erik lundegaard

Movies - Box Office posts

Monday May 24, 2010

"Shrek" Sinks Because "Shrek" Stinks

Dreamworks' "Shrek Forever After" opened with the third-highest opening weekend of the year—behind only "Iron Man 2" and "Alice in Wonderland"—with over $70 million domestic (estimated). 

A triumph? Not really.

Here are the opening weekends for the four "Shrek" movies. All numbers are adjusted to 2010 dollars:

* Top Critics Only
** All numbers are adjusted to 2010 dollars

That's quite a comedown.

Obviously new films tend to open weaker than sequels, which is what happened with the first "Shrek." But because "Shrek" was good (86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes) it went on to gross $375 million, or no. 3 for the year.

And because "Shrek" was good, its sequel, "Shrek 2," opened gangbusters: $138 million. And because "Shrek 2" was good (88% rating on RT) it went on to gross $564 million, or no. 1 for the year. In fact, until "Dark Knight" and "Avatar" came along, it was the no. 1 movie of the decade.

And because "Shrek 2" was good, its sequel, "Shrek the Third" opened gangbusters: $140 million. But because "Shrek the Third" wasn't good (49% on RT) it went on to gross only $372 million. I know: "only." But that's a $200 million drop from the previous film.

And because "Shrek the Third" wasn't good, its sequel "Shrek Forever After," opened with half the numbers of "Shrek the Third": $71 million. And because "Shrek Forever After" isn't good, either (40%), I assume it'll gross even less. Will it gross $250 million? Will it outdo "How to Train Your Dragon," which is already at $210 million?

Other factors could be at work, of course. The world's complex. Maybe there were simply better options this weekend. Maybe people are finally tired of this 10-year-old franchise. Maybe we don't have the patience for any fourth movie.

But in general I think the above is how moviegoing works—and it tends to be ignored by the powers-that-be. If you keep making a quality version of a beloved product, people will show up. Once the quality slips, the audience slips.

BTW: When referring to "good" and "bad" versions of "Shrek," I'm talking about the general critical reception, which, I argue, and have argued, is on par with general audience reception and word-of-mouth. Me, I only saw the first "Shrek," which I didn't like.

Look, Donkey! Maybe people are finally sick of us!

Posted at 06:40 AM on May 24, 2010 in category Movies - Box Office
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Friday March 12, 2010

Box Office Stat of the Day: Average Weekly Movie Attendance for the Last 100 Years

Via George Lucas's Blockbusting: A Decade-by-Decade Survey of Timeless Movies Including Untold Secrets of Their Financial and Cultural Success: How much we loved movies (or not) in the first year of every decade:

Year U.S. Pop.* Avg. Movie Att. (Weekly)**
1910 92 26
1920 106 38
1930 123 90
1940 132 80
1950 151 60
1960 179 25
1970 203 17
1980 226 19
1990 248 23
2000 281 27

* in millions
** ditto

I believe Edward Jay Epstein, in his book The Big Picture: The New Logic of Money and Power in Hollywood, said '46 or '47 was the big year in terms of weekly movie attendance. 95 million? Something like that? After the war people wanted to do nothing so much as go into a dark theater for 90 minutes. Similar to 1930, though, on this chart.

What's surprising is the reversal since George Lucas' 1970s. I didn't know that. As a percentage of population, weekly attendance hasn't risen much, going from 8% in 1970 to 9% in 2000. But percentage of populaton shouldn't matter as much as asses in the seats, which, despite TV and VHS and video games, has risen 62%. And that's not the volume of our asses, either. Plus, these are merely domestic figures. Imagine the global numbers.

It'll be interesting to see what DVDs have wrought this past decade. Or what 3-D will do to get moviegoers back into the theaters this year. "I see you" indeed.

The beautifully refurbished Heights Theater in Columbia Heights, Minn.

Posted at 07:21 AM on Mar 12, 2010 in category Movies - Box Office
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Wednesday January 27, 2010

The New King of the World

To put this in perspective: When James Cameron's "Titanic" became the worldwide box office champion with $1.843 billion in 1997-98, it more than doubled the previous record set by "Jurassic Park" in the summer of 1993: $914 million.

In the 12 years since, and despite rising ticket prices , no film has gotten within 60 percent of "Titanic"'s total. "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" reached $1.1 billion in 2003-04, the second (and awful) "Pirates" movie reached $1.06 billion in the summer of 2006, while "The Dark Knight" grossed almost exactly $1 billion two summers ago. Those are the only other movies that even reached the $1 billion mark. Basically halfway there. 

Until now. This week, "Avatar," Cameron's first movie since "Titanic," broke "Titanic"'s worldwide box office mark and currently stands at $1.861. And climbing. Fast.

Cameron's raising the bar when no one could even get close to the bar before. That's almost mean.

Posted at 01:27 PM on Jan 27, 2010 in category Movies - Box Office
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Saturday January 23, 2010

“Avatar” Passes “Dark Knight”

Early estimates have “Avatar” winning the Friday box office with $9.1 million (over “Legion”'s $6.7 million), which means several things:

  1. It now has $526 million domestic. So it should pass “The Dark Knight”'s box-office total of $533 million today and thus become the second-highest-grossing domestic film (unadjusted) of all time.
  2. When that happens, it'll become the highest-grossing film of the decade. Which means James Cameron has had the highest-grossing film of the decade two decades in a row. Not even Lucas (1970s) or Spielberg (1980s) can say the same.
  3. On a lesser scale, and assuming no surge from “Legion,” it will be no. 1 for six weekends in a row. No other film of the 2000s had better than four weekends in a row. It's the longest reign atop the weekend box office since, of course, “Titanic,” in 1997.

Build it well and they will come.

“I want you to open at $75 million and then drop only one or two percent the following weekend, and never drop more than 30 percent any weekend. This is going to be a movie with legs, OK?” “OK, Skip.”

Posted at 10:51 AM on Jan 23, 2010 in category Movies - Box Office
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Monday January 11, 2010

The Sky People Are Speaking

The weekend actuals are in and we have a new no. 1 movie of the year! Hauling in $15.1 million, it's..."Daybreakers," the new no. 1 movie of all 2010 releases. Congratulations! Guess you can't keep a bad vampire down.

Oh, and "Avatar" was the no. 1 movie in the country again for the fourth weekend in a row and has now surpassed "Transformers 2" as the highest-grossing domestic release of 2009, while its worldwide box office is at $1.34 billion, no. 2 all-time by a mile. So, yeah, good job there, too, Jimmy C.

I keep wondering when it's going to drop big time but it's got staying power like no movie since... "Titanic." Example: It opened in the mid-$70 million range, which is less than half of "Dark Knight"'s opening weekend, and yet, four weeks later, the domestic totals of the two films are comparable: After 24 days, "Dark Knight" had $441 million, "Avatar" has $430 million. Plus "DK" was coming off a fourth-weekend total of $26 million. And remember: "The Dark Knight" actually had staying power. That's what's amazing about all of this. Cameron's movie has a real shot of beating both "Titanic" records: the $600 million it made domestically and the $1.8 billion it made worldwide. His only competition is himself.

Posted at 04:21 PM on Jan 11, 2010 in category Movies - Box Office
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