, but to what degree is unclear, and it could be restricted to a few individual cases. Still, looks like it will be mostly up to the theaters' own discretion for deciding which films to show, a practice taken for granted in many other countries. For once, people's wish won out, and it's one big embarrassment for China Film Group and the authority of Chinese film industry.

The core reason for the change of heart? Apparently the attention surrounding the initial news has created such negative buzz on Confucius (many on Internet forums were calling for boycotting the film) that it was off to a dismal start on Friday. The rumor has that the figure could be less than 10m yuan ($1.5m), downright terrible for a release of this scale and a film that was supposed to be one of the pillars for the Chinese New Year holiday season. There is only so much the authority could do to facilitate the ticket sales of a film, and the situation with Confucius appears beyond saving that the only choice is to bring Avatar 2D back into theaters.

So in the end, the original decision backfired completely. Avatar got more free publicity, and Confucius was unnecessarily hurt in the process. Hopefully lesson learned for those who need to learn, and this episode will be fully behind us.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Weekend Box Office Predictions (Jan 22 - 24)

Movie
Predicted Gross (m)
Change
1. Avatar
35.1
-18.0%
2. The Book of Eli
16.4
-50%
3. The Tooth Fairy
13.7
$4,100 average
4. Legion
13.6
$5,500 average
5. Extraordinary Measures
8.2
$3,200 average
6. The Lovely Bones
7.3
-57.1%
7. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel
7.1
-38.9%
8. Sherlock Holmes
5.9
-40.3%
9. The Spy Next Door
5.8
-40.4%
10. It's Complicated
5.5
-32.2%

The Rock had success opening PG-rated family comedy in the past with Race to Witch Mountain ($24.4m) and The Game Plan ($23.0m), but the pre-release numbers for The Tooth Fairy are nowhere near as positive. Only 4.1% of voters at Box Office Mojo poll said they are interested in seeing it this weekend, comparing to 13.0% for Witch Mountain and 8.1% for The Game Plan. The distribution is in fact very similar to what The Spy Next Door had last week. The tracking numbers are also not encouraging, and at the moment, an opening of $15m+ appears unlikely.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Analyzing the Effect of Avatar Losing 2D Screens in China

By now, news outlets around the world have reported the story I mentioned here a few days ago, that Avatar will see all its 2D screens pulled for Confucius this Friday in China. It is a very controversial decision and has caused an uproar among popular Chinese Internet forums. Instead of joining the chorus to express my disappointment, I would focus on a more practical topic: how much does Avatar stand to lose with this decision?

Week 1: weekly total - 287m yuan, 2D gross - 115m yuan, 40.06% of the gross
Week 2: weekly total - 245m yuan, 2D gross - 65m yuan, 26.55% of the gross

The earning from 2D screens went down 43.5% last week, while 3D and IMAX actually increased 4.7%. This illustrates the drastic difference in their respective staying powers. If the 2D screens were allowed to run its normal course, its gross would likely continue to drop at least 45% a week, since the competition will only get stronger as we move closer to Chinese New Year in mid February. If we assume 2D gross would drop 45% each week, then it would be looking at another 79.4m yuan (65/0.45 - 65). However, that includes the Monday-to-Thursday portion of this week, which is not affected by the Confucius decision, and that portion would have accounted for about 65*0.55*0.6 = 21.5m. So the actual loss would be around 58m yuan.

That is not all. 58m yuan would have been the theoretical maximum Avatar will stand to lose if we assume 45% loss a week in earning for 2D screens. However, not all of those people will simply give up on seeing the film. Many of them will have trouble finding access since smaller cities have a lot fewer 3D screens available, but we could assume the news will push some who were planning on seeing it on 2D later to either catch it before it is getting pulled or change to see it on 3D instead. Let's put that percentage at 20%, and taking the 3D surcharge into account, we could recover another 25-30%, and the loss would be down to 40.6-43.5m yuan, or $6-6.5m.

After a more detailed calculation, we could see that the effect may not be as big as one first imagined. Avatar still stands an excellent chance at making $150m and beyond, unless the 3D and IMAX are also cut off prematurely.

China Weekly Box Office (1/11 - 17)

Movie
Weekly Gross (yuan/dollar)
Change
# of showings
admissions
Total (yuan/dollar)
1. Avatar(阿凡达)
235m ($34.42m)
-18.1%
66,431
4,912,207
522m ($76.47m)
2. The Spy Next Door(邻家特工)
16.5m ($2.42m)
New
12,580
524,142
16.5m ($2.42m)
3. Bodyguards and Assassins(十月围城)
6.5m ($0.95m)
-33.7%
10,389
201,300
290m ($42.48m)
4. A Simple Noodle Story(三枪拍案惊奇)
1.2m ($0.18m)
-61.3%
3,057
40,664
260.6m ($38.17m)
5. Detective Conan(名侦探柯南)
0.95m ($0.14m)
New
768
24,041
0.95m ($0.14m)
(Source, 1 chinese yuan == $0.14648)

The final Avatar number looks suspicious, not just because the dailies didn't add up, but also both Shanghai and Guangdong markets, two of the biggest in China, reported sub-10% drop individually. Given the hotly discussed news with Confucius and the reduced coverage Avatar is receiving there, it appears this could be another trick done by the authority to intentionally under-report the total because the real hold was too good for them to accept. Yes, that would be absurd, but as Chinese people like to say, some things only happen in China.

Nonetheless, Avatar broke 500m yuan with ease and set a new record in merely 13 days. The 3D screens accounted for 66.8% of the gross last week, an increase from the 55% in the opening week, while 12 IMAX screens (1 more than the previous week) were responsible for 6.65%. Both media saw increases in raw gross as well. On the other hand, 2D screens were down to 26.55%, and its raw number was down 43%. So in fact, the move to take off all 2D screens of Avatar is really dumb. The public relation disaster it caused could have easily been averted by leaving Avatar with a couple of showings a day in those 2D theaters when Confucius releases, a standard practice here in the U.S. when a new blockbuster requires the reshuffling of screens. Avatar is already not making all that much in 2D, and nobody would have complained much if any less drastic move was taken. As a result, this provided extra awareness, and its 2D gross could surge this week. Overall, I don't think it will hurt Avatar's total much, probably around 10% or even less, depending on how eager people from the smaller cities to travel when their only source of seeing it is cut off.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Avatar in China Daily Breakdown (By Saturday)

Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Sunday
33m
37m
33m
32m
40m
59m
54m
30m (-9%)
40m (+8%)
31m (-6%)
30m (-6%)
38m (-5%)
56m (-5%)


These are rough figures and the percentages indicate the week-to-week change. As one could observe, the hold has been very steady the second week, and the release of The Spy Next Door on Friday seems to have no effect. It has grossed 512m yuan ($75m) by Saturday and is looking at another $40m week for a $80m+ total.

Many are debating what the effect Confucius will have on Avatar starting next Friday, especially after the news that Confucius is given an extremely wide release, bigger than the scales of Red Cliff and The Founding of a Republic, and will take away almost all of Avatar's 1,800 2D screens. It will no doubt hurt, in particular with state-owned publicity machine behind Confucius full force, but it may not matter all that much in the end. Avatar will already be close to $100m by next Thursday, and so far around 60% of its gross has come from 3D and IMAX. The biggest problem of losing those 2D screens is the increasing difficulty of access to the film for many outside the big cities, but people will find a way. Ice Age 3 earned more than $20m while playing exclusively on 3D, and 3D screen count has almost doubled since then. 11 IMAX screens are also contributing $1.8m a week and have sold out many days in advance. As long as these sources are not cut off arbitrarily, Avatar will continue to earn good money.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Weekend Box Office Predictions (Jan 15 - 18)

Movie
Predicted Gross (m)
Change
1. Avatar
47.0
-6.6%
2. The Book of Eli
38.0
$12,215 average
3. The Lovely Bones
17.0
$6,633 average
4. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel
15.0
-9.5%
5. The Spy Next Door
13.0
$4,446 average
6. Sherlock Holmes
12.0
-27.6%
7. It's Complicated
10.0
-9.1%
8. Daybreakers
8.0
-47.2%
9. The Blind Side
7.0
-7.0%
10. Up in the Air
7.0
-2.2%

The tracking is quite positive for The Book of Eli, but the poll numbers at Box Office Mojo are not much different from Washington's past endeavors, with around 20% of voters interested in seeing it the opening weekend. Balancing the two, we could see a 3-day opening on the higher end of what Washington has consistently opened his films (inflation adjusted) and over $35m for the full 4 days.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

China Weekly Box Office (1/4 - 1/10)

Movie
Weekly Gross (yuan/dollar)
Change
# of showings
admissions
Total (yuan/dollar)
1. Avatar(阿凡达)
287m ($42.04m)
New
72,159
6,510,889
289m ($42.33m)
2. Bodyguards and Assassins (十月围城)
9.8m ($1.43m)
-89.0%
12,365
295,091
283.6m ($41.54m)
3. A Simple Noodle Story (三枪拍案惊奇)
3.1m ($5.13m)
-91.1%
5,077
102,040
259.42m ($38.0m)
4. 2012
0.37m ($0.054m)
-92.6%
575
9,759
465.37m ($68.16m)
5. The Treasure Hunter (刺陵)
0.35m ($0.051m)
-95.9%
1,700
12,406
67.75m ($9.92m)
6. Poker King (扑克王)
0.24m ($0.035m)
-96.4%
1,109
9,787
14.79m ($2.17m)
7. The Storm Riders 2 (风云2)
0.23m ($0.034m)
-96.6%
925
7,925
59.52m ($8.72m)
(Source, 1 chinese yuan == $0.14649)

The final figures are out, and Avatar rose yet again to 287m yuan, or $42m. It accounted for 95% of the all gross, another mind-boggling record, and single-handedly helped the market to cross 300m yuan for the first time ever, more than doubling what the equivalent frame in 2009 earned (and that one had the opening of Red Cliff Part II, not exactly a quiet week itself). I added the columns for the number of showings and admissions this time, and Avatar shattered the mark on both as well. Even with the high ticket price, it looks to challenge Titanic's admission record of 18m.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Analyzing from Guangdong's real returns

In China, Guangdong chain is usually the first chain to report the weekly actuals, and here they are:

1. Avatar - 31.56m yuan, New
2. Bodyguards and Assassins - 0.99m yuan, 33.1m total
3. A Simple Noodle Story - 0.13m yuan, 18.54m total

With no other films reported. This is the first time I saw only three films listed on such chart, and Avatar almost grossed as much in the first week than Bodyguards and Assassins did since it opened on Dec 18th. Considering B&A attracts a bigger portion of Cantonese audience, Avatar is for sure to have a bigger nation-to-Guangdong ratio in comparison. Deducting from last week's numbers, Avatar should have made 270m yuan minimum nationwide, so definitely expect the actual to rise, to the range of $42m.

A Historical Opening Week

The first official estimate from Fox is in: $40.1m or 274m yuan, as Screen Daily reported. And I have a feeling the figure will be revised upward with actual, similar to what happened to 2012. With the way the tickets are selling, Sunday could easily see no drop from Saturday.

The theaters are saying they are going to run Avatar all the way through February, and with the high ticket price as well as the demand IMAX and 3D have, $100m total is a no brainer, while $120m is basically certain too. The question now becomes if Avatar could reach 1 billion yuan, or $146m.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Avatar in China Update

According to the forum of a popular Chinese movie site, Avatar has grossed 180m yuan, or $26.4m, by Friday. Even if we err the report on the optimistic side, it still means we are looking at around 250m yuan ($36.6m) for the opening week; an epic start.

Saturday update: early report from the same thread says 60m yuan for Saturday, which would break the old single-day record that Transformer 2 held by 50%. A $40m week is becoming a reality. Un-believ-eable.

Saturday update 2: the total gross after the first six days is revised to 230m yuan.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Weekend Box Office Predictions (Jan 8 - 10)

Movie
Predicted Gross (m)
Change
1. Avatar
48.0
-29.9%
2. Daybreakers
19.5
$7,730 average
3. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel
17.3
-50.8%
4. Sherlock Holmes
16.5
-54.9%
5. It's Complicated
10.5
-44.1%
6. Youth in Revolt
10.5
$5,600 average
7. Leap Year
8.0
$3,200 average
8. Up in the Air
7.5
-30.0%
9. The Blind Side
6.8
-42.9%
10. The Princess and the Frog
5.5
-44.0%

After a week of hiatus, the market is receiving new blood again, but Avatar looks to dominate once more to continue its march toward the final goal: surpassing Titanic. Among the three new movies, Daybreakers should easily come out on top by being the first R-rated horror movie since Saw VI. Last January, both The Unborn ($19.8m) and My Bloody Valentine 3D ($21.2m) enjoyed successful openings, and look for Daybreakers to follow their footsteps.

Neither Youth in Revolt nor Leap Year has a promising prospect. The former faces more direct competition with plenty of male-oriented films on the market, and the R rating will restrict its younger male audience, while the latter has a bland premise as well as a weak marketing push. However, the buzz on Youth in Revolt is picking up quite a bit this week, as indicated by its number of tweets, so between the two, I will definitely put money on it.

What is there more to say about Avatar that has not been said? The run has simply been one of the best ever, even with the more inflated ticket price of IMAX and 3D, and on Wednesday, exactly three weeks after its initial launch, Avatar has become the second biggest film all time globally. Domestically, it will take a little longer to achieve the same feat, but after this weekend, it will be around $430m and less than $105m from The Dark Knight.

Contrary to Avatar's superb daily holds, Sherlock Holmes has shown the exact opposite pattern and is looking at another hefty drop. Since winning its opening Friday, Sherlock Holmes had fallen further and further behind, and on Wednesday, merely 12 days later, it made only 1/3 of what Avatar did. Its Friday increase and weekend IM should be similar to how The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Valkyrie performed last year, meaning it is unlikely to avoid 50% drop even in the best scenario.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Long line to buy an Avatar IMAX ticket in China

And I mean, a really long line. Witnessed in Shanghai on Thursday morning:

China Weekly Box Office (12/28 - 1/3)

Movie
Weekly Gross (yuan/dollar)
Change
Total (yuan/dollar)
1. Bodyguards and Assassins (十月围城)
89m ($13.04m)
-19.1%
273m ($40m)
2. A Simple Noodle Story (三枪拍案惊奇)
35m ($5.13m)
-20.5%
256m ($37.5m)
3. The Treasure Hunter (刺陵)
8.5m ($1.25m)
+1.2%
67.5m ($9.88m)
4. The Storm Riders 2 (风云2)
6.8m ($1.00m)
-9.3%
59.3m ($8.69m)
5. Poker King (扑克王)
6.7m ($0.98m)
-9.5%
14.1m ($2.07m)
6. Midnight Taxi (午夜出租车)
6.3m ($0.92m)
-4.5%
12.9m ($1.89m)
7. 2012
5m ($0.73m)
+4.2%
465m ($68.1m)
8. Avatar (preview)
2m ($0.29m)
New
2m ($0.29m)

(Source, 1 chinese yuan == $0.14649)

Another set of China numbers for Avatar

To add to the confusion, Screen Daily is reporting Avatar grossed $5.3m on Monday and another $4.4m on Tuesday, and this is directly according to Fox International. We have some many different reports and an overflow of information right now, and I think it will be until weekend to get the real numbers sorted out. Still, we are basically looking at around $10m for the first couple of days, which puts it on track for a $35m week and makes $100m total a distinct possibility.

Avatar Monday Actual in China (33.03 million yuan)

Or $4.84m. Down from the first estimate of 35m and didn't break Transformers 2's opening day record, but still fantastic for normally the slowest day of the week.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Avatar in China: Tuesday - 45m yuan, +28.6%

I thought 20-30% jump from Monday without midnight would have been terrific; it turned out Avatar surged 45%. Avatar has made our jaws drop more than a few occasions in the last three weeks, but what it is on pace to achieve in China could blow all others away in terms of breaking the records and raising the bar.

Tuesday is traditionally a busy movie-going day in China because most admissions are half off, but the total gross may not increase that much for the same reason, as the admissions are offset by the reduced price. So for Avatar to increase 45%, on its second day nonetheless when such a highly-hyped film could still experience some frontloadedness, it is otherworldly. It did get some help from theaters not dropping the price, especially for the 3D screens, to take advantage of the blazingly hot demand. Now it is set to average 40m yuan a day for the rest of the week, for an opening week of 280m yuan, or $41m, which would have already been good enough to place 4th last year. And we are no longer looking at a 600m yuan or even 700m yuan total; instead, 800m yuan ($117.2m) has entered the discussion. Just try to comprehend what it means: 800m... Titanic's 360m yuan record held for 11 years until getting broken by Transformers 2, and Avatar could double it without breaking much a sweat less than a year later and move the current record forward by more than 60%. As impressive as Avatar has done around the world, I don't think it is on pace to break the all-time record by such magnitude in any other country.

China Box Office Up 50% in 2009

Some numbers for another fast growing year and the records it set:

1. Total box office: 5.7 billion yuan (around $835m), up 50% from 2008
2. Total admissions: 200m
3. Biggest weekly total: 204m yuan, Dec 7 - 13th
4. Biggest weekly gross by one film: 160m yuan, Transformers 2
5. In 27 out of 52 weeks, the market grossed over 100m yuan, including 10 straight during the summer
6. Titanic's 11-year-old record got surpassed by three films: Transformers 2, The Founding of a Republic, and finally 2012, all of which broke the 400m yuan mark.

(On a side note, with the phenomenal opening Avatar had, many of these records will get reset, in some cases obliterated, in the first couple months of 2010)

The top 100 chart for the year is also available, but the data is by 12/27 only, so I'll wait for the last week's actuals to become known before posting the full chart.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Avatar Set the Opening Day Record in China

The first Monday estimate is in, and the number is 35m yuan ($5.1m), breaking Transformer 2's previous record of 33.71m. It included 4m yuan ($0.586m) from midnight showings, also breaking Transformer 2's record of 3.5m yuan. Considering Transformer 2 was released on a summer Wednesday, a much better day than a non-holiday Monday, the opening is more than superb. This indicates the opening week's take alone will be over 200m yuan ($29.3m).

So the next question is what potential total we are looking at. Transformers 2 turned a 33.71m yuan opening day into 453m (13.4 multiplier) total, while 2012 has grossed 465m after a 27m yuan start (17.2). Avatar could easily surpass both given the better WOM, an inferior date to open a film, and the stabilization that IMAX and 3D will bring (Ice Age 3 had a multiplier of around 20). Barring any external circumstances such as the premature ending of its run or any large scale theater shutdown due to disease, I feel very comfortable in saying 500m yuan ($73m) is a lock, 600m ($88m) is 80% likely, and there is a very decent possibility of reaching 700m ($102m, 20 multiplier from the opening day).

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Avatar (阿凡达) in China Preview

Avatar has dominated the world's box office since its launch on Dec 16th and could surpass the $1 billion mark as early as Sunday, a pace we had never witnessed before. It is now a lock to become the second biggest film all time and could take in as much as $1.6 billion when all said and done. China will be one of the last remaining major territories for it to open in (Italy being the other), and with the recent success of 2012 (460m+ yuan, $68m) and Transformers 2 (454m yuan, $66.5m), the expectation has been raised exponentially. So how high exactly is its potential in China? Let's examine it from various aspects.

Release Date
It was originally scheduled on January 2nd, which would have been an excellent choice (Jan 1st would be the best), especially since people in China do not Christmas off, and New Year truly signals the start of the holiday season that will normally last until a couple of weeks after Lunar New Year. Then for some unspecified reason, the film got moved back a couple of days to Jan 4th and completely out of one of the most lucrative weekends of the entire year. The action created, as one could expect, an immediate uproar and led to suggestion of various conspiracy theories, but it did help raise more awareness. Monday is normally considered the worst day of the week to release a film since many just get back to work, and many could simply wait for Tuesday where all admissions are half price, so on the release date, we definitely can't say it is positive, but it may not matter much in the overall scheme of things due to a couple of factors: 1) Lunar New Year is quite late this year, on Feb 14th, so Avatar has plenty of time to take advantage the holiday season and its festive spirit; 2) the next aspect we're going to talk about.

Competition
This is the "tentative" January schedule:

01/04 Avatar
01/15 The Spy Next Door
01/22 Confucius
01/22 The Raven Chaser
01/23 Kai Jia Yong Shi (Armored Warriors?)
01/29 Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel
01/29 Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf 2

Even with the move, Avatar still has 11 full days to itself. And I don't expect Jackie Chan's The Spy Next Door to pose a serious threat. The real competition for the entire month starts and stops at Confucius, which stars Chow Yun-Fat and Zhou Xun, along with a slew of other actors well-known to Chinese. Confucius carries the backing of the national broadcasting company CCTV and has been heavily advertised for some time. However, the market in January is more than capable of having two blockbusters co-exist, and Confucius' release will not cause any loss of Avatar's 3D and IMAX screens, which will account for a good chunk of its gross. In addition, Bodyguards and Assassins is the sole heavyweight in the current market, and there has been no major release since Dec 18th. So overall competition wise, we could categorize it as superb condition for Avatar.

3D/IMAX Screens
Avatar has one definite advantage over 2012 and Transformers: 3D screens. IMAX screens remain rare; in fact, from the last count I saw, there are only 10 of them total, not including the 2 in Taiwan and 1 in Hong Kong. However, China boasts the second highest number of 3D screens in the world next to the U.S. A November report showed both U.K. and China had 400 3D screens, but the amount in China has basically doubled since then, almost all thanks to Avatar. Ice Age 3 showed how successful a 3D film could become in China, earning $22m to become one of the highest grossing animated films ever, and Avatar's potential is much bigger.

Buzz and Advance Sales
The buzz is undeniably big, and it's not just restricted to online community. Many newspapers have given it headlines, and when it originally set the release date on Jan 2nd, it forced 4 films to scramble their respective dates to avoid being too near. The latest report on midnight and advance sales also indicate it has the event film status.

All factors considered, could it break 2012's record of 460-470m total? Definitely. It could even challenge Transformers 2's opening week record of 160m yuan since it has two extra days, although I do see it as more of a leggy film while also having a large opening. My predictions: 150m yuan ($22m) opening week, 510m yuan ($75m) total.