Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year Weekend Box Office Predictions (Dec 30 - Jan 1): the year looks to end on a positive note after much struggling in December

MoviePredicted Gross (m)Change
1. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol31.5+6.8%
2. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows23.0+13.5%
3. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked18.5+47.0%
4. War Horse15.5+106.2%
5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo15.0+17.6%
6. We Bought a Zoo13.0+38.9%
7. The Adventure of Tintin11.5+18.5%
8. New Year's Eve6.5+96.4%
9. The Darkest Hour4.1+36.7%
10. The Muppets2.9+35.2%

In 2005, every film in the top 18 saw an increase of at least 14.6% this weekend from the Christmas frame. We could expect similar scenario to play out this year, although the degree of increase could be a bit lower for some due to how strong the Christmas Day business was. A few films I would particularly keep my eyes on are Mission: Impossible 4, War Horse, and New Year's Eve. M:I4 has enjoyed outstanding dailies so far, and if it could achieve a 10%+ increase this weekend, it will then have the stamina to make a run at $230m+ total. War Horse, on the other hand, has been relatively frontloaded so far, dropping three days in a row after its strong debut. It reminds me of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, another Christmas Day release for an Oscar contender from a renowned director where the opening day ended up being the best day of its entire run. At least War Horse, in only 2,376 theaters currently, has some room for expansion to lessen the level of frondloadedness. As for New Year's Eve, it will be interesting to see how big a bump it could get on Saturday.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

China Weekly Box Office (12/19 - 12/25): The Flowers of War and Flying Swords of Dragon Gate both surged past 300m yuan

MovieWeekly Gross (yuan/dollar)Change# of showingsadmissionsTotal (yuan/dollar)
1. The Flowers of War(金陵十三钗)202.5m ($31.93m)+35.0%95,1964,753,521352.5m ($55.48m)
2. Flying Swords of Dragon Gate 3D(龙门飞甲)175m ($27.60m)+22.8%86,3203,810,975317.5m ($49.97m)
3. Dear Enemy(亲密敌人)42m ($6.62m)New26,5521,046,07742m ($6.62m)
4. The Allure of Tears(倾城之泪)24m ($3.78m)New27,625684,93124m ($3.78m)
5. White Vengeance(鸿门宴)1.17m ($0.18m)-92.5%4,63139,433151.07m ($23.53m)
6. Xin Yue Mei Ying(新月魅影)0.96m ($0.15m)New4,32133,9580.96m ($0.15m)
7. Three Idiots(三傻大闹宝莱坞)0.79m ($0.12m)-83.2%1,73323,43512.89m ($2.02m)
8. 1911(辛亥革命)0.42m ($0.066m)-6916,17862.67m ($9.87m)
9. Speed Pioneer(极速先锋)0.30m ($0.047m)New7677,9490.30m ($0.047m)
10. Zhui Ai(追爱)0.25m ($0.039m)-1,6839,8304.68m ($0.74m)
(Source, 1 Chinese Yuan == $0.1577)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Updated Predictions for Christmas Week Openers: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, MI4, The Adventures of Tintin, We Bought a Zoo, War Horse, The Darkest Hour

MovieWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturdaySundayMonday3-day OW4-day OW
Mission: Impossible 4$8m$7m (-13%)$10m (+43%)$6m (-40%)$11m (+83%)$16m (+45%)$27m$43m
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo$6.5m$5m (-23%)$6m (+20%)$4m (-33%)$6.5m (+63%)$8.5m (+31%)$16.5m$25m
The Adventures of Tintin$3m$3.3m (+10%)$4.6m (+39%)$2.8m (-39%)$4.2m (+50%)$7m (+67%)$11.6m$18.6m
We Bought a ZooN/AN/A$4m$2m (-50%)$3.5m (+75%)$6m (+71%)$9.5m$15.5m
War HorseN/AN/AN/AN/A$4.5m$5.5m (+22%)$4.5m$10m
The Darkest HourN/AN/AN/AN/A$2m$1.5m (-25%)$2m$3.5m

Note: for Sunday openers, 3-day OW becomes 1-day, and 4-day OW becomes 2-day.

Reasons of some of the changes: I lowered the opening day projection for M:I4 to $8m after realizing I way overestimated the mid-week dailies from IMAX locations (not the film's fault, but my own stupidity). Still believe it will beat the opening Wednesdays of both Little Fockers and Rocky Balboa. For The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, after looking at the dailies of R-rated films from 2005 during this week (e.g. Syriana and Munich), I no longer see the same OD-to-OW multiplier as previously used, especially given the popularity of the novel. The buzz for The Adventures of Tintin and We Bought a Zoo appears to be even lower, so I downgraded them accordingly. One other factor that could affect Christmas Day is the NBA. NBA always has games on Christmas Day, but the major difference this time is due to the lockout, the season opens on the day and will have 5 games instead of 2. This could dampen the box office of male-oriented films a little.

MoviePredicted 3-Day Gross (m)Predicted 4-Day Gross (m)
1. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol27.043.0
2. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows22.035.0
3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo16.525.0
4. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked15.024.0
5. The Adventures of Tintin11.618.6
6. We Bought a Zoo9.515.5
7. War Horse4.510.0
8. New Year's Eve5.08.0
9. Hugo2.84.5
10. Arthur Christmas2.74.0
-. The Darkest Hour2.03.5
Top 10 Total116.6 (+10.0%)187.6

For people who think my predictions for the openers appear too low, the top 10 will gross $116.6m combined, which would in fact be a 10% increase over last frame. Back in 2005, the last time Christmas Eve fell on a Saturday (the worst day of the week for it to fall on in term of box office), the top 12 dropped 17.8% from the previous weekend and barely crossed $100m combined, so it is not unreasonable at all for this weekend to be depressed again, even with all the openers.

Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

China Weekly Box Office (12/12 - 12/18): Epic battle between The Flowers of War and Flying Swords of Dragon Gate

MovieWeekly Gross (yuan/dollar)Change# of showingsadmissionsTotal (yuan/dollar)
1. The Flowers of War(金陵十三钗)150m ($23.55m)New54,8043,663,898150m ($23.55m)
2. Flying Swords of Dragon Gate 3D(龙门飞甲)142.5m ($22.37m)New56,0863,269,098142.5m ($22.37m)
3. White Vengeance(鸿门宴)15.7m ($2.46m)-69.8%30,738484,867149.9m ($23.53m)
4. Sector 7(深海之战)5.46m ($0.86m)-65.2%12,117155,33421.16m ($3.33m)
5. Three Idiots(三傻大闹宝莱坞)4.7m ($0.74m)-36.5%9,749146,87412.1m ($1.90m)
6. Priest(驱魔者)4.2m ($0.66m)-67.7%8,461116,05437.8m ($5.94m)
7. The Adventures of Tintin(丁丁历险记)2.75m ($0.43m)-70.7%3,92672,828130.95m ($20.62m)
8. Jump! Ashin(翻滚吧!阿信)2.3m ($0.36m)-32.4%7,66277,2335.7m ($0.90m)
9. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus(魔法奇幻秀)2.08m ($0.33m)-74.0%5,65670,10417.78m ($2.80m)
10. Magic to Win(开心魔法)2.06m ($0.32m)-72.5%5,91669,31319.86m ($3.12m)
(Source, 1 Chinese Yuan == $0.1570)

Here comes another epic December battle between domestic films. Last year it was between Jiang Wei's Let the Bullets Fly and Feng Xiaogang's If You're the One 2; this time it's Zhang Yimou's adaptation of the famous Chinese writer Geling Yan's popular novel against Hark Tsui's 3D visual feast of his wu-xia world. What makes this encounter even more fascinating is 1) both are expensive by Chinese film-making standard: Flying Sowrds of Dragon Gate cost $35m, while The Flowers of War is the most expensive Chinese film ever made with $100m; 2) Unlike Let the Bullets Fly and If You're the One 2 where they were released a week apart, these two are going head-to-head by releasing on the exact same day. Both are filled with star power as well, with Christian Bale headlining one and Jet Li leading the other.

So the result? Almost a tie for the opening 4 days. Flying Swords has the help of 3D screens, but The Flowers of War is enjoying some of the best word-of-mouth the Chinese audience has ever given to a Zhang Yimou's film. Some are saying he has finally made one as good as those of his 1990s' endeavors such as To Live and Raise the Red Lantern. Long term I expect The Flowers of War to pull away (and will challenge $100m total), but the holding power of 3D could keep the race interesting. The next few weeks should be exciting to follow.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Some Christmas Musing: How well will all the openers co-exist in the crowded holiday frame?

When looking at the schedule, many would wonder why there are so many new movies crammed into the Christmas week, but in fact, due to the unique nature of the Christmas/New Year holiday, where every day of the two-week period - except for Christmas Eve - is a strong day at the box office, it is not uncommon to see a high number of new releases. Six years ago, the last time Christmas Day fell on a Sunday, we saw 8 new wide releases in total, with 6 openers and 2 others expanded to the status. The table below shows some numbers from that frame.

Movie (Day of the Week It Opened)Opening DayOpening WeekendOD-to-OW MultiplierFri-to-Sat ChangeSun-to-Mon Change
Fun with Dick and Jane (Wed)$3.76m$21.53m5.73-52.5%+9%
Cheaper by the Dozen 2 (Wed)$2.55m$15.34m6.02-49.7%+74.9%
Memoirs of a Geisha (went wide on Friday)$2.65m$10.17m3.84-44.2%+30.3%
The Ringer (Fri)$2.38m$7.70m3.24-72.3%+19.8%
Munich (Fri)$1.37m$6.04m4.41-21.2%+10.8%
Rumor Has It (Sun)$3.47m$7.52m2.17N/A+16.4%
Wolf Creek (Sun)$2.81m$4.91m1.75N/A-25.1%
The Producers (went wide on Sun)$1.62m$3.30m2.04+23.7%+7.8%

Note: For pre-Christmas openers such as Fun with Dick and Jane, the opening weekend refers to Friday-to-Monday, while for Christmas Day openers, the opening weekend refers to Sunday + Monday.

The basic pattern for this week: mid-week will be strong as schools are off for winter break, and holdovers who have been in theaters for at least a week will see good week-to-week increases; Friday will be stronger; Saturday, or Christmas Eve, will be the weakest day by far, as many theaters will be closed for the night altogether, and the overall business will drop around 45% from Friday; Sunday, or Christmas Day, will see a surge to become one of the top 3 strongest box office days of the winter holiday; then finally Monday will see another jump across the board (only a few films will see decline that day) to claim the title of the busiest box office day of the holiday. Family films will experience especially superb increases to the level of 65%+, and a couple may see 100%+ jumps as Wallace & Gromit and Dreamer achieved in 2005.

So let's take a look at this week's slate and see if we could give some projections on where they could land. Three films will go wide on Wednesday: Mission: Impossible 4, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and The Adventures of Tintin. Mission: Impossible 4 is a unique case in that Paramount decided to release its IMAX version earlier to generate good buzz and word-of-mouth, and I would say in that they succeeded tremendously. A 58% Friday-to-Saturday increase without midnight counted is simply terrific. Among all the Wednesday releases on Christmas week, Alvin & Chipmunks 2 grossed the most on opening day with $18.8m, but that was helped by Christmas Eve falling on the next day. Then we have Little Fockers at $7.1m and Rocky Balboa at $6.2m. M:I4 should beat both without problem, especially when it is getting $4m a day from IMAX screens alone. I see at least $10m for its opening day (feel $12m is about right), and a 5+ OD-to-OW multiplier would give it $50m+ for the 4-day weekend, with $60m a good possibility.

For Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I would use Fincher's last big December effort, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, as a comparison. Benjamin Button grossed $11.9m on its opening day; however, that's Christmas Day. The source material could make Dragon Tattoo more frontloaded, but I don't see it beating the figure on a Wednesday, not when it's rated R while Benjamin Button is PG-13. Another film to compare would be True Grit, also a pre-Christmas Wednesday release from renowned directors. It opened to $5.5m, a number Dragon Tattoo should beat given the expected upfront demand. So a $7-8m start feels reasonable, and that would translate to a 4-day weekend of $35-40m.

The Adventures of Tintin should have the best OD-to-OW multiplier among the Wednesday openers; unfortunately, it is also looking at the lowest opening day of the three. Beating Cheaper by the Dozen 2 should not be an issue, but $5m is as high as I see it getting on the first day.  A 6.0 multiplier puts the Friday-to-Monday gross at $25-30m.

The PG rating means good multiplier for We Bought a Zoo. Cheaper by the Dozen 2, for example, had a 3.93 Friday-to-OW multiplier. $5m opening day seems reasonable for it as well, putting its 4-day weekend in the neighborhood of $20m.

Although Muich opened on Friday while War Horse is opening on Sunday, the former could still be used as a reference for the latter. Munich had a $6,755 PTA in 532 theaters for the Sunday-to-Monday portion. With much more locations, I don't see War Horse matching it, although something as low as what Rumor Has It received ($2,669 PTA in 2,815 theaters) is equally unlikely.  Look for a low $4K PTA and $10m opening for the first two days.

Wolf Creek is definitely closest comparison to The Darkest Hour, as it will be one of the rare movies to drop on Monday. With little marketing push and stronger competition for males elsewhere, I don't see it matching Wolf Creek's opening day. A $3-4m two-day start is most likely.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

China Weekly Box Office (12/05 - 12/11)

MovieWeekly Gross (yuan/dollar)Change# of showingsadmissionsTotal (yuan/dollar)
1. White Vengeance(鸿门宴)52m ($8.17m)-36.6%59,6111,570,048134.2m ($21.07m)
2. Sector 7(深海之战)15.7m ($2.47m)New23,447441,75515.7m ($2.47m)
3. Priest(驱魔者)13m ($2.04m)-36.9%18,895352,78133.6m ($5.28m)
4. The Adventures of Tintin(丁丁历险记)9.4m ($1.48m)-44.0%9,013235,529128.2m ($20.19m)
5. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus(魔法奇幻秀)8m ($1.26m)+3.9%13,972259,65515.7m ($2.47m)
6. Magic to Win(开心魔法)7.5m ($1.18m)-27.2%16,263249,33517.8m ($2.80m)
7. Real Steel(铁甲钢拳)7.4m ($1.16m)-39.8%6,582192,658142.5m ($20.50m)
8. Three Idiots(三傻大闹宝莱坞)7.4m ($1.16m)New10,029234,4747.4m ($1.16m)
9. East Meets West 2011(东成西就2011)5.8m ($0.91m)-72.4%12,613183,71878.5m ($12.34m)
10. Love Is Not Blind(失恋33天)5m ($0.79m)-64.3%7,782143,802349.8m ($52.92m)
(Source, 1 Chinese Yuan == $0.1572)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Weekend Box Office Predictions (Dec 16 - 18): Sherlock Holmes 2, Alvin and the Chipmunks 3, Mission: Impossible 4, Young Adult

MoviePredicted Gross (m)Change
1. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows48.0$12,893 PTA
2. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked30.0$8,058 PTA
3. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol12.0$28,235 PTA
4. New Year's Eve8.0-38.6%
5. Arthur Christmas5.2-20.1%
6. The Muppets4.7-32.7%
7. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 14.5-42.5%
8. The Sitter4.5-54.3%
9. Hugo4.0-33.9%
10. Young Adults4.0$4,057 PTA

Brief thoughts after watching Mission: Impoosible 4 at a soldout IMAX auditorium in San Francisco (Metreon): it is the best action movie of the year. Sort of like a hybrid of Bourne and 007 that combined all the good parts, with non-stop but not over-the-top actions and cool gadgets. Good humors from Simon Pegg. It is destined to be the crowd-pleaser of this holiday season, and I see great legs and potential for $200m total. Also Dark Knight Rises prologue in IMAX is a must see; definitely the most anticipated film of 2012 by far.

China Weekly Box Office (11/28 - 12/04)

MovieWeekly Gross (yuan/dollar)Change# of showingsadmissionsTotal (yuan/dollar)
1. White Vengeance(鸿门宴)82m ($12.88m)New66,9092,521,52582m ($12.88m)
2. East Meets West 2011(东成西就2011)21m ($3.30m)-59.4%33,936663,08872.7m ($11.43m)
3. Priest(驱魔者)20.6m ($3.24m)New24,030563,45720.6m ($3.24m)
4. The Adventures of Tintin(丁丁历险记)16.8m ($2.64m)-58.0%15,953435,458118.8m ($18.71m)
5. Love Is Not Blind(失恋33天)14m ($2.20m)-69.4%20,844421,432344.8m ($52.13m)
6. Real Steel(铁甲钢拳)12.3m ($1.93m)-55.8%11,949348,047135.1m ($19.34m)
7. Magic to Win(开心魔法)10.3m ($1.62m)New14,906328,02510.3m ($1.62m)
8. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus(魔法奇幻秀)7.7m ($1.21m)New8,797247,4297.7m ($1.21m)
9. Cold Steel(遍地狼烟)4.6m ($0.72m)New10,033148,5784.6m ($0.72m)
8. A Big Deal(巨额交易)4.2m ($0.66m)New7,574136,6744.2m ($0.66m)
(Source, 1 Chinese Yuan == $0.1571)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Weekend Box Office Predictions (Dec 9 - 11): New Year's Eve, The Sitter

MoviePredicted Gross (m)Change
1. New Year's Eve20.0$5,706 PTA
2. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 19.5-42.5%
3. The Sitter9.0$3,274 PTA
4. Hugo8.0+5.9%
5. The Muppets7.7-30.5%
6. Arthur Christmas6.5-12.2%
7. The Descendants5.0+4.4%
8. Happy Feet Two3.9-34.1%
9. Jack and Jill3.7-30.9%
10. Immortals3.0-32.8%

1. The first sign of concern for New Year's Eve came from Flixster, where its number of user ratings has ascended at a very slow pace and still falls short of 10,000 as of Thursday night. Normally only family films would see a sub-50 ratings-to-opening-weekend ratio, which is what it needs to break $20m for the opening frame. While ReelSource's tracking appeared to bring some good news on Monday with its high-30s number, it actually added to my concern since one had the feeling that the one from Major Theater Chain would be much more reasonable (i.e. lower), and such discrepancy would bring the MTC << RS "rule" into play. It did lead Fandango's ticket sales chart with their latest Thursday afternoon update, but 16% is not really an impressive figure given we are coming out of one of the weakest weekends of the year. Valentine's Day (18% at RT with 3.8 average) showed bad reviews don't necessarily affect the box office for the genre, but having such terrible reviews (5%/3.2 so far) won't bring in additional viewers either. New Year's Eve also does not have the release date gimmick of Valentine's Day; instead, it will rely on the holiday the title is targeting to help its legs.

2. If the trailer for New Year's Eve came across as too eager showing off its impressive cast and not having enough funny bits, then the one for The Sitter would appear as if they are actively trying to be not funny. The reviews, as expected, are terrible as well. More alarmingly, it has gathered around 6,700 user ratings at Flixster so far, abysmal for a genre (R-rated comedy) known for higher ratios. Not making Fandango's top 5 advance sales list is another bad sign. It could have trouble making double-digit this weekend.

3. With weakness from the openers, holdovers will see good-to-excellent holds across the board, especially for two films that continue to expand, Hugo (+768, +41.7%) and The Descendants (+300, +52.3%).

Sunday, December 4, 2011

China Weekly Box Office (11/21 - 11/27)

MovieWeekly Gross (yuan/dollar)Change# of showingsadmissionsTotal (yuan/dollar)
1. East Meets West 2011(东成西就2011)51.7m ($8.13m)New42,2331,639,70851.7m ($8.13m)
2. Love Is Not Blind(失恋33天)45.8m ($7.20m)-52.3%56,7541,424,572330.8m ($52.13m)
3. The Adventures of Tintin(丁丁历险记)40m ($6.29m)-35.5%37,9511,083,717102m ($16.07m)
4. Real Steel(铁甲钢拳)27.8m ($4.37m)-25.9%28,170851,454122.8m ($19.34m)
5. Immortals(惊天战神)15m ($2.36m)-48.3%20,516411,29633.4m ($5.26m)
6. Legendary Amazons(杨门女将)14m ($2.20m)-40.4%31,091455,58037.5m ($5.91m)
7. Tropa de Elite 2(精英部队:大敌当前)9.8m ($1.54m)New13,057324,8259.8m ($1.54m)
8. Nightmare(午夜凶梦)6.1m ($0.96m)New11,051198,3746.1m ($0.96m)
9. Rise of the Planet of the Apes(猩球崛起)4.7m ($0.74m)-56.5%7,712144,748202m ($31.80m)
10. Detective Conan: Quarter of Silence(名侦探柯南:沉默的15分钟)0.52m ($0.082m)-69.4%1,69119,38130.32m ($4.77m)
(Source, 1 Chinese Yuan == $0.1573)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Weekend Box Office Predictions (Dec 2 - 4)

MoviePredicted Gross (m)Change
1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 115.0-64.0%
2. The Muppets14.0-52.1%
3. Hugo8.0-29.6%
4. Arthur Christmas6.0-50.3%
5. Jack and Jill5.5-45.0%
6. The Descendants5.0-31.9%
7. Happy Feet Two5.0-62.7%
8. Immortals4.0-54.9%
9. Tower Heist3.5-51.2%
10. Puss in Boots3.0-60.1%
-. Shame0.4$44,444 PTA