erik lundegaard

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Thursday May 14, 2009

Your 2008 Box Office Quiz—The Answers: Or how "Mamma Mia!" Beat "Dark Knight"

Let's get right to it...

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?
The correct answer is A: “Rome & Jewel.” It was distributed by Emerging Pictures, played in one theater for one week, and made $470. “The Rise and Fall of Miss Thang” was a few down the line; it made $581. “OSS 117,” by the way, is a very funny takeoff on the early James Bond films and worth renting. Netflix it. The sequel is already in French theaters.

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.
The correct answer is C: “Meet Dave,” starring Eddie Murphy, and distributed by Fox. “Dave” opened the weekend of July 11th in 3,011 theaters and made just $5 million ($1,744 average), then went downhill from there. On the plus side, it brought in $38 million internationally.

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)?
The correct answer is D: Fox. It opened 11 films superwide and only two (“Horton Hears a Who” and “Marley & Me”) made over $100 million. Here’s the rest of what they piled on our plates:

1. “What Happens in Vegas”: $80m
2. “Jumper”: $80m
3. “The Day the Earth Stood Still”: $79m
4. “27 Dresses”: $76m
5. “Nim’s Island”: $48m
6. “Max Payne”: $40m
7. “Babylon A.D.”: $22m
8. “The X-Files: I Want to Believe”: $20m
9. “Meet Dave”: $11m

Coincidentally or not, all nine films had “rotten” Rotten Tomatoes ratings. Which is not to imply that people necessarily read RT or movie critics. Just that word gets around.

Of the other major distributors, Warner Bros. went 2 for 7, Paramount 2 for 6, Universal 3 for 5, and both Sony and Buena Vista 4 for 6.

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?  
The correct answer is D: 0. Here are the culprits:

43. “Speed Racer”—WB—$43m—30%
44. “Max Payne”—Fox—$40m—9%
45. “Righteous Kill”—Over.—$40m—12%
46. “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”—WB—$35m—8%
47. “Semi-Pro”—NL—$33m—27%
48. “Drillbit Taylor”—Par.—$32m—25%
49. “The Love Guru”—Par.—$32m—6%
50. “Babylon A.D.”—Fox—$22m—0%
51. “The X-Files: I Want to Believe”—Fox—$20m—26%
52. “Meet Dave”—Fox—$11m—29%

Again, this is not to imply that people read RT or movie critics. Just that word gets around.

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.
The correct answer is A: “Proud American,” a patriotic documentary/drama, written and directed by first-timer Fred Ashman, that was plopped into 750 theaters by Slowhand Cinema last September—just in time for Lehman Bros. On the Friday it opened it averaged $45 per theater, then went up to $60 on Saturday, then down to $23 on Sunday. That’s 23 bucks for the entire day. How many people is that—three? Five at the most? And not per showing. For the entire day. Think about this the next time Michael Medved starts yakkin’ about how Hollywood doesn’t make the kinds of patriotic films Americans want to see.

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)?
The correct answer is: D: “Mamma Mia!” While “Indiana Jones” made the most money overseas ($469 million), followed closely by “The Dark Knight” ($468m), “Mamma Mia!” wasn’t far behind at no. 3: $458m. It was also the No. 1 movie in more countries (11) than any other 2008 film:

1. Austria ($7 million)
2. Greece ($7 million)
3. Hungary ($4.7 million)
4. Iceland ($1 million)
5. Netherlands ($9.8 million)
6. New Zealand ($5 million)
7. Norway ($16.7 million)
8. Portugal ($5 million)
9. Slovenia ($.8 million)
10. Sweden ($25 million)
11. United Kingdom ($132 million)

“Dark Knight” was the No. 1 movie in eight countries (Australia, Brazil, Mexico, Hong Kong, UAE, Egypt, Bolivia and Lebanon), “Madagascar 2” in five (Germany, Russia, Switzerland, Venezuela and Lithuania), “Quantum of Solace” in three (Finland, Nigeria and East Africa), and “Indiana Jones” in only two (Spain and Bulgaria),

7. In which of the following countries was “Sex and the City” the No. 1 movie of the year?
The answer is A: Croatia and Estonia. Insert your own joke here. I got nothing.

8. While we’re on international box office, which of the following films was not among the top five films in Egypt last year?
The correct answer is: B: “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” which finished in 10th place. Which means, yes, “Body of Lies,” the Leonardo DiCaprio/Russell Crowe thriller about CIA activities in the Middle East that died in the U.S. (winding up 72nd for the year), finished, in Egypt, in 5th place for the year.

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?
The answer is D: $193 million, obliteraring all comers, and becoming, I believe, the highest-grossing film in French history. But its humor hasn’t traveled well. In this way it’s similar to “Les Visiteurs” in 1993, also a top grosser, whose humor also didn’t travel much beyond Belgium.

10. Box Office Mojo lists 932 total films in its overseas total. Which film, ironically, wound up in 932nd place?
The correct answer is A: the ironically titled “Gunnin’ for That #1 Spot,” a documentary about high school basketball players, which made just 146 bucks overseas. “I.O.U.S.A,” a chilling, worthwhile doc about national debt (and produced and distributed even before Lehman Bros, bailouts, et al.), had the second-lowest total: only 299 bucks. Yes, also ironic.

Apologies, again, for the difficulty of the questions but some of this stuff I found fascinating, particularly the superwides, "Proud American," and the international reign of "Mamma Mia!"

Posted at 08:25 AM on May 14, 2009 in category Movies - Box Office
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Wednesday 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”
D. “Frost/Nixon”

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?  
A. 10
B. 7
C. 1
D. 0

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”
D. “Frost/Nixon”

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”
C. “Hancock”
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?
A. $60.1m
B. $71m
C. $82m
D. $193m

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”
B. “I.O.U.S.A”
C. “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan”
D. “Frost/Nixon”

Feel free to post your guesses in the comment field. I’ll post answers later in the week.

ADDENDUM: ANSWERS

Posted at 08:30 AM on May 13, 2009 in category Movies - Box Office
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Tuesday May 12, 2009

-69%

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%
2.
 Doom
 -72.7%
3.
 Hellboy II
 -70.7%
4. Eragon
 -69.9%
5.
 Hulk (2003)
 -69.7%
6.
 Elektra
 -69%
6.
 Wolverine
 -69%

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.
Posted at 10:17 AM on May 12, 2009 in category Movies - Box Office
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Monday May 04, 2009

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?

Posted at 09:18 AM on May 04, 2009 in category Movies - Box Office
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Wednesday April 22, 2009

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%
13.
 Hitman Fox $39M 2,468 15%
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.”

Posted at 11:27 AM on Apr 22, 2009 in category Movies - Box Office
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