Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Ten Most Impressive Box Office Runs of 2000s (No. 7)

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)


Achievements:
  - The biggest foreign language film with $128.1m total, 122.5% better than the runner-up Life is Beautiful
  - The highest grossing film that never hit the top 3 in any weekend during its release
  - The second biggest film that never expanded beyond 2,050 theaters (behind My Big Fat Greek Wedding)
  - 6 straight weeks of $12K+ per-theater-average

I will always have a soft spot for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, as it is the main film responsible for igniting my passion on tracking box office.  Personal feeling aside, it also had a run deserving of such a high placement despite its relatively small total comparing to some of the other movies on the list.  In some degree, it is the Fahrenheit 9/11 equivalent of foreign films, but better due to several reasons:

  1. The distance between Crouching Tiger and the next biggest film of its genre has not shortened.  F9/11 created a bigger gap when it was released, but March of the Penguins was able to come closer to it than any foreign films have come to challenge CTHD.  In fact, no other has even surpassed Life is Beautiful yet.

  2. Crouching Tiger's run was more unexpected.  When discussing Fahrenheit 9/11, I explained why its success was foreseeable in retrospect, especially with The Passion of the Christ showing to what degree controversy could propel a film just several months earlier, but there was no such comparison with CTHD.  Life is Beautiful is the closest precedence; however, Sony Picture Classics, which biggest grosser at the time was Howard's End, was nowhere near as powerful as Miramax, with Oscar and commercial successes such as Pulp Fiction, The English Patient, and Good Will Hunting under its belt.  $50-60m was considered the best scenario case.  Instead, it obliterated the old record.

  3. Crouching Tiger had a more balanced run from beginning to the end.  While it is true that we cannot compare it with F9/11 on a week-to-week basis since CTHD started out as a platform release in December with help from awards buzz along the way, its overall body of work still stands out more.  It almost doubled its theater count on the second weekend and only saw its PTA dip 16%; then when it expanded 303% on its 6th weekend, the PTA shrunk just 37%.  And in between when it was stuck at 143-172 theaters, its average hardly moved at all and in fact increased a bit overall (from $18,439 to $20,147 to $19,816).  I remember screaming from my keyboard on why Sony Picture Classics was not expanding it faster to take advantage of the buzz and holiday season, not yet truly understanding the whole concept of platform release at the time.  Although I still believe they could have done a little more with the incredible word-of-mouth the film was having, I certainly no longer fault them for the strategy.  During its entire run, it had only 3 weekends of 36%+ declines and no weekend where it dropped over 46%, while its PTA stayed above $2,100 for 17 straight weeks.

1 comment:

  1. I am so glad to see this made your list. Not only was this one of my favorite movies of the past decade, but it truly did have a remarkable box-office run. I remember this was running basically neck-and-neck with "Traffic" at the time of its release and I was convinced that "Traffic" would be the ultimate winner. Yet I was so pleased it managed to narrowly outgross the film in spite of its genre.

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