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.


  1. Good analysis but I'm still going to nitpick a tad: New Moon opened to the third biggest opening weekend ever, not the second which is still held by Spider-man 3. I'm sure you bear these fundamental facts at heart by still.

  2. Thanks very much! This reminds me again to check all the numbers and rankings judiciously. Sometimes I blanked out when going through the figures in my head.