Monday, May 31, 2010

The most disappointing opening of this May: Sex and the City 2

As I pointed out in my prediction article, although Iron Man 2 and Shrek 4 underperformed even the low-end of the expectations, the first three weekends of May still grossed roughly 5% higher than the same period last year, meaning the number of admissions had been similar between the two since 3D hasn't been a big portion of the box office in May. Instead, this holiday frame represents the first terrible performer of the summer, as it is on track to be the worst Memorial weekend gross wise since 2001 and have the smallest admissions since 1994, a whopping 16 years ago.

Between the two new openers, many did see the failure of Prince of Persia coming once realizing Disney's marketing campaign wasn't working, and the early returns from Europe echoed its trouble. By last Sunday, I personally was convinced it would not open above $40m for the 4 day period. However, few had predicted Sex and the City 2 would see its 5-day total to come 10% short of what the first film grossed in 3 days. We know the first film didn't expand the fanbase in any way, but it did not really alienate its demographics either, and women, especially older women, haven't had an event type of film since Valentine's Day. The advance sales were strong, the weekend numbers from Germany and other European countries in the end did not correlate with the weakness demonstrated in the U.S. So in a sense, I would argue Sex and the City 2 has had the most disappointing domestic opening of any summer films so far, even though it will end up more profitable than Prince of Persia and Robin Hood. It is one film expected to not be affected by what happened elsewhere and may even pick up the slack this weekend. Instead, it could see 7 consecutive days of decline to start its run and will certainly fall short of $100m total. Unlike Shrek Forever After and Prince of Persia, the possibility of it experiencing better-than-expected legs is close to nil given the daily patterns so far, the nature of the film, and the negative reviews it is receiving. In fact, it could finish below $90m if the midweek business turns out to be not as strong as last time either. That would represent a loss of more than 45% in admissions from the previous film, a figure possibly even worse than what Shrek Forever After will perform comparing to Shrek the Third after its fine recovery and low 3D/2D split.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Long Weekend Projections from Friday Numbers: Shrek - 53, Sex and the City 2 - 42, Prince of Persia - 37

MoviePredicted Gross (m)Change
1. Shrek Forever After53.0-25.2%
2. Sex and the City 242.0/56.0$12,200 PTA
3. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time37.0$10,150 PTA
4. Iron Man 219.0-27.9%
5. Robin Hood13.0-30.7%
6. Letters to Juliet7.5-16.7%
7. Just Wright2.6-39.4%
8. Date Night2.2-24.5%
9. MacGruber2.0-50.5%
10. How to Train Your Dragon1.6-15.8%

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Memorial Weekend Box Office Predictions (May 28 - 31)

MoviePredicted Gross (m)Change
1. Sex and the City 253.0/77.0$15,400 PTA
2. Shrek Forever After50.0-29.4%
3. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time36.5$10,400 PTA
4. Iron Man 219.0-27.9%
5. Robin Hood13.0-30.7%
6. Letters to Juliet7.0-22.3%
7. Just Wright2.7-37.1%
8. MacGruber2.5-38.2%
9. Date Night1.9-34.8%
10. How to Train Your Dragon1.6-15.8%

The first three weekends of May saw a roughly 5% increase in receipts over the same frame last year, but it has felt to be a hugely disappointing month due to both Iron Man 2 and Shrek grossing quite a bit lower than what was initially expected. Unfortunately, the feeling will not stop this holiday frame. In fact, 15% voted "No interest this weekend" at Box Office Mojo's poll regarding what the top choice to see is this weekend, and that matches the percentage from last week and is way higher than what any of the previous three Memorial weekends had. It means we are likely to not see a $200m total for the top 12 films combined over the four days.

The main culprit will be Prince of Persia. Trying as hard as they could, Disney has been unable to save it from being in a world of trouble. The film is not an easy sell to begin with. There are no real box office draws in the cast, as Jake Gyllenhaal hasn't really carried a film to a big opening by himself, and his female fans will have their must-see film of the weekend in Sex and the City 2. In addition, other than the first Tomb Raider, which benefited from the perfect casting of Angelina Jolie and the audience she brought in, no video game adaptation has opened above $24m in the last decade. Knowing that, Disney has tried to market Persia more as an action adventure film for the whole families to check out. The strategy is sound on paper, but it hasn't delivered the desired result. The trailers have not excited many people outside the fans of the original game, and more concrete signs are indicating the film's demise.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

China Weekly Box Office (5/17 - 23): Ip Man 2 crossed 200m yuan

MovieWeekly Gross (yuan/dollar)Change# of showingsadmissionsTotal (yuan/dollar)
1. Iron Man 2(钢铁侠2)32m ($4.68m)-39.6%31,553974,124145m ($21.23m)
2. How to Train Your Dragon(驯龙高手)27m ($3.95m)+50%23,482596,68545m ($6.59m)
3. Ip Man 2(叶问2)17m ($2.49m)-35.8%22,916513,440207.5m ($30.38m)
4. Echelon Conspiracy(夺命手机)7m ($1.02m)+89.2%11,244228,53410.7m ($1.57m)
5. In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale(地牢围攻)3.4m ($0.50m)New6,081120,0563.4m ($0.50m)
6. Largo Winch(决战豪门)2.8m ($0.41m)New4,46391,8032.8m ($0.41m)
7. The Love Of Three Smile: Scholar And The Beauty(三笑之才子佳人)1.6m ($0.23m)-46.7%3,47254,5146.9m ($1.01m)
8. Zhong Ji Pi Pei(终极匹配)1.2m ($0.18m)+33.3%4,49644,8932.1m ($0.31m)
9. Go LaLa Go(杜拉拉升职记)0.73m ($0.11m)-73.9%2,04228,272124.53m ($18.24m)
10. Fu Xing Zhi Lu(复兴之路)0.3m ($0.044m)New1,40522,4550.3m ($0.044m)
(Source, 1 chinese yuan == $0.146391)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Weekend Box Office Predictions (May 21 - 23)

MoviePredicted Gross (m)Change
1. Shrek Forever After87.2$20,000 PTA
2. Iron Man 227.3-47.5%
3. Robin Hood19.2-46.8%
4. MacGruber8.0$3,140 PTA
5. Letters to Juliet7.8-42.4%
6. Just Wright4.6-44.5%
7. How to Train Your Dragon2.6-48.0%
8. Date Night2.5-34.6%
9. A Nightmare on Elm Street2.3-50.6%
10. The Back-Up Plan0.9-62.3%

I expressed my thoughts on Shrek Forever After earlier this week, and my opinion has not changed since then, despite its record-breaking count of 2,373 3D and 194 IMAX screens (the overall count of 4,359 makes it the 4th widest opening ever). The buzz has picked up somewhat, but not enough to justify a prediction near $100m.

MacGruber has good vibe online, but as we have seen numerous times in the past, targeting exclusively to the 18-30 years old males may not translate to exciting box office return. Its Box Office Mojo poll trails other R-rated films such as Hot Tub Time Machine and Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. The positive reviews should prevent it from being another Repo Men, but I am not exactly seeing a double-digit opening.

A CinemeScore of B- did not suggest great word-of-mouth for Robin Hood; however, its dailies have been a little better than comparable films like Kingdom of Heaven and Troy. The PG-13 rating and being the only major adult-oriented film on the market could also help its second weekend's hold.

Iron Man 2 will recover better than how Spider-Man 3 did on its third frame while also facing a Shrek film. Its demo is more balanced, and with Shrek Forever After turning 3D, Iron Man 2 will benefit from being exclusively on 2D since it means less screen competition.

On the competition front, it'll be very interesting to see how How to Train Your Dragon performs this weekend. On one hand, it faces Shrek's double-edge sword of taking both its audience and its 3D screens, but on the other hand, both are from Dreamworks, and past history showed us that the holdovers of similar genres from the same studio tend to benefit when one of its tentpoles opens, because studio could put them together as double-feature for drive-ins or try to help each other through other means.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

China Weekly Box Office (5/10 - 16): average opening for How to Train Your Dragon

MovieWeekly Gross (yuan/dollar)Change# of showingsadmissionsTotal (yuan/dollar)
1. Iron Man 2(钢铁侠2)53m ($7.76m)-11.7%40,3381,620,299113m ($16.55m)
2. Ip Man 2(叶问2)26.5m ($3.88m)-62.1%28,979779,870190.5m ($27.90m)
3. How to Train Your Dragon(驯龙高手)18m ($2.64m)New6,053404,85818m ($2.64m)
4. Clash of the Titans(诸神之战)4.1m ($0.60m)-77.2%5,11789,266167.1m ($24.47m)
5. Echelon Conspiracy(夺命手机)3.7m ($0.54m)New4,466119,2013.7m ($0.54m)
6. The Love Of Three Smile: Scholar And The Beauty(三笑之才子佳人)3.0m ($0.44m)+30.4%7,258105,2635.3m ($0.78m)
7. Go LaLa Go(杜拉拉升职记)2.8m ($0.41m)-76.7%6,30992,899123.8m ($18.13m)
8. Zhong Ji Pi Pei(终极匹配)0.9m ($0.13m)New2,24631,8350.9m ($0.13m)
9. East Wind Rain(东风雨)0.62m ($0.09m)-86.2%1,62719,17729.32m ($4.29m)
(Source, 1 chinese yuan == $0.146436)

 It was not a great start for How to Train Your Dragon to say the least, but I am not totally surprised by the number given the 7-week delay.  Many people who are interested in the film due to the good word-of-mouth they heard already saw it online.  It should still see good legs and could reach $10m.

Iron Man 2 had a rather poor hold and could not achieve an increase from the opening week even though it's 7-day vs. 3-day.  Look like it's going to finish around 150m yuan.  Ip Man 2, on the other hand, should cross 200m yuan sometime this week.

The market overall was relatively subdued post May Day holiday and will likely that way until Prince of Persia arrives on the 28th.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Worrisome Signs for Shrek Forever After

It's still relatively early, but it is not looking good for Shrek Forever After this weekend on various fronts. First it's the BOM poll numbers:

MovieOpening WeekendSometime in TheatersOn DVDOn TVNever# of Users
Shrek the Third38.1%27.2%19.9%4.4%10.3%1,355
Monsters vs. Aliens27.7%26.0%23.5%6.4%16.4%1,398
Kung Fu Panda23.0%23.8%25.2%6.2%21.8%1,548
How to Train Your Dragon22.5%24.0%24.1%5.4%24.1%1,563
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa21.5%17.7%25.3%6.7%28.8%1,540
Shrek Forever After23.4%24.1%23.5%7.7%21.3%991

I used all Dreamworks' animated films for comparison to eliminate a few external factors.  For example, their brand doesn't have the online appeals that Pixar, which consistently pull in 30%+ for the Opening Weekend % although never having a start bigger than $70.5m, possess.  Also none of them has a director as big as Tim Burton, who helped to push Alice in Wonderland's OW% to 45.5%.  Instead, Dreamworks productions are more or less comparable with each other.  From this chart, we could see that Shrek Forever After is trailing far behind Shrek the Third in terms of OW% and almost doubled it in the Never %.  3D will certainly help, but both Monsters vs. Aliens and How to Train Your Dragon were also released in 3D, and they didn't open anywhere near where most are expecting Shrek Forever After will open to ($100m+).  On the other hand, there is also Madagascar 2, where it achieved a $63m opening purely on 2D with worse poll numbers, and if Shrek 4 just has 10% higher admissions as the poll difference suggests, it would translate to an $85-90m start with the amount of 3D screens it will have.

Besides the BOM polls, another disconcerting fact is that of the two services who report tracking numbers, Major Theater Chain has it far lower than ReelSource, 85 vs. Mid 100-110's (a 20-25% difference), and from past history, this highly suggests an opening much closer to MTC's figure.  Of course, MTC turned out to lowball Shrek the Third by about 17% (105 predicted vs. 122.5 actual), but RS's number wasn't really higher that it that time either.  Then there is the argument that Shrek franchise is simply different from all other animated films and could just defy any perceivable negative signs.  Shrek Forever After could certainly continue such trend, but my feeling is that with the mediocre word-of-mouth Shrek the Third had and some tiredness of the franchise after a whole 9 years, Shrek Forever After will face significant bigger obstacles than any previous film did, and a 40% decrease in attendance as the BOM poll suggested (23.4% vs. 38.1% OW) is not just possible, but likely.  Adding the 3D/IMAX premium, it will mean an opening around $90m.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Weekend Box Office Predictions (May 14 - 16)

MoviePredicted Gross (m)Change
1. Iron Man 256.9-55.6%
2. Robin Hood35.0$10,000 PTA
3. Letters to Juliet15.5$5,220 PTA
4. Just Wright8.0$4,370 PTA
5. How to Train Your Dragon5.0-25.2%
6. A Nightmare on Elm Street4.5-50.7%
7. Date Night4.0-26.6%
8. The Back-Up Plan3.1-38.4%
9. Furry Vengeance2.5-44.2%
10. Clash of the Titans1.3-48.1%

1. On the positive side, Robin Hood has pretty good tracking numbers ($38m from Major Theater Chain and mid-$30m from ReelSource) as well as fine poll result at Box Office Mojo (30.4% Opening Weekend and 30.6% Sometime in Theaters). On the other hand, its reviews are mediocre, and Ridley Scott tends to have inflated buzz online; even Body of Lies, which also featured Russell Crowe but opened to just $12.9m, had 27.3% OW and 23.7% SiT from BOM. In the end, I just don't feel this has the buzz of a $40m opener, although it will certainly perform better than Kingdom of Heaven's inflation-adjusted figure of $24m opening.  One small late factor that could help the film is Boston beating Cleveland to advance to the NBA Eastern Conference Final.  A game 7 on Sunday between the two rivals with everything on the line would certainly draw bigger rating than the game 1 between Boston and Orlando.

2. Letters to Juliet experienced good turnouts for its sneak previews last Sunday, and both Amanda Seyfried (Dear John) and director Gary Winick (Bride Wars) have had success with the genre. The marketing has also been strong. However, there hasn't been a shortage of romantic comedies this year, and although most have completed their runs by now, the targeted audience may not feel the rush to see another one so soon. In addition, its BOM poll numbers are worse than what Dear John and The Last Song had and more on par with When in Rome. Expect a more subdued average in the $5,000 range.

3. Queen Latifah has had a relatively consistent box office career, especially among the films where she is the main draw, so I don't see Just Wright to totally fail, and we are in the heat of the basketball playoff after all. Juwanna Mann's opening would adjust to $7.5m today, and with more theaters, $8m should be a reasonable target for Just Wright.

4. If Iron Man 2 follow's Iron Man's Wednesday-to-weekend multiplier, it will gross 61.9m this time; if it goes Spider-Man's route, the number will go down a bit to $60.2m; X-Men Origins: Wolverine, all the way to $45.8m. However, Wolverine also had the toughest luck of having to face Star Trek. The situation facing Iron Man 2 is that its word-of-mouth does not appear to be as good as the first one, but definitely better than the other two films, and while Robin Hood is no Star Trek, it will still provide more competition than any film Spider-Man 3 saw on its sophomore frame. Combining those, I was looking for some sort of average in between and decided to simply use the (a*b*c)^(1/3) formula, which resulted in a $56.9m weekend.

5. Mother's Day helped many films last Sunday, and the best way to project this weekend's gross is to deduce last weekend's numbers as if the Sunday were normal and apply the drops from there. For example, Furry Vengeance would have had a $3.67m frame if we use its first Sunday's decline, and a 32% drop from there yields $2.5m. How to Train Your Dragon should experience the lowest decline given the lack of new direct competition and 3D's holding power, while Date Night will be right behind to inch closer to the $100m mark.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

China Weekly Box Office (5/3 - 9): Ip Man 2 vs. Iron Man 2

MovieWeekly Gross (yuan/dollar)Change# of showingsadmissionsTotal (yuan/dollar)
1. Ip Man 2(叶问2)70m ($10.25m)-25.5%47,7342,086,438164m ($24.02m)
2. Iron Man 2(钢铁侠2)60m ($8.79m)New22,7971,783,06060m ($8.79m)
3. Clash of the Titans(诸神之战)18m ($2.64m)-47.1%14,503365,779163m ($23.88m)
4. Go LaLa Go(杜拉拉升职记)12m ($1.76m)-45.5%16,558377,752121m ($17.72m)
5. East Wind Rain(东风雨)4.5m ($0.66m)-51.1%7,898125,83828.7m ($4.20m)
6. Mr. Black(黑猫警长)2.4m ($0.35m)-20.0%3,82790,7718.8m ($1.29m)
7. The Love Of Three Smile: Scholar And The Beauty(三笑之才子佳人)2.3m ($0.34m)New3,76778,0712.3m ($0.34m)
8. Echoes of the rainbow(岁月神偷)1.6m ($0.23m)-44.8%2,25550,90615.3m ($2.24m)
9. Skate or Die(生死逃亡)0.93m ($0.14m)+69.1%3,07633,1191.48m ($0.22m)
(Source, 1 chinese yuan == $0.146436)

The first Iron Man opened to 31m yuan in its first five days, a number the sequel almost doubled after just 3 days. The figure is also on par with what Ip Man 2, the other highly expected sequel, started out last week (94m in 6 days with May Day holiday help). However, Iron Man 2 is not enjoying as good a word-of-mouth, and it has to deal with How to Train Your Dragon this upcoming weekend. The battle of the two IM2 will be fun to follow, but at this juncture, it appears Ip Man 2 has the upper hand, as the film is a lock to cross 200m yuan and could finish around 230m.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Weekend Projections: Iron Man 2 - 136; Babies - 1.6

MoviePredicted Gross (m)Change
1. Iron Man 2136$31,050 PTA
2. A Nightmare on Elm Street9.5-71.1%
3. How to Train Your Dragon7.0-34.0%
4. Date Night5.3-30.1%
5. The Back-Up Plan5.0-31.1%
6. Furry Vengeance4.3-35.1%
7. Clash of the Titans2.6-55.6%
8. The Losers1.9-67.7%
9. Babies1.6$3,000 PTA
10. Kick-Ass1.5-66.8%

Friday, May 7, 2010

Early Friday Number for Iron Man 2 - $55m; weekend projection - $145-148m

From Nikki Finke. The figure includes $7.5m from midnight. However, Nikki is lowballing Iron Man 2's weekend big time. This is early May, where Saturday is normally stronger than Friday. Spider-Man 3 saw a 3% increase on its first Saturday even though it had a mediocre word-of-mouth and higher upfront demand with two hugely popular films before it. I'd expect a minimum of 5% jump tomorrow, and it could be as high as 10%, again without counting the midnight figure. Then Mother's Day will help its Sunday to the tune of 20-25% drop, so the range should be between 7.5+47.5+50+40 = 145 and 7.5+47.5+52+41 = 148m. It's not a record-breaking number, but certainly not disappointing either.

Weekend Box Office Predictions (May 7 - 9)

MoviePredicted Gross (m)Change
1. Iron Man 2148$33,790 PTA
2. A Nightmare on Elm Street8.5-74.2%
3. How to Train Your Dragon6.7-36.9%
4. Date Night4.5-40.6%
5. The Back-Up Plan4.3-40.7%
6. Furry Vengeance3.6-45.7%
7. Clash of the Titans2.9-50.5%
8. Babies2.5$4,680 PTA
9. The Losers2.4-59.2%
10. Kick-Ass1.6-64.6%

Just came back from Iron Man 2 midnight and it's 3am, so going to be a quick one today.

1. I no longer feel Iron Man 2 will break the opening weekend record, especially after what I personally saw in theater. The first Iron Man was not a big midnight earner either, and although the sequel will definitely improve, being so early in May remains a hindrance on that front. Weekend business will be superb, especially with Mother's Day falling on Sunday and Robert Downey Jr's popularity with ladies, but I believe it will more likely be fighting with Spider-Man 3 for the second best opener of all time.

2. Babies has gotten some decent buzz, and the latest controversy from the AP article on possible child labor law violation could only increase the awareness. It will also be a film to benefit a lot from Mother's Day, so expect an excellent IM.

3. Iron Man 2 will cause havoc on male-oriented R-rated holdovers, so look for heaviest drops to occur with A Nightmare on Elm Street and Kick-Ass. It also doesn't help that the former was super-frontloaded last weekend, while the latter is losing 30.8% of its theaters.

4. On the other hand, Mother's Day will help both family and female oriented films, in particular the former. It's a main reason why Furry Vengeance won't fall off the cliff this weekend even though its midweek figures hadn't been too great. It will also take advantage of Letters to Juliet's sneak previews (in 882 theaters) and could in fact see a Sunday increase as a result.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

2010 U.S. Summer Box Office Predictions

The Biggest Films
1. Toy Story 3 - $470m
2. Iron Man 2 - $400m
3. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse - $285m
4. Inception - $265m
5. Shrek Forever After - $260m
6. Sex and the City 2 - $160m
7. The Last Airbender - $150m
8. The A-Team - $145m
9. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time - $135m
10. Knight and Day - $130m
11. The Karate Kid - $125m
12. Grown Ups - $120m
13. Salt - $115m
14. Despicable Me - $110m
15. Robin Hood - $105m

The Biggest Opening Weekends
1. Iron Man 2 - $155m
2. Toy Story 3 - $130m
3. Shrek Forever After - $95m
4. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse - $80m
5. Inception - $78m
6. The Last Airbender - $57m
7. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time - $55m
8. Sex and the City 2 - $50m
9. The A-Team - $48m
10. Salt - $45m

The Biggest Opening Days
1. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse - $81m (Wednesday)
2. Iron Man 2 - $63m
3. Toy Story 3 - $48m
4. Inception - $31m
5. Sex and the City 2 - $30m (Thursday)

The Ten Most Impressive Box Office Runs of 2000s (No. 1)

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

  - The biggest romantic comedy ever with $241.4m, 32.1% better than the previous record holder What Women Want
  - The biggest film to never win any single weekend during its run
  - Made its total while never having its weekend's per-theater-average higher than $6,856
  - Had no drop over 23% until its 34th weekend and had 20 weekends where it increased from the previous frame

Even as Avatar's run grew more impressive with each passing week, I knew it's going to take a Herculean type of effort to supplant My Big Fat Greek Wedding as the film to have the most impressive box office run of the last decade.  The decade was filled with magnificent achievements and gigantic raw numbers, but to me, MBFGW has always been the clear-cut choice to be ranked No. 1.  There is simply not another performance like it.  All other films on the list started out strong: all but one had an opening per-theater-average of over $10,000, and The Ring got its $7,579 PTA while playing in close to 2,000 theaters.  MBFGW began with a $5,531 PTA in just 108 theaters for a weekend total of $597,362.  Few films could gross even $20m from such innocuous opening, but somehow, it kept hanging around and never went away.  Its weekend average never dipped below $3,800 until its 27th weekend, by when it already gradually expanded to 2,016 theaters, and its biggest PTA came on its 20th weekend when it was in 1,619 locations.  It ended up playing for an entire year, and in 39 of those 52 weekends, it grossed over $1m.  Even Titanic had only 30 weekends of $1m+ gross.  It had 11 weekends where both its theater count and PTA increased at the same time.  The way the run defied gravity and any logical pattern we know of is very much one of the kind.

Furthermore, the performance is as inexplicable as it is inconceivable.  Romantic comedy has seen its share of success over the years, but outside My Big Fat Greek Wedding, none has broken $200m, and that includes films starring Will Smith, Julia Roberts, or Mel Gibson.  MBFGW has no such star power.  The only noticeable film John Corbett had done at that point was Serendipity, which made $50.3m total, and Nia Vardalos was basically an unknown to the audience.  Joel Zwick is mainly an episode TV director, while the distributor IFC had not seen any of its films cross $5m (Y Tu Mama Tambien was just about to at the time).  The only one with name recognition is Tom Hanks as the producer, but that itself could not account for the success the film experienced, especially considering the best any romantic comedy starring Hanks has done is Sleepless in Seattle's $126.7m.  There is no question the film enjoyed good word-of-mouth, but was it really better than say There's Something About Mary or As Good as It Gets, the two WOM hits of the late 90s which MBFGW still beats even adjusting to inflation? I doubt many would rank it that high in terms of the best romantic comedies of the last 20 years. It also did not benefit from any awards buzz; instead, the box office is essentially the only reason it received a screenplay nomination.

Of all the runs we have seen and discussed, I am certain My Big Fat Greek Wedding's one is the hardest to duplicate. It is very probable that we will never see one like it again, and having it happening on a film with no star power or big push behind it means it will always stand the test of time and be fondly remembered for its uniqueness and inexplicablility. Such reasons make the film stand at the top in a memorable decade for us box office lovers.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

China Weekly Box Office (Apr 26 - May 2)

MovieWeekly Gross (yuan/dollar)Change# of showingsadmissionsTotal (yuan/dollar)
1. Ip Man 2(叶问2)94m ($13.77m)New38,4922,848,48494m ($13.77m)
2. Clash of the Titans(诸神之战)34m ($4.98m)-40.4%19,445698,869145m ($21.24m)
3. Go LaLa Go(杜拉拉升职记)22m ($3.22m)-46.3%23,269694,225109m ($15.97m)
4. East Wind Rain(东风雨)9.2m ($1.35m)-38.7%14,574273,64624.2m ($3.55m)
5. Mr. Black(黑猫警长)3.0m ($0.44m)-11.8%4,897111,5246.4m ($0.94m)
6. Echoes of the rainbow(岁月神偷)2.9m ($0.42m)-59.7%4,52198,00013.7m ($2.01m)
7. The Orphanage(孤堡惊情)2.4m ($0.35m)-55.6%4,01079,57512.5m ($1.83m)
8. Alice in Wonderland(爱丽丝梦游仙境)2.1m ($0.31m)-32.3%1,48942,033223.8m ($32.79m)
(Source, 1 chinese yuan == $0.1465)

Ip Man 2 was expected to be big, and it did not disappoint. The sequel made almost as much in its first 6 days as the original grossed in total. May Day holiday certainly helped, and with Iron Man 2's release this Friday, its leg will likely be worse. Nonetheless, it is on track to surpass 200m yuan ($29.3m) to become the second biggest martial arts film in China behind Hero.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Ten Most Impressive Box Office Runs of 2000s (No. 2)

The Passion of the Christ (2004)

  - The biggest R-rated film ever with $370.3m, 31.7% better than the second place holder The Matrix Reloaded
  - The biggest opening weekend ever in winter (Dec - Feb) with $83.8m even though it launched on a Wednesday

  - The best opening weekend for a R-rated non-sequel, 18.3% higher than the current runner-up 300
  - 3.92 multiplier

Predictions Comparison (5-day opening):
  - BOG: $67m; Brandom Gray - $78m; BOM Derby - $78m

The Passion of the Christ was not the first nor the last film to be surrounded by controversy upon its release, neither was it the first movie based on the best-selling book of all time, the Bible. Nonetheless, somehow someway, it towered above all other comparable films and became the biggest R-rated movie of all time, period.  Six years later, it still stands as the only R-rated film to break $300m.  Then the fact that it was released in February and had no summer or holiday help makes all the achievements even more amazing.

There was no doubt the film was picking up steam heading into its release, as Gibson's interpretation of Jesus Christ's final 12 hours was not only dominating the air wave, but also headlining many major publications.  Gibson was also a hot commodity following a string of successes for the films he starred in, in particular Signs and What Women Want.  People following box office began to realize its breakout potential and had gradually increased their expectations from a sub-$20m opening from Wednesday to Sunday to $40m, then $60m, and finally to the $65-80m range.  Still, questions persisted on what the ceiling was for a subtitled R-rated film with no stars among the cast.  It gave a resounding answer by blowing past even the most optimistic predictions and grossing more over the weekend than many thought it would do in the first five days (its 5-day total ended up being $125.2m).

The stunning opening figure alone would have been enough for a top 6 placement on the list, but it also exhibited terrific legs, even though question was initially raised again on how many times viewers were willing to sit through such a film.  After the opening frame, It had 4 consecutive weekend drops between 35.1% and 39.7% before picking up a notch to decline only 15.8% on its 6th weekend.  Then with the help of Easter, it reclaimed the title with an huge 43.5% jump.  It had 48 straight days of $1m+ gross and 51 days overall, all of which were between February and April, when the midweek business is nowhere near the strongest.  Such body of work is unlikely to be duplicated any time soon.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Ten Most Impressive Box Office Runs of 2000s (No. 3)

The Blind Side (2009)

  - The biggest sports film ever with $256m total, 58.5% better than the runner-up Waterboy
  - The biggest opening weekend ever for a sports drama with $34.1m, 41.1% higher than the second place Coach Carter
  - Increased 17.6% on the second weekend, the best sophomore weekend hold ever for a very wide (one that opened in 2,000+ theaters) non-December release
  - 7.5 multiplier, the best for a November release since 1994 (The Santa Clause) and the best all-time for a November film opened in 2,200+ theaters

Predictions Comparison (opening):
  - BOG: $15m; BOM Derby: $15.7m; myself - $18.3m

What pushed The Blind Side ahead of Avatar and all the way into the top 3 includes the circumstance it had to deal with right from the beginning, the degree it exceeded the expectations, and the level it outgrossed other films of the genre.  All of them makes its run one of the most inexplicable ones ever.  First, it opened opposite of New Moon, which happened to set a new record for the biggest single day ever ($72.7m) before settling for the third biggest weekend of all-time with $142.8m.  It is true that Mamma Mia already demonstrated the beauty of counter-programming by making $27.8m on The Dark Knight's opening frame, but the situation is a little different here.  The survey from the opening weekend revealed New Moon's audience was 80% female and 50% over 21, while The Blind Side's was 59% female and 75% over 25, so there was in fact a lot of overlapping in demographics between the two films, and calling one counter-programming of the other would be a big stretch.  The sentiment at the time was indeed that New Moon would take away some audience and depress The Blind Side's start.

Even without New Moon's big shadow looming, few would have predicted a $25m opening for The Blind Side, let alone $30m.  The reason is simple: it seems there is at least one uplifting sports movie every fall, and very few could even sniff the $100m mark.  Remember the Titans could be considered as the most successful one up to that point, and it made $115.6m while starring Denzel Washington, one of the most consistent draws in Hollywood.  On surface, there was no reason to think The Blind Side would perform much different from films such as Invincible ($17m opening, $57.8m total) and Friday Night Lights ($20.3m and $61.3m).  Yes, The Proposal signaled the comeback of Sandra Bullock and provided a lot of good wills toward her, but that alone doesn't explain the degree her next film succeeded.  It doesn't have any well known male co-stars; nevertheless, its total is more than 50% higher than even the most successful sports comedy Adam Sandler has ever done.  It also didn't have any major awards buzz outside a possible nomination for Bullock, which chance of happening was not considered high at first given the competitive nature of the Best Actress category.  Instead, it became one of the few films where box office is directly responsible for elevating its awards potential rather than the other way around.  It reminds of Julia Roberts and Erin Brockovich, but at least that had director Steven Soderbergh and Oscar buzz in other major categories.  Even with 10 Best Picture nominees, The Blind Side's inclusion was one of the biggest surprises on the nomination morning, and box office is 95% of the reason it happened.

In the end, The Blind Side beat the average opening prediction by 100%, beat the average total prediction by 300%, beat anything Sandler or Washington has done on the similar subject by a mile, while opening against one of the biggest films of the year that had considerable overlap in demographics composition, and by now it is still a struggle to fully articulate a sound set of reasons for its resounding success.  To me, that is worthy of a top 3 placement.

Weekend Box Office Projections: A Nightmare on Elm Street - 35; Furry Vengeance - 6

MoviePredicted Gross (m)Change
1. A Nightmare on Elm Street35.0$10,504 PTA
2. How to Train Your Dragon11.0-28.3%
3. Date Night7.8-25.4%
4. The Back-Up Plan7.4-39.3%
5. Clash of the Titans6.1-31.6%
6. The Losers6.0-36.2%
7. Furry Vengeance6.0$2,002 PTA
8. Kick-Ass4.6-50.8%
9. Death at a Funeral4.3-46.4%
10. Oceans2.8-53.8%