Movies - Box Office postsWednesday May 13, 2009
Your 2008 Box Office Quiz
I always wait a few months to take on the previous year’s box office because money’s still pouring in. By now, though, it’s dribs and drabs, and it’s safe to take a fairly accurate look. Apologies for the toughness of the questions. This is a quiz less about what we know than what we can learn. Or, at least, it’s about what I learned.1. According to Box Office Mojo, 605 movies were shown commercially in the U.S. in 2008. “The Dark Knight,” obviously, made the most money: $533 million. Which of the 605 made the least?
A. “Rome & Jewel”: A modernization of Shakespeare’s tragic love story “Romeo and Juliet,” set in Los Angeles against a backdrop of inter-racial romance.
B. “The Rise and Fall of Miss Thang”: An irresponsible party girl begins a journey to rediscover her tap-dancing roots.
C. “OSS 117: Le Caire nid d’espions”: Secret agent OSS 117 foils Nazis, beds local beauties, and brings peace to the Middle East in this French comedy.
D. “Frost/Nixon”: A dramatic retelling of the post-Watergate television interviews between British talk-show host David Frost and former president Richard Nixon.
2. Let’s talk about the films that studios assumed we’d see: the films that opened superwide—in more than 3,000 theaters. Last year there were 52 such films, and almost half of them (24) grossed over $100 million. The film that grossed the least pulled in only $11 million domestically. Name it.
A. “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”
B. “The Love Guru”
C. “Meet Dave”
3. Different studios had different kinds of luck with their superwide releases. Paramount/Dreamworks, for example, opened four films superwide last year and every one made more than $100 million domestically: “Kung Fu Panda,” “Madagascar 2,” “Tropic Thunder” and “Eagle Eye.” So which studio/distributor had the worst ratio of superwide releases (3,000+ theaters) to box-office smashes ($100+ million)?
A. Warner Bros., which released “The Dark Knight.”
B. Universal, which released “The Incredible Hulk.”
C. Paramount, which released “Iron Man.”
D. Fox, which released “Marley & Me”
4. One last question on the superwide openers. Of those 52 films that the studios assumed we’d see, only 17 garnered “fresh” ratings from the top critics at Rotten Tomatoes. Seven of those 17 are among the top 10 box-office hits of the year (“Dark Knight,” “Iron Man,” etc.). But how many “fresh” films are among the 10 worst-performing superwide releases?
5. One 2008 release had, according to Box Office Mojo, the worst opening weekend ever for a wide release (500+ theaters). Name this film that no one went to see.
A. “Proud American”
B. “Vicky Christina Barcelona”
C. “Witless Protection”
6. Box Office Mojo also tracks the box office of 57 countries/markets besides the U.S. In those 57 international markets, which film was the No. 1 movie in the most countries (11)?
A. “The Dark Knight”
B. “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”
C. “Kung Fu Panda”
D. “Mamma Mia!”
7. In which of the following countries was “Sex and the City” the No. 1 movie of the year?
A. Croatia and Estonia
B. Argentina and Brazil
C. Thailand and Taiwan
D. Frost and Nixon
8. While we’re on international box office, which of the following films was not among the top five films in Egypt last year?
A. “The Dark Knight”
B. “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”
D. “Body of Lies”
9. “Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis,” a comedy about a small provincial town in northern France written, directed and starring Danny Boon, was the no. 1 film in France last year. The No. 2 movie, “Astérix aux jeux olympiques,” made US$60m. How much did “Bienvenue” make?
10. Box Office Mojo lists 932 total films in its overseas total. Which film, ironically, wound up in 932nd place?
A. “Gunnin’ for That #1 Spot”
C. “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan”
Feel free to post your guesses in the comment field. I’ll post answers later in the week.
Last week I wondered how much “Wolverine”’s box office would fall off during its second weekend and suggested north of 60% wouldn’t be good news for the franchise. Well, the numbers are in. It’s 69%.
What does that mean? A 69%, second-weekend drop is the 61st-worst in boxofficemojo’s tracking period (roughly, since 1980), but even this stat is misleading. The worst second-weekend dropoff, for example, is a 2005 film called “Undiscovered,” which fell off 86.4% from its first weekend. But Lions Gate, which pushed it into 1,304 theaters that first weekend, was already pulling out, and left it in only 754 theaters its second weekend. The steep dropoff, in other words, represented more a preemptive studio strike rather than audience disinterest—although there was obviously that, too. “Wolverine,” in comparison, increased its theater total for the second weekend, by three, to 4,102 theaters.
Here’s what’s more telling. “Wolverine”'s is the worst such dropoff for any film that opened in 4,000+ theaters, beating out the May 2007 sequels, “Pirates 3” and “Spider-Man 3,” both of which dropped 61.5% their second weekend.
Expand down to films that opened in 3,000+ theaters? It’s tied, with “Elektra,” for sixth-worst:
|1.||Friday the 13th (2009)||-80.4%|
What do the above movies have in common? With the exception of “Hellboy II” (whose second weekend was “Dark Knight”’s first), and Ang Lee's “Hulk,” they all have lousy scores on Rotten Tomatoes. I'm talking less than 20%. In laymen’s terms, they sucked.
In fact you could program a not-bad “Movie Festival in Hell” from the films on the dropoff list. Here's your schedule: Start out with “From Justin to Kelly” at 10 a.m., offer “Captivity” at noon, then, say, “Pluto Nash,” “North,” “Miss March,” “Return to the Blue Lagoon” and top it off with “Gigli.”
Not exactly the company Wolverine wants to keep. Or any of us.
Logan's Run: $85 Million
I was surprised but not shocked that "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" did so well this weekend, bringing in $87 million, which, unadjusted, is the 18th-best opening weekend ever. It's a superhero movie, after all, and a popular character, and it opened in over 4,000 theaters (the 14th-most ever) and, according to Brandon Gray, on 8,300 screens (which is the Xth-most ever? Someone?). The biggest surprise, from Michael Cieply over at the Times, is the make-up of the audience: nearly 50 percent female. Although, in retrospect, it certainly makes sense, Hugh being Hugh...
No, the number to look for is how much it falls off next weekend. That's when the bad reviews (37% on RT, 44 on metacritic), and so-so word of mouth (assuming), might be felt. A drop-off of more than 60 percent (as with "Watchmen," "X-Men 3" and "Spider-Man 3") will definitely mean something in terms of what people really think of this thing.
ADDENDUM: The actuals are in and it's $85 million, which is good for 19th-best opening weekend. The movie it dropped behind? "X2: X-Men United." Any guesses as to "Wolverine"'s dropoff next weekend?
The Short, Unhappy Life of Fox Atomic
Most moviegoers don’t know from studios — particularly these days when each studio seems a bland corporate entity without the personality, or even the Eastern-European mogul, that each had back in the day.
I’m no different. Even as a critic I never paid much attention to which studio released which film. But I became aware of Fox Atomic when I was gathering info for what became that Slate article on box office last year — because 20th Century Fox seemed a case study of what was wrong with the movie industry. Its crap films (distributed by parent company Fox, mostly) got massive distribution while its good films (put out by specialty division Fox Searchlight, mostly) were barely shown anywhere. Between these two — the slovenly screw-up to Fox Searchlight’s straight-A student —was Fox Atomic, which seemed to distribute, on the 2,000-theater scale, disappointing genre films like “The Hills Have Eyes 2.”
Here, for example, is Fox’s 2007 schedule sorted by each film’s maximum distribution. Pay particular attention to the Rotten Tomatoes rating on the right:
|Rank ||Movie ||Distributor ||Dom. BO ||Max. Thtrs. ||TR Rating |
|1.|| Fantastic Four 2||Fox||$131M|| 3,963 ||35%|
|2. || The Simpsons Movie||Fox||$183M|| 3,926 || 89% |
|3. || Alvin and the Chipmunks||Fox||$217M|| 3,499 ||24%|
|4. || Live Free or Die Hard||Fox||$134M||3,411||80%|
|5. || The Seeker: The Dark is Rising||Fox||$8M||3,173||13%|
|6. || Mr. Magorium||Fox||$32M||3,168||36%|
|7. || Firehouse Dog||Fox||$13M||2,881||38%|
|8. || Epic Movie||Fox||$39M||2,840||2%|
|9. || The Comebacks|| Fox Atomic||$13M||2,812||10%|
|10. || Reno 911!: Miami||Fox||$20M||2,702||34%|
|11. || Aliens vs.Predator - Requiem||Fox||$41M||2,617||15%|
|12. ||Juno|| Fox SL||$143M||2,534||93%|
|14. || The Hills Have Eyes 2|| Fox Atomic||$20M||2,465||12%|
|15. || 28 Weeks Later||Fox Atomic||$28M||2,305||71%|
|16. || Death Sentence||Fox||$9M||1,823||16%|
|17. || I Think I Love My Wife|| Fox SL||$12M||1,794||19%|
|18. ||Pathfinder: Legend of the Ghost Warrior||Fox||$10M||1,756||11%|
|19. ||Waitress|| Fox SL||$19M||707||89%|
|20. || The Darjeeling Limited|| Fox SL||$11M||698||68%|
|21. ||Sunshine|| Fox SL||$3M||461||75%|
|22. || The Namesake|| Fox SL||$13M||335||85%|
|23. || The Savages|| Fox SL||$6M||201||90%|
|24. ||Joshua|| Fox SL||$.4M||152||62%|
|25. ||Once|| Fox SL||$9M||150||97%|
Sad, but in a way I understood the dynamic between Fox and Fox Searchlight. The former heaved onto our plates mostly fad-laden slop while the latter parceled out, in teaspoons, cuisine for the adult palate. I didn’t agree that this was always the best thing, financially, to do. Couldn’t, say, “The Darjeeling Limited,” given proper distribution and marketing, have done better than, say, “The Seeker: The Dark is Rising”? But at least I understood how they understood it all. Give the masses goop and pray for money. Give the elites caviar and pray for awards.
But Fox Atomic? What was its point? A specialty studio that released stuff that made even Fox hold their noses? Movies that didn’t do well critically or financially?
Well, Fox Atomic is dead now, its shop closed, its employees returned to the larger Fox fold. Here’s a list of films they distributed in their short, unhappy lifetime, along with domestic box office total and Rotten Tomatoes rating. Each opened in at least 1,500 theaters:
- Turistas (2006): $7M, 15%
- The Hills Have Eyes 2 (2007): $20M, 12%
- 28 Weeks Later (2007): $28M, 71%
- The Comebacks (2007): $13M, 10%
- The Rocker (2008): $6M, 39%
- Miss March (2009): $4M, 4%
- 12 Rounds (2009): $11M, 20%
Any death, any funeral, is a lesson. We all go sometime. What do you want to leave behind?
Hopefully it’s not “Miss March.”
Betting Against Pixar
Do I have the energy on this Monday, when dozens are dead from an earthquake in Italy, to get worked up over the state of the movie world? Not even the movie world, really, but the business side of the movie world? Yeah, those guys.
First New York Times writer Brooks Barnes pats Universal Studios on the back for both “Fast & Furious,” which made $72 million over the weekend, and for reviving the “Hellboy” franchise last summer, which, Barnes writes, the studio turned “into a hit after Sony Pictures Entertainment passed on making a sequel.” Apparently Barnes forgot the role Guillermo del Toro played. At the same time, his use of the term “hit” may be a slight exaggeration. Yes, the film made $34 million its opening weekend. Then it dropped off 70 percent and struggled to make $75 million. Nothing to sneeze at, but, in Hollywood terms, is that a “hit”? For a superhero film?
Richard Greenfield wouldn’t think so. In the Business section of the paper, Barnes (back again) writes how Greenfield’s firm, Pali Research, recently downgraded Disney shares because of — get this — a poor outlook for the next Pixar movie.
Whoa. So is the Pixar movie, “Up,” screening poorly? No. It’s screening extremely well.
Pali has a problem with the lead, an old man voiced by Ed Asner: “‘We doubt younger boys will be that excited by the main character,’ Greenfield wrote, adding a complaint about the lack of a female lead.”
Others pile on. “'The worries keep coming despite Pixar’s track record, because each film it delivers seems to be less commercial than the last,' said Doug Creutz of Cowen and Company."
Barnes then looks at said commerciality of Pixar’s films and agrees. Compared with the $405 million “Finding Nemo” made in 2003, he writes:
Pixar’s last two films, “Wall-E” and “Ratatouille,” have been the studio’s two worst performers, delivering sales of $224 million and $216 million respectively, according to Box Office Mojo, a tracking service.
Well, yes and no. Actually, no and no.
According to box office mojo, a tracking service, “Nemo” made $339 million domestically. The $405 million figure? Apparently that’s in all of North America. So Barnes isn’t even comparing similar box office totals.
Still, if you look at unadjusted domestic box office, yes, it appears Pixar, while still doing great business, isn't doing as well as it used to:
|4.||Toy Story 2||$245M||1999|
|9.||A Bug's Life||$162M||1998|
The last two Pixar films are stuck there at sixth and seventh, and the only reason they’re not at the bottom is because we’re not adjusting for inflation.
But that’s domestically. Other countries see films, too, right? So what does the worldwide gross of Pixar films look like? Here:
|6.||Toy Story 2||$485M||1999|
|8.||A Bug's Life||$363M||1998|
Now Pixar’s two most recent entries rank third and fourth. Hardly "each less commercial than the last."
Forget for a moment that a financial services firm thinks it’s in a situation to basically pass notes to the most successful movie studio of the past 10 years. Even within the narrow parameters in which these guys are talking — the business side of things — they don’t know what they’re talking about. How awful is that?
On the plus side, these guys did make me excited to see "Up." Opening weekend.