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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Number Crunch: 'The Dark Knight Rises' Above the Numbers

My latest edition of Number Crunch, via Boxoffice.com:

Please read the full column here: http://www.boxoffice.com/articles/2012-07-number-crunch-beyond-the-dark-knight-rises-numbers
"Welcome to a world without rules." read the tagline on the poster of 2008's The Dark Knight. It may just as well have read "Welcome to a movie series without rules."

This column usually delves into the study of theatrical profitability. But these aren't "usual" times. And as the country begins to pick up the pieces left behind from last week's tragic events in Aurora, Colorado, the once palpable and near-deafening buzz of The Dark Knight Riseshas understandably been softened to a murmur.

As they say, the show must go on. Given the appropriate time to grieve, it is perhaps just as important to honor the victims by moving forward and not letting the actions of one selfish individual negatively impact any more lives than he already has.

With that being said, it's not a transition that happens overnight.  But we'll do our best...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Number Crunch: Ice Age vs. Shrek


Here's something hard to believe: despite Hollywood's love for cash cows with family appeal, until 2010 no animated series ever stayed on the big screen for more than three installments. The one who broke that new ground was the big green ogre himself in Shrek Forever Afterthe self-proclaimed "final chapter" of Dreamworks' seminal nine-year series.

This summer, however, Fox joins the ogre's ranks with the release of their fourth installment in the Ice Age franchise. Despite being a huge moneymaker, the series has flown under the radar. Fox isn't really known for its animation department (a stark contrast to Dreamworks, one of the two top dogs in the genre), and Ice Age itself has never found the same critical acclaim showered over the first two Shrek films and the Toy Story series. It doesn't even have that older fan base who gravitates toward Pixar.

Nevertheless, after a very successful first film in 2002 and even more successful sequel four years later, Ice Age stands as one of Hollywood's most lucrative franchises—and not just in the animation genre, but in all genres. The real question is: does it deserve as much credit as theShrek series for its financial success? Let's take a look...

http://www.boxoffice.com/articles/2012-07-number-crunch-the-ice-age-series-vs-shrek

Monday, July 9, 2012

Number Crunch: What's the Most Profitable Reboot? (via Boxoffice)


Before 2005, the "reboot" was unfamiliar to the film industry. A little film called Batman Begins changed that. Director Christopher Nolan and Warner Bros. took a huge risk in re-imagining the Batman franchise by wiping the entire slate clean: new cast, new director, new story, new vision. And thus, a trend began.

This week, we'll look at the franchises that have tried to follow in Nolan's successful footsteps. The definition of a "reboot" can vary depending on the context and whom you ask. Is a reboot always a prequel? Not necessarily. The re-telling of Peter Parker's origins in The Amazing Spider-Man has made sure of that latest asterisk-led description.

http://www.boxoffice.com/articles/2012-07-number-crunch-measuring-hollywoods-reboot-trend

Weekend Estimates Analysis (via Boxoffice): 'The Amazing Spider-Man' Spins #1 Debut

http://www.boxoffice.com/daily_analyses/2012-07-the-amazing-spider-man-spins-1-debut
The Amazing Spider-Man spun an estimated $65 million over the three-day weekend.  That puts the reboot's total at an estimated $140 million after six days in release.  44% of the weekend gross came from 3D venues, including 10% from IMAX.  If the three-day estimate holds it will give the film the fourth highest Independence Day weekend opening behindTransformers: Dark of the Moon's $97.9 million, Spider-Man 2's $88.2 million and the first Transformers' $70.5 million (the latter being the most relevant due to the calendar falling on the same dates in 2007). 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Spidey Fan's Retraction...

No secret: I've been very bearish on the prospects of The Amazing Spider-Man over the past few months, slowly decreasing my expectations for the film on both a level of quality and box office earnings.  With that said, my feelings on each:

The movie: Solid.  I can't say that I enjoyed the film more than Raimi's first two entries in 2002 and 2004, but the at-times-awful marketing campaign of TASM was indeed hiding something of actual substance.  Does it feel like a retread at times?  Definitely.  But does it do the job of re-establishing a universe with all new faces and a slightly different spin on the fate of Peter Parker? Generally, yes.  The film is not without its visual flaws (particularly some of the action sequences and CG), but the cast is nothing short of outstanding.  Garfield, Stone, Sheen, Leary, and Field all provide excellent character moments on par with some the best moments of Raimi's film.  Granted, the cast is not what I was ever worried about -- but the script certainly gave them something to work with.  At the end of the day I can say that I'll probably see this again in theaters, that I'm curious to see where they take the sequels, and that as a  Spider-Man fan -- I left entertained.  The franchise still needs work (a more "cinematic" vision being a key necessity in the next sequel), but this is the film I *wanted* to see in 2007.  Kudos for that, Sony and co.  But there's still some work to do.

Box office: With an estimated $35 million opening day, its clear that the Spider-Man brand is still relatively bulletproof. Its anyone's guess as to where the film winds up (as a reboot to a modern franchise, we're still in somewhat new territory here), but if it follows the pace of 2007's Transformers (which opened the Tuesday before Independence Day), it has a legitimate shot at $275-300 million -- pending word of mouth.  I maintain that the film has some quiet moments that make it a little less kid-friendly than first three films or something like The Avengers, as well as the fact that The Dark Knight Rises will immediately cut off adult interest in the film two weeks from now, but the fact remains that the reviews are decent and audiences are generally enjoying the film on some level.

Win some, lose some.  Its nice to be wrong about things sometimes because that's how I find the best lessons are learned.  I bought into some of the pre-release negative buzz on the film and -- in some ways -- began to judge it based solely on what I still feel was an incredibly flawed marketing campaign.  I'm happy to say, as a fan of the character, that a lot of that negative buzz was bull$#@!.  It happens to us all, and I'm glad that a lot of it proved to be (in my opinion) untrue -- or at least "misleading".

I won't defend the flaws of the film, and I won't defend the hit-and-miss marketing campaign.  But this opening day is a testament to the power of the character.  Even when considering that it has inflation, 3D, and IMAX prices on its side, its still a reboot of a well-established franchise that only left the big screen five years ago -- with a poorly received film, at that.  It featured new faces and, above all, it attempted to convince us that we as audiences should see a remake of a great movie that's only ten years old.  Mission: successful.  It may not be a superior film from my point of view, and I may still wish that Marvel had full control of the Spider-Man film franchise, but The Amazing Spider-Man turned out to be something that I can only say about two or three other movies this summer: it was worth the price of admission.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Box Office Preview: 'Magic Mike' & 'Ted' Could Relieve Summer Box Office Doldrums

Brief thoughts for the weekend as I try to come out of this June slump I've sunk into after a much more successful May prediction season:

Magic Mike's buzz has been reaching mini-event levels among women over the past week or so and the respectable reviews could work in its favor as the film positions itself to be the first bona fide "date night" movie of the summer for some couples.

The film's real strength comes from its female appeal though, and like last year's Bridesmaids the marketing campaign has done a great job of going after that audience.  Pre-sales account for over 60% Fandango's business on Thursday and Flixster has a solid 25,000+ "want to see" voter count.  Even though I said this last week too, I fully expect tracking to be way off on this one (MTC predicted $19 million versus RS's "mid-teens").

Frankly, in what's become "the year of Channing Tatum", I'm finding it harder and harder to not predict a #1 opening for the flick.  Tatum co-starred with Jonah Hill in the R-rated 21 Jump Street (which opened to $36.3 million in March) while he led The Vow to a huge $41.2 million opening the month before that.

It really needs to fire on all cylinders, but I wouldn't rule out the outside possibility of Mike upsetting Brave (which looks to drop to around $36.5 million) for the #1 spot this weekend.  The film that might prevent that from happening, however, is...

Ted.  It boasts some impressive buzz on its own and though it may struggle to reach some of the male crowd that gets dragged to Mike, those that don't will almost certainly show up for this.  Despite the fact that Flixster currently stands at an incredible 96% with 46,000+ votes -- and that tracking projected at least a "high $20 millions" opening -- I'm concerned about the R-rating and the crossover competition from Mike.  Last year's Horrible Bosses opened to $28.3 million and had far less competition opening against it.  That R-rated comedy may have also had slightly wider appeal with more recognizable faces/names and less "stoner"-centric plot device that Ted carries with it.

I'm staying on the conservative end for Ted, but word of mouth could certainly carry it to great heights over the next few weeks.

Lastly, I suspect that the law of diminishing returns will finally kick in for Tyler Perry's Madea series.  The latest entry is the first to open in summer and will have to fight tooth and nail to retain some of its usual opening weekend audience thanks to the incredible buzz of Magic Mike among women of all demographics.

Overall, the top 12 could reach $155-160+ million this weekend if Mike and Ted do their job in helping to revive the summer box office market (outside of kiddie flicks).

Openers' numbers below:

Magic Mike - $36 million
Ted - $23.5 million
Madea's Witness Protection - $16.0 million
People Like Us - $3.5 million

Monday, June 25, 2012

Number Crunch: Pixar Perfect? (via BOXOFFICE.com)

Too often here on Number Crunch, we cover films that are the victims of the dark side of Hollywood ambition. Translation: we've uncovered a lot of financial flops even among the industry's so-called reliable stars. But there is at least one creative team with an immaculate box office record: Pixar.

Visit the link below for the latest edition of my Number Crunch column, courtesy of Boxoffice.com:

http://www.boxofficemagazine.com/articles/2012-06-number-crunch-pixar-draft

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Box Office Preview: 'Brave' Takes On 'Vampire Hunter' and Steve Carell

This weekend's headlining new release comes in the form of Brave, Pixar's first original film in three years.  Despite solid tracking data across Flixster (boasting almost 18,000 more votes than Madagascar 3 had two weeks ago) and MTC/RS, I can't help but get the feeling that the film hasn't quite attained the "must see opening weekend" factor that films such as WALL-E and Up did in 2008 and 2009 (which opened to $63.1 million and $68.1 million, respectively -- the latter with 3D in hand).

I'm also coupling that feeling with the fact that Madagascar 3 beat Pixar to the punch this summer as the first computer animated movie of the season, potentially satiating some of that high demand for families to find something to take the kids too.  That hasn't usually affected Pixar in the past, but given the seemingly more mature nature of Brave and the poor word of mouth among adults for last year's Cars 2 there could be some slight spillover effect.  We no longer live in a time where every CG animation is an event movie.

In fact, I'm reminded of the 2010 DreamWorks hit How to Train Your Dragon and Pixar's own 2007 summer entry Ratatouille.  The latter film struggled to appeal to kiddies (compared to most other Pixar films) up front and ultimately resulted in one of the lowest opening weekends ($47 million) of the studio's storied history.  Dragon, meanwhile, shares a similar Celtic theme to Brave and similarly disappointed some in the industry with its $43.7 million opening at the time.  To both films' credits, reviews and word of mouth excelled and made the "low" openings a distant memory after each found enough staying power to cross the $200 million threshold. (So far, Brave's reviews are good but not near as strong as either of those flicks.)

Going somewhat against the grain, that's what my gut is telling me will be the case with Brave: a soft-but-generally solid opening weekend followed by typical Pixar summer legs (Cars 2 notwithstanding) that push it north of the $200 million mark.  I wouldn't be shocked if it misses $50 million altogether this weekend, but I'm betting on the 3D bump to get it over the hump.

As for the other two new releases: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter might be able to pull in some of the niche fanboy crowd that turned Kick-Ass into a modest hit two years ago, but the R-rating will keep away the younger audience that the film is really appealing to.  Its hard to imagine many adults finding interest in the concept and 3D serves to only turn them away even more.  This is a summer where only the sure-things are succeeding, and on paper, this one already sounded like another Jonah Hex in the making.  Once again, I'm not betting on tracking's suggestion of a $20+ million opening.  Instead, I'm looking at the $15 million opening of last year's Priest as a more accurate barometer.  I wouldn't rule out Fright Night (2011)'s disastrous $7.7 million debut either.

Last up is the latest small platform Steve Carell dramedy Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.  Last summer's Crazy, Stupid, Love. opened to $19.1 million and tallied about 16,000 votes on Flixster before release while 2007's Dan In Real Life opened to $11.8 million.  The marketing campaign hasn't been very predominant but Carell packs enough drawing with young and older adults to entice those who are bored with their other choices at cinemas right now.  Playing at only 1,618 venues this weekend will cap its potential though, so reaching double-digit millions is probably a best case scenario.  In typical Carell fashion, though, the film has a decent shot at long play-ability in the weeks ahead.

1. Brave - $52.5 million (NEW)
2. Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted - $18.9 million (-44.5%)
3. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - $11.6 million (NEW)
4. Prometheus - $9.9 million (-52.2%)
5. Rock of Ages - $9.3 million (-35.6%)
6. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World - $9.2 million (NEW)
7. Snow White and the Huntsman - $6.7 million (-49.5%)
8. Marvel's The Avengers - $5.9 million (-33.7%)
9. Men In Black 3 - $5.8 million (-42.3%)
10. That's My Boy - $5.3 million (-60.6%) 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Box Office Preview: Will 'Rock of Ages' Upset Sandler's 'That's My Boy'?

Brief thoughts for the weekend:

Rock of Ages and That's My Boy both saw modest increases in Flixster activity throughout the week, although its a bit more impressive for Rock considering Sandler's fan base is likely driving the latter.  Poor reviews, poor marketing, and Sandler's declining quality in recent years -- particularly with Jack and Jill -- are going to finally catch up with him this time, I feel.  The R rating should seal the deal.  Little Nicky opened to $16.1 million in November of 2000.  Adjusted for inflation, that equals about $23.6 million with today's prices.  I expect TMB to land around that figure, if not a little lower.

Meanwhile, the aforementioned Rock of Ages could be a dark horse contender for #1 this weekend.  Up until recently I would have definitely given the win, but Father's Day will certainly boost Madagascar 3's internal weekend hold (and word of mouth appears to fairly solid for the only true family flick in the market).

That's certainly not the end of the story for Rock, though: if Hairspray and Mamma Mia! are any indication, Rock should enjoy a long and healthy run at the box office this summer provided audiences buy into the 80s nostalgia (which can be hit and miss at the box office).  Those films opened to $27.5 million and $27.8 million, respectively... a range that Rock of Ages is likely to hit.  Marketing has been stellar and this could appeal to the average guy slightly more than most musicals would thanks to an all-star cast and the more gender-neutral musical line-up.

Fandango sales have also been impressive for the film as it leads all current releases outside of Madagascar 3 with 11% of sales (and That's My Boy is nowhere to be found).  I may still be more optimistic than I should be, but I'm betting Rock of Ages becomes a top choice for a date movie over the weekend and finds enough of an audience to reach or exceed $30 million.

Lastly, based on past performances by films like Star Trek and Iron Man, I'm expecting Marvel's The Avengers to get a huge boost from Father's Day.  One may look at Iron Man or Thor as indications that this near-flat hold isn't likely, but those films also faced direct competition from new releases The Incredible Hulk in 2008 and Green Lantern in 2011 on Father's Day weekend.  Avengers faces nothing like that and on the heels of its incredible word of mouth and staying power thus far, a drop in line with Star Trek (which actually increased by 1.0% on Father's Day weekend on 2009) seems a bit more likely.

1. Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted - $34.0 million (-43.6%)
2. Rock of Ages - $31.0 million (NEW)
3. That's My Boy - $23.0 million (NEW)
4. Prometheus - $22.3 million (-56.3%)
5. Snow White and the Huntsman - $11.0 million (-52.3%)
6. Men In Black 3 - $10.9 million (-21.6%)
7. Marvel's The Avengers - $10.4 million (-7.5%)
8. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - $2.7 million (-17.4%)
9. Moonrise Kingdom - $1.8 million (+15.4%)
10. What to Expect When You're Expecting - $1.4 million (-49.8%)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Box Office Preview: 'Prometheus' vs. 'Madagascar 3'

My apologies in advance as my analysis this week is a bit on-the-fly so I can get it posted before Friday...

The online buzz for Prometheus has been palpable for months, and even though I'm nervous that it could end up under-performing on opening weekend similar to Super 8 last year, I'm putting some faith in what will inevitably be a large turnout by Scott and Alien fans on Friday.  How the film holds after that, though...well, I'm not nearly as optimistic as I was at the start of summer.

Flixster activity hasn't updated for Prometheus in a couple of days, so its useless at this point.  As for Madagascar 3 though, its sitting around a 93% "want to see" score with over 32,784 votes.  By comparison, Kung Fu Panda 2 clocked in with a 91% score across 35,000+ votes entering its Memorial Day weekend release last year.

I'm figuring that Madagascar 3 does have a considerable advantage in the fact that the family market has been relatively starved so far this summer.  Being the first animated film of the lucrative season should help it attract some last minute family attention, but the poor legs of the second film cannot be ignored.

Animated franchises tend to drop off just as easily (and sometimes more easily) than live-action series.  If Panda 2 couldn't muster than $40 million over its 3-day weekend last year -- when following a very well-received predecessor coupled with a busy holiday theater-going crowd -- I think that counts strongly against Madagascar 3 in this case with less incoming goodwill and no holiday boost.

This weekend reminds me of the showdown in June 2002 between two new releases: Minority Report, a sci-fi actioner targeting adults, and Lilo & Stitch, one of Disney's last traditionally animated movies.  They opened to $35.7 million and 35.3 million in a nail-biting finish that had the box office community buzzing all the way up until actual numbers released that Monday.  While I'm not officially predicting this weekend's comparable showdown to end up that close, its certainly a precedent to keep in mind -- particularly because there's potential for the scenario where Prometheus loses Saturday and Sunday to Madagascar 3 while still winning the weekend on the laurels of a very front-loaded Friday.

Food for thought: Minority and Lilo adjust to about $54.7 million and $54 million, respectively, when considering ten years of ticket price inflation and 3D contributions.

1. Prometheus - $52.5 million (NEW)
2. Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted - $44.5 million (NEW)
3. Snow White and the Huntsman - $25.0 million (-55.5%)
4. Men In Black 3 - $14.7 million (-47.5%)
5. Marvel's The Avengers - $11.8 million (-42.5%)
6. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - $3.5 million (-21.9%)
7. What to Expect When You're Expecting - $2.6 million (-41%)
8. The Dictator - $2.366 million (-49.7%)
9. Battleship - $2.362 million (-53.6%)
10. Moonrise Kingdom - $1.8 million (+105.3%)