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Thursday, January 10, 2008

See You at the Box Office - Chart

I tried to read Variety once. Okay – I read it once in awhile if I have a meeting and it’s on the coffee table. Sure it’s okay to flip through, and sure I should make it a habit but that publication is just too dense for my head to wrap itself around. I do subscribe to Hollywood Wire Tap and get my bite-sized Hollywood news there.

But one thing about Variety or the Hollywood Reporter that does fascinate me in a weird way, are the box office return charts. Most of us just hear that something “has done well” at the box office. Or tanked at the box office. Of course, as with all aspects of life, you do have your Box Office Geeks who can quote weekly, yearly and all time box office numbers. These are the types that one generally inches away from slowly at cocktail parties. But they keep inching forward. And you notice they have deviled egg stuck in their teeth. And they try to get your phone number so you give them a fake – oh dear, I’ve gone off topic.

As a semi-occasional excursion, a visit to Box Office Mojo can be a totally fascinating experience. Holy moley – ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS has grossed $160,000,000?! That’s a whole lot of minivans cramming into malls with their eight kids each, folks. NATIONAL TREASURE has grossed $150,000,000 after only two weeks in theaters, while CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR has grossed $44,000,000 in the same time frame.

When you look at the box office, you have to be sure to look at the number of weeks the movie has been in release, and something very fun to note is the percentage up or down the box office has taken in on that movie. JUNO, a cute little indy which has been out for four weeks and grossed $35,000,000 so far, is up 65% from last week, for example. Publicity, media, Ellen Page’s performance…it’s called “word of mouth”. And word of mouth can leverage box office up – or down, dramatically.

That’s why executives, always happy with an opening weekend, bite their nails waiting for weekend number two – because that’s traditionally when a movie takes a word of mouth hit. Movies like JUNO don’t quite qualify as a sleeper – four weeks isn’t very long – but build up box office slowly as word of mouth spreads.

Critical reviews help build (or bust) box office, but the talk around the water cooler at work is extremely powerful, as execs know.

Movies like INTO THE WILD ($18,000,000 in 16 weeks of domestic release) just aren’t ever going to make it into the realm of say, I AM LEGEND ($228,000,000 in 4 weeks of release). But this doesn’t make the box office of INTO THE WILD a failure; comparable to the budget of the project, this adaptation by Sean Penn has probably already earned it’s money back. I could be wrong – I am not a box office/budget geek. But you get my point.

Box office charts can be a source of information gathering: trends, the impact of word of mouth, critical reviews and international grosses. It’s a fuzzy lot of numbers but the box office is ultimately your boss. Because it’s behinds in seats that dictate what gets made and what does not.

The all-time box office numbers are super entertaining. What’s the highest grossing box office hit? TITANIC, $600,000,000. Domestic only. You read that right. Six hundred million dollars. Worldwide, the king of the world raked in almost two billion dollars.

Adjusted for inflation, of course…anybody?...GONE WITH THE WIND, grossed 1.4 billion dollars domestically.

Of course, the all time flops are good jaw-dropping fun. How about ISHTAR? With a production budget of $55,000,000, that camel-sucking movie brought in only $14,000,000. Of course, everybody loves to kick around Heaven’s Gate (Michael Cimino, the Joyce Wildenstein of directors) – with a production budget of $44,000,000, the movie brought in only $3,400,000. Yeah. That’s a forty one million dollar loss. Ouch.

So curl up with a diet coke and a red vine, Wavers, and mosey on over to Box Office Mojo and find out what’s going on, past and present, at that most sacred of places where milkduds mingle with gum under the seats – the box office.

ShowHype: hype it up!

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1 comment:

Tavis said...

I only wish they posted the production budget for each film-- that's where you can really tell how well its done at the box office. I was surprised to see that The Mist made back its money-- even though the film seemed to disappear quickly from the theaters. I couldn't believe Darabont was able to shoot that for under 20 million. Way to go!