erik lundegaard

Hollywood B.O.: Easter Weekend Helps Resurrect Five Films

There are many reasons why the box office for a movie, in its second, third and fourth weekends, goes against the norm and doesn't drop off more than 30 percent.

It might have opened poorly and doesn't have much to drop off from. It might have opened opposite a blockbuster, “The Dark Knight,” say, so it takes a while for the audience to go, “Oh yeah, that one.” The distributor might have added hundreds of theaters. It could be the weekend after the Oscar noms, or the Oscars themselves, and that generates buzz. There's also positive word-of-mouth. Better movies, one assumes, have longer legs.

But it's rarity when this happens. How rare? Let's start with wide releases, 2,000+ theaters, where, weekend to weekend, no more than 300 theaters were added. That gives us 107 results for this year.

Of those 107, only 23 dropped off less than 30 percent from one weekend to the next. Here they are, sorted chronologically:

2011 movies whose box office dropped less than 30% after opening weekend

A lot of Oscar contenders here (“True Grit,” “Black Swan,” “King's Speech”), where word of mouth was presumably good. A lot of second-rate animated features (“Yogi Bear,” “Gnomeo and Juliet,” “Mars Needs Moms”), which didn't open well and made up for it in subsequent weekends.

But no weekend has more than three such results. This month it's been even rarer: Just three results for the entire month. And two are the same movie (“Insidious”).

But this weekend it happened five times. Five wide-release films dropped off less than 30 percent from the previous weekend.

It wasn't the number one movie, “Rio,” which dropped off 31 percent.

Numbers two and three were new releases: Tyler Perry's latest, which grossed $25.7, and “Water for Elephants,” which grossed $17.5

Number four? Yes. “Hop,” in its fourth weekend, Easter weekend, added 16.8 percent in revenue over last weekend. Easy to see why.

Number five, “Scream 4,” got killed in its second weekend—like most horror movies. It dropped 61.7 percent.

The rest of the movies I'm talking about are numbers seven through 10: “Soul Surfer” (-23%), “Insidious” (-20.2%), “Hanna” (-27.5%) and “Source Code” (-18.5%). One wonders about their staying power.

Is it the Easter weekend? Maybe. Last Easter weekend, though (April 4), every returning movie dropped more than 30 percent, and the year before, in 2009 (April 11), only two movies (“Knowing” and “I Love You, Man”) dropped less than 30 percent.

Is it word of mouth? Possibly. With the exception of “Hop” and “Soul Surfer,” all the movies have fresh Rotten Tomatoes ratings.

Crappy openings? Sure. With the exception of “Hop,” none of these movies opened with more than $15 million.

In the end, I'd say it's a combination of the Easter weekend, which gets people out, some postive word-of-mouth, which gets people remembering, and the fact that nothing exciting opened. A year ago, when every returning movie dropped more than 30  percent, “Clash of Titans” opened with more than $60 million. A year ago, I imagine families flocking to “Titans” without thought. This weekend, I imagine families looking up at the options, crinkling their noses, and going, “Well ... I heard 'Source Code' is supposed to be pretty good...”

The numbers resurrected at Box Office Mojo here.


Posted at 05:06 PM on Sun. Apr 24, 2011 in category Movies - Box Office  
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