Saturday, September 17, 2011

Saturday Morning Rants: the impressiveness of The Lion King's opening and the ridiculousness of "early Friday numbers"

The Lion King 3D got $8.8m on Friday.  To put this in perspective, on the same weekend two years ago, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs turned a $8.1m Friday into a $30.3m opening weekend, or a 3.72 internal multiplier.  People may argue this has more rush factor since it is a re-release of a classic, but the 3D re-release of Toy Story/Toy Story 2 double-feature had a 3.84 IM on its opening weekend.  With those as comparisons, The Lion King is looking at a $33m start, and that's simply incredible.

So just how magnificent this opening is?  To me, it ranks right up there both as the most surprising and as the best opening of the year period.  The average pre-release forecast was around $15m, and I personally thought I was pushing its upper limit with my $22m prediction, given its theater count and the amount of screens.  The screen count is what makes this start especially impressive even in term of the raw number.  Because it is a re-release, The Lion King is not hogging multiple screens like family films traditionally do to achieve big openings.  In fact, it occupies only a single screen in almost all of its 2,330 theaters.  If we assume 5 showings per theater per day and $10 average ticket price (it's 3D but also has many kids in attendence, so should not average much higher), then each showing yesterday attracted 75 people on average.  We could compare this to Transformers 3 for example.  The latter got $33.0m in 9,300 screens on its first Friday, translating to 70 people per show even if we assume the same average ticket price.  And when we consider family films tend to have trouble filling the late showings, The Lion King would basically need to sell out plenty of the afternoon and early night showings across the country to achieve such start.  One more food for thought: when the original one first expanded wide in the summer of 1994, it got $40.9m in 2,552 theaters for a $16,022 PTA; 17 years later, in the early fall, the re-release is looking at a $14K PTA.  That's some staying power.

Toy Story double-feature re-release, which was also advertised as a two-week only event but extended beyond, ended with a 2.46 overall multiplier.  If The Lion King matches it, it will be looking at adding another $80m to its total and make its way to the all-time Top 10 on the domestic chart.

One other matter I feel compelled to say something about is how the "early friday numbers" are being reported earlier and earlier to the point where "respected" trade papers such as Variety and The Hollywood Reporter are giving weekend projections on Friday afternoon based on early matinee returns.  That is simply ridiculous, and we have seen how off these projections could get.  A month ago, Rise of the Planet of the Apes saw its reported Friday number rose steadily from $13m in the afternoon to $15m early evening to $18m late night and then finally $19.5m with real estimate, leading to a change in weekend projection from mid-$30m to $50m+ and a complete alteration in article's tone.  Now with The Lion King, the first report at around 3pm PST from Variety said $15-18m for the weekend directly without even giving what they thought Friday number would be.  Then THR revised to $22-24m later at night, and it turned out we're looking at $30m+.  We know why they are doing it ealy to attract traffic, but it is still sad to see the two renowned trade papers stoop to the level of Nikki Finki at Deadline and sacrifice the fundementals of professional journalism.

1 comment:

  1. Nikki needs to put a leash on her early numbers.

    Friday number for Abduction at 4 PM was 6m. Friday number for Abduction at 11 PM was 3.8m. Ridiculous.