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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

weekend box office: Will Smith + July 4th still a good bet

For the past two years or so, I’d been covering box office numbers at Film.com. I’m no longer doing that, so I thought I’d see how much interest there may be here, among FlickFilosopher.com readers. I’ll try it out for a few weeks, anyway, and see what kind of response it gets.

I personally abhor the focus on opening-weekend numbers, which has created the blockbuster mentality that Hollywood finds itself locked in at the moment. It means, for the most part, that films are no longer allowed to find an audience: they need to have one right away, and if they don’t, tough noogies on them. It encourages spectacle and a lowest-common-denominator single-mindedness, which can only be a bad thing. That said, because the numbers are a huge factor in what gets made and what gets released when, it’s kinda impossible to ignore them.

So, over the holiday weekend, here’s who earned what:
1. Hancock: $66 million ($107.3 million since opening on Wednesday, July 2)
2. Wall-E: $33.4 million (dropping 47% in its second week)
3. Wanted: $20.6 million (dropping 60% in its second week)
4. Get Smart: $11.1 million
5. Kung Fu Panda: $7.5 million

With Hancock, Smith had his best Fourth of July opening yet, but while that $66 mil is nice, it’s nowhere near the best opening for a superhero movie or the best July opening, and it’s only the third best opening of 2008 so far. Though of course all the numbers can be massaged and interpreted in ways that make the film look better… or worse.

I’m a little surprised that Wall-E didn’t actually do better in its second weekend. These days, a drop of less than 50 percent is considered pretty good — it means not too many people badmouthed the flick after catching it on opening weekend — but I half expected that the film would experience a rare rise in attendance, particularly considering how rapturous the reviews and word-of-mouth has been. Still, it’s sure to be one of the top movies of the year, earningswise, when everything shakes out.

The best per-screen average is on the limited-release side, as is usually the case: The Wackness (which I hope to post a review of soon) earned $24,166 on each of its six screens; compare that to Hancock, which played on many, many more screens but managed a per-screen of $16,645.

[numbers via Box Office Mojo]

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  • MBI

    It may sink a little, but Wall-E is going to have enormous staying power, you watch. The utterly mediocre “Kung Fu Panda” is still holding on at 5; Wall-E’s going to do much better.

  • JoshDM

    I get all my numbers through HSX , the Hollywood Stock Exchange.

    Of course, they’re all speculative. :)

  • I’m a little conflicted as to what I’d like you to do about box office numbers. On the one hand, all the focus on them sucks, for all the reasons you pointed out. On the other hand, I’d be interested to see your commentary on them, and I know you won’t be writing, “ZOMG, this movie only made $165 million it’s opening weekend, what a huge disappointment, Tom Cruise is finished!” Is it adding to the idiotic obsession with opening weekend box office if someone writes an intelligent analysis of the numbers? I’d like to think not.

    As far as Wall-E’s numbers, I have to agree with MBI that it’ll have great staying power. I want to go see it again, but I’m not sure if that’ll happen just because there are so many other movies out or coming out that I want to see. Regardless, I’ll be getting it on DVD. It will be much watched.

  • I wish people wouldn’t look at the dollars, especially in comparing them to past records. I’d rather see number of attendees, as a film could (in theory) earn more than had people watching in comparison to previous years. I’d also love to see per-screen averages, since a good small film will always be trounced by a crappy wide release blockbuster (that gets half of the multiplex’s screens…)

    Then again, I’m in TV these days and I look at the estimated number of viewers (not even the real number of viewers)…

  • Shadowen

    I’m biased, but I personally think that people are waiting for The Dark Knight. The marketing on that thing has been unprecedented–not on a conventional level, but on a viral level. Some theaters are already selling out of tickets. Critics want to have sex with the reels even with the film removed just for a whiff of that Dark-Knight-ness. It’s got Christian Bale (who’s not blazing white hot yet, but is building a slow burn of awesome), Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Heather Ledger’s last performance (which everyone has been saying is worthy of Oscar-winning before the movie’s even released).

    It’s got a motorbike, a tank, guns, and lots of explosions. It’s got Batman, and the Joker, and jumping off high buildings. It is, in short, a perfect storm of box office mojo. If it doesn’t break at least one kind of record, I expect that studios will seriously scale back on viral marketing for a few years.

  • E

    I have to agree on The Dark Knight. I wouldn’t want to be releasing a movie close to it. What I like doing after a movie has been out for awhile, is comparing what it cost to make and what it ended up grossing. I’m not even sure the numbers I look at include marketing, but its amazing how much certain movies have to make to break even.

  • I dislike the focus on box office too — but I’ll freely admit that when a movie I enjoyed does well on opening weekend, I’m overjoyed (and vice-versa). And, of course, watching those awful “Movie” movies earn all that money is hard to stomach.

    I don’t agree that filmgoers are ‘waiting’ for The Dark Knight, and this is one of the key reasons box office is such a downer at times: folks can go see more than one movie in a weekend if they want. Or they can go to a Tuesday matinee. I hate that films have to compete with one another for those Weekend Dollars. It’s like how NBC is always putting its best shows up against CSI on Thursday nights.

    Really, why don’t people go to movies in the middle of the week? It’s totally the best time. NO KIDS!

  • The Gaucho

    MaryAnn, please, use your time to write intelligent and witty stuff about movies, not about money. I understand that money is a very important part of the movie industry, but in the end the result of all the spending is what counts. “Has the pile of dollars bought us a good movie that will pay back what we have spent and lets us earn a little something in the process?” should be the question, not “We have made a crappy 150 mil movie so we want to earn at least double on the first day and if that doesn’t happen then we’ll make even crappier movies”, which seems to be the mentality that runs Hollywood today. (Bit of a long sentence, that…)

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