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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Is there ever a good reason to open a movie on any day other than Friday?

Last week the Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz action comedy Knight and Day opened on a Wednesday, ostensibly to avoid the Friday opening, two days later, of the Adam Sandler “family” comedy Grown Ups. It looks — to my eyes, having seen both films as well as examined the marketing of them — as if the two movies were aimed at very different audiences and were unlikely to direct compete for the same eyeballs, so perhaps something else was at work in the move to Wednesday for Knight and Day… perhaps a way to artificially boost the box office numbers for “opening weekend” by extending the weekend by a few days. It didn’t work: Between its Wednesday opening and Sunday, K&D took in a little under $28 million, and around $20.5 million for the Friday-through-Sunday period. Grown Ups, with only Friday through Sunday to work with, earned about $41 million.

Both films were thoroughly trashed by Toy Story 3, which stayed at the top of the box office in North America over its second weekend with takings of about $59 million. (Numbers are estimates at this point, but won’t change enough to rattle the rankings or close up the huge gulfs in popularity among the three films.)
This week, we have the latest installment of the Twilight saga, Eclipse, opening on Wednesday. And M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender, based on the cartoon series Avatar: The Last Airbender, opening on Thursday. These non-Friday openings appear to make a bit more sense, since in the U.S. this coming Sunday is the Fourth of July, making this one of the really major holiday weekends, which actually gets extended for an extra day since Monday, July 5th, is the legal holiday. So Eclipse will have a six-day “opening weekend.”

And that’s really what non-Friday openings are all about: fluffing the numbers. So why not open Eclipse tomorrow, and give it a full week-long “opening weekend”? Whoops: actually, that sorta is what’s happening, since midnight screenings begin Wednesday at 12:01am, which is, to everyone outside of Hollywood, still Tuesday night. And that works just fine, at least as far as putting butts in seats, because its intended audience is teenaged: that is, they’re out of school now, with plenty of free time to fill even on weekdays. But the swooning teenaged girls would continue to do that in the weeks after Eclipse opened, if it opened on a Friday.

On the other hand, Knight and Day, apparently aimed at adults, was unlikely to benefit from a Wednesday opening, because it seems to me that most adults are not going to go out for an evening’s entertainment when they’ve got to get up and get to work the next morning. And it seems likely that Toy Story 3 would have been an enormous draw no matter what day of the week it opened, and yet it made sense to stick to a weekend because it would appeal in large part to families with kids.

Oh, and there’s this: Films frequently open in the U.K. on a Wednesday or Thursday for “previews,” which sounds to me like a limited sort of opening (evening showings only, perhaps), not a wide general release. (Can someone in the U.K. clarify that for me?) Those numbers are used to boost box office takings, too.

So, the question is, apart from Hollywood accounting shenanigans: Is there ever a good reason to open a movie on any day other than Friday?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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  • Nate

    In the case of [i]The Sorcerer’s Apprentice[/i], opening on July 14, Disney obviously thinks there’s some overlap between their audience and [i]Inception[/]’s, so they want to collect as much as they can before Inception steals a big chunk of its audience.

    I really don’t think the accounting shenanigans mean much as most publications just go off the Friday-Sunday numbers, anyway. So usually movies open on different dates to avoid competition with other movies that may attract some of their target demographic (teens, usually).

  • Nate

    Oh, crap. I’m used to forum tags. Repost:

    In the case of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, opening on July 14, Disney obviously thinks there’s some overlap between their audience and Inception‘s, so they want to collect as much as they can before Inception steals a big chunk of its audience.

    I really don’t think the accounting shenanigans mean much as most publications just go off the Friday-Sunday numbers, anyway. So usually movies open on different dates to avoid competition with other movies that may attract some of their target demographic (teens, usually).

  • One of these days we’ll open a movie on a Sunday and claim it for the whole following week and weekend. Or invert time altogether. Just to get those precious Opening Weekend BO counts.

    /facepalm

    This is like states fighting over who gets to host the Presidential primaries first every four years. It gets sick pretty quick.

  • bats :[

    Why was there a shift — does anyone know?

    When I was a kid (I’m 52, so do the math), I distinctly remember all movies opening on Wednesday.
    Of course, there were a LOT fewer movies being released then, the chances of a double-feature were good, more than one screen in a theater was unimaginable, and commercials for a new feature were often accompanied by a local announcer in the background usually saying something like, “One day only in Eloy! Two days in Casa Grande! One day only in Coolidge!”

  • Matt C

    I agree with you on “fluffing” the numbers. However, some studios just want to get their product out before the weekend — “The Last Song” opened on Wednesday, March 31st just to get more revenue before the “Clash” remake dominated. Same thing with “Superman Returns” — it wanted to get a 5 day jump on “Dead Man’s Chest”.

    I think only three movies benefited from Wednesday releases — “Harry Potter 5” (July 13, 2007), “Transformers 2” (June 24, 2009) and “Harry Potter 6” (July 15, 2009). I think Warners pushed the release date up 2 days for the latter to placate some of the fans’ anger for pushing the date back from the original November 2008 date.

  • Chris

    In NZ movies always open on a Thursday. It seems to me that the main reason for this was that it separated the movie obsessives (who must see it on opening night) from the Friday night casual crowd (who might decide on a whim) ensuring larger takings all round and less disappointment overall (due to sold out theatres).

  • Lisa

    In Northern Ireland, that sometimes happens. I can’t speak for the UK but sometimes we have films that open here on the Saturday, Sunday or Thursday (rarely on Wednesdays, movies like the Matrix ones, LOTR) before but only for a few shows and only on those days and sometimes not all of those days. I don’t know if that’s counted in the weekend gross or kept for the following weekend.

    Remember when Serenity opened and had all those early screenings? They were then added to its first weekend gross.

    I think it’s probably an advantage if you have a lot of big blockbusters opening in a small period of time.

  • Jim Mann

    Movies used to always open on Wednesday, and I wish they’d go back to doing so. They did so when I was a kid, and one thing I liked about it is that the real movie fans could go see a big movie on Wednesday night. On Wednesday, the audience was smaller and dominated by those who really wanted to see the movie (vs. Friday when a lot of the audience is the “date” audience, of folks going out for the sake of going out, not because they really were big movie fans).

    Jim

  • RogerBW

    Last time I checked, “previews” here in the UK meant “limited to as many tickets as we can sell”, same as any other night. The false sense of exclusivity is a way to drag in people who might otherwise wait until the crowded day (much as Chris describes for NZ). Most cinemas are very keen to spread their customer base over as many days as possible (they have to pay their staff even if nobody turns up).

    But I think MaryAnn has it right in the post: all of this, including the convention of a Friday opening, is caused by the obsession with first-weekend figures as the principal determinant of a film’s success.

  • David Conner

    Apparently (according to an article on this movie’s anniversary that I recently read) the whole notion of the Friday opening didn’t really take hold until Jaws. Hollywood had been collectively just releasing movies on whatever weekday, then suddenly collectively realized “Friday, huh. Dang, seems like we should’ve started doing this years ago, doesn’t it?”

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