erik lundegaard

Why Can't the Times Write about Box Office?

It's been a while since I've ranted about Michael Cieply or Brooks Barnes over at The New York Times, but Barnes' latest, “Even Hits Like 'Kick-Ass' Can Seem Misses at Debut,” pissed me off all over again.

It's not the sentiment behind it: Too much attention is paid to opening weekends. I agree with that. I'd like more attention paid to movies with legs, too.

It's the numbers. They keep fudging the numbers.

Here's the lede:

LOS ANGELES — In early April, as Lionsgate prepared to release “Kick-Ass,” the movie capital buzzed that the film looked to be a smash hit. Lionsgate had acquired it for just $15 million, and surveys that track audience interest projected a $30 million opening weekend.

The movie, directed by Matthew Vaughn, instead opened with $19.8 million, and the chatter, fueled by the blogosphere, abruptly turned negative. Misfire! Bomb! Flop!

As it turns out, “Kick-Ass” is living up to its title. The picture, about a teenager who tries to become a superhero, went on to generate about $97 million in ticket sales and is on track to sell over two million copies on DVD and digital download services.

Nice Hollywood ending for “Kick-Ass.” But like most Hollywood endings, it's false. Or fudged.

The movie opened with $19.8 million domestically. It closed with $97 million worldwide. Its domestic close was $48 million—not even three times its opening weekend. It may be profitable, but that's hardly a movie with legs.

Barnes keeps doing this, too. Here's a graf later in the article:

There are other recent examples of movies that were quickly deemed misses but turned into hits. “Date Night,” the 20th Century Fox comedy starring Steve Carell and Tina Fey, was branded a disappointment when it opened to $25 million. Yet it finally captured over $152 million. “The Last Song” had a $16 million opening in March — lower than expected — but went on to sell $89 million at the global box office for Walt Disney Studios.

“Date Night” opened at $25 million domestically but grossed $152 million worldwide ($98 million domestically). “The Last Song” opened at $16 million domestically and grossed $89 million worldwide ($62.9 million domestically).

It's not just that Barnes isn't comparing the same things. He's not telling his readers that he's not comparing the same things.

And if you're going to do a piece like this, on the long legs of some modern movies, why not focus on the film that has the longest legs this year? “How to Train Your Dragon” opened at $43 million domestically and grossed $217 million domestically, or five times its opening, but that film only gets a graf midway through Barnes' article. Most of the article is about LionsGate's “Kick-Ass,” which didn't even gross three times its opening. Why?

Here are some past arguments I've had with Barnes/Cieply:

I guess the theme snaking through these arguments is that Barnes/Cieply cover the industry for the industry and not for moviegoers. Not sure why you would do that.


Posted at 08:31 AM on Tue. Sep 07, 2010 in category Movies - Box Office  
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