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?
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