question of the day: What was it like at the movies this busiest-weekend-ever?

Did you go to the movies in North America this weekend? Chances are you did, because this was the busiest weekend ever at multiplexes in the United States and Canada, at least since detailed records on ticket sales began to be kept in 1985, according to the Los Angeles Times blog Company Town.
The final numbers won’t be in till later today, so the picture could get even rosier, but it’s looking like Friday through Sunday was the money-making-est three-day weekend ever, taking in a total of $278 million — including three films earning more than $50 million each: Avatar, Sherlock Holmes, and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, though Alvin is just a smidge over $50 million, and could drop below when actuals come in. If the actuals keep Alvin over $50 million, it would be the first weekend ever in which three films did so well.

I’ll get into the nitty-gritty details after the actual numbers come in, but for now, this question: What was it like at the movies this busiest-weekend-ever? Did it feel more crowded than usual? Was it more difficult to get tickets than you expected? Would you have guessed, before you heard, that this was the busiest movie weekend ever?

(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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Mon, Dec 28, 2009 10:52am

I went to see AVATAR (mediocre film, extraordinary 3D that made it all worthwhile*). I almost went to see SHERLOCK HOLMES, but in the end just couldn’t be bothered, although the generally positive reviews were a welcome surprise. I was bracing myself for a stinker, but most people I know say it ain’t half bad.

* Indeed, Cameron’s 3D plan worked. I’m now a little upset that 3D technology wasn’t in wider use when Lord Of The Rings and suchlike were on general release. I reckon the next decade will see a deluge of 3D re-releases to cash-in on the Avatar buzz.

Mon, Dec 28, 2009 10:57am

It was busy at the Sherlock Holmes movie when I went with my parents to see it Friday early afternoon. The theater (AMC Woodlands Square 20) has terrible parking – they built it at one end of a cramped shopping mall, and half the stores that try to survive there can’t compete and they move out, defeating the whole idea of the thing, why can’t they just bulldoze down the stores alongside the theaters to make more parking spots but nooooo they won’t, ahem sorry – already had most of the parking spots filled by noontime, about as bad as a weekend evening.

Sad story, but North Pinellas used to have so many different locales for movie-going, but now it’s down to two spots – the no-parking megacomplex in East Lake/Oldsmar, and the no-stadium-seats 10fer in Palm Harbor – and you’d think with the population there’d be another multi-theater in Clearwater/Dunedin but there’s not, your next options are Citrus Park (too far) or Largo (too old). Sigh.

Mon, Dec 28, 2009 11:33am

I got the tickets for Sherlock for the group I was going with through Fandango. We went Saturday night. We had an idea it would be crowded even if we had the tickets so we planned to get to the theater about 45 minutes early. When we go to our local mall multiplex there was no parking except about a mile away.Sigh. Once inside the theater it was insane. The line for Sherlock was already huge. There were also lines for Avatar so there were huge lines on boths sides of the aisle you walk down to get into the screens. The theater staff had to keep telling people to stand closer to the wall so people could walk down the middle. Getting popcorn was a nightmare. Huge lines. Once inside the theater we got good seats but I cannot believe the people who showed up late and expected to get in.HAH. So I must say I have never seen a theater this packed. Never. Amazing. Seeing the lines for Sherlock and Avatar, I think half of my town was in this theater Saturday night. By the way…. we all loved Sherlock. Plan to see it again next weekend. Totally fun entertaining movie right down to the very cool end credits. And I could not get the music out of my head. What a wonderful score. Ordered it off Amazon last night. Bring on the sequel. And could you start a topic about who would make a good Moriarty? My group discussed it that night afterwards. Names popping up were Russell Crowe and Gerard Butler. Any ideas anyone?

Mon, Dec 28, 2009 3:20pm

I and four others went to see Sherlock Holmes in downtown Seattle on Saturday. The showing we wanted to see was sold out; so was the nearest Avatar showing at a different theater. We ended up buying tickets two hours in advance for a later Sherlock Holmes showing; it was also (so I would guess) sold out — and, inexplicably, in one of the cineplex’s tiniest theaters, which was disappointing.

So, yes — downtown was busy in general and theaters seemed very busy in particular.

Mon, Dec 28, 2009 3:29pm

We tried to just walk up and get tickets for Sherlock Holmes and then Avatar in the middle of the afternoon on Saturday. Both next showings were sold out so we got tickets to Sherlock Holmes two hours ahead of an early evening showing.

We then had an hour and a half to spend at the bar next door and then a half hour before the show we got there as they were letting in the line. It was standing room only, and there was a couple actually standing in the back when the movie started.

Very fun stuff. I plan on seeing at least one more movie before the end of the year. I wonder if it’ll be busy all week.

Mon, Dec 28, 2009 5:20pm

Once again I’m so very happy that I live in a small town! We didn’t have to deal with hour-long waits and standing-room-only when we went to see Sherlock Holmes on Saturday afternoon. Got there 20 minutes early, had a slightly longer than usual wait for tickets and popcorn but had no trouble finding decent seats. The theater was crowded but not packed, we still had empty seats on either side of us when the film started. Loved the movie!

Mon, Dec 28, 2009 5:38pm

We wanted to see Up in the Air, but decided not to when we saw the movie theater parking lot had an inordinate amount of cars in it. I thought it seemed rather odd that it was so crowded, considering the weather was so bad the day we went (we ended up getting 11 inches of snow). I figured the majority of people were probably seeing Avatar and Sherlock Holmes, but was afraid Up in the Air was probably pretty full as well. I’m sorry, but sitting in an overcrowded movie theater sounds like a risky endeavor…the more people in the theater, the higher the risk of getting THOSE people who enjoy text messaging during the film.

bats :[
bats :[
Mon, Dec 28, 2009 10:22pm

We had tickets for the first showing of Sherlock Holmes on Christmas Day at the 18-plex closest to our house — lots of parking in an otherwise moribund mall. We got our choice of seats 30 minutes before the start time, and the theater suddenly packed about 15 minutes later. It was an amazingly well-behaved crowd (no cell phones, no screaming babies, and surprisingly, very little coughing — I think people are taking it to heart that if you’re sick, stay home!).

Saturday (and Friday) nights our local arthouse showed “Die Hard” — only about 40 people in a 500-seat theater, but it was a BIG screen for BIG explosions! Yipee kay-yay — this was the first time I’d seen it! And we had free tickets! Merry Merry!

Mon, Dec 28, 2009 11:15pm

Avatar at a 3:45PM screening. I also saw it opening weekend with the kids. Busy and crowded, online tickets a must.

My wife changed her mind and wanted to see it today. Surprisingly just as crowded and busy on a Monday afternoon as it was on opening weekend.