Box Office Awesome Year in Review

Well, it’s been a good six months since my last post. Which isn’t to say that the Box Office Awesome stopped in June, just that I got sidetracked. I even had a draft started in October to showcase one of the later awesome stories. So to rectify the situation, I’m going to look at 2009 month by month, because it was the year of awesome.

January

2009 got off to a rocking start, earning over $1 billion for the first time, in what is traditionally a fairly slow month. January of ’08, aided by Cloverfield’s rocking start, earned $841 million, and no other year has even reached $780 million. The difference between January ’09 and most other years is the complete domestic box office of The Hangover… and then some.

As for the top awesome stories, it’s probably a tie between Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Gran Torino, and Taken. All three had rollicking good wide openings, and all three finished with spitting distance of $150m. On a personal preference, I’m most impressed by Taken, which had some of the most impressive legs for a film in a long time.

Perhaps most impressive is that only two films had previously crested the century mark after an opening in January. One of those was the special edition of Star Wars in 1997 and the other was Black Hawk Down in 2002. What was an extreme outlier in the past for a month that usually consisted of films opening around $20m and finishing with $50m or so.

February

Keeping with the theme, February ’09 was also the biggest for that month in history, with $769m. No film that opened this year crested the $100m mark, (a rather marked change from the past, which has seen such big earners as Hitch, Ghost Rider, Daredevil, and The Passion of the Christ).

The most awesome run likely has to go to Friday the 13th, which epitomized a growing trend, especially among horror fare, or earning a huge percentage of the total box office in one day. A close second is Madea Goes to Jail, which had a similarly large opening and quick finish, but managed a respectable $93m overall, the biggest of Tyler Perry’s career.

Also worth noting are the leggy pair from the first weekend of the month, He’s Just Not That Into You and Coraline. The former was actually the highest grossing film released in February, while the latter likely proved that 3D could be more than just a gimmick, and earned a cool $75m to boot, after a somewhat soft $16m opening.

March

In contrast to the first two months, March wasn’t especially great as a whole. Just $651m was earned, good only for 5th, and well behind the $795m earned in March of 2007. That year was aided by the trifecta of 300, Wild Hogs, and Blades of Glory, though, so nothing this year could really compete.

The top box office story was Watchmen, which showed the limits of fanboy appealing comic book films. Despite earning $55m over opening weekend, it finished with just $107m, and was quickly forgotten. The opening weekend can be attributed to some genius marketing by WB, especially the exceptional trailer that appeared before The Dark Knight in 2008. The lack of legs can be attributed to the fact that everyone who wanted to see it probably did opening weekend, and general audiences didn’t quite that the original story was a rather deeply thoughtful look at the history and construction of comics and comic stories.

Or you can assume that the final product was glossy, but not very good, and rather missed the point of the original.

Also worth noting is Knowing, which managed almost $80m after a $24m start and apparently has kept the good word up since as a somewhat thoughtful actioner.

The final weekend of the month brought us Dreamworks’ latest in Monsters vs. Aliens. A $59m opening and $198m finish was enough to make it the biggest film for the month, but apparently not enough to keep a TV spin-off alive.

April

2009 is back on top again in the 4th month, although not to a huge degree. The $695m earned was barely ahead of the $683m earned in 2006.

The top story, by far, is Fast and Furious, which rocked an amazing $70m weekend, more than the third film in the series earned in total. The $155m final tally wasn’t a show of great legs, but was the biggest for the series. Vin Diesel has another lease on his career.

The opening weekend is key, though. The previous high for the month was way down at $42m, for Anger Management. That film had the box office muscle of Adam Sandler behind it, while Fast and Furious just had cars. Never underestimate the draw of mechanical toys.

The other key story was the Hannah Montana movie. The $32m opening was good for 5th best in April of all time. The $79m finish wasn’t anything to write home about, but was respectable enough and adds another data point to a growing trend that tween and teen girls are a growing force at the box office, one that (as we’ll see later in the year) cannot be ignored.

May

Like January, May of 2009 crested the billion mark. And like January, that was the first time the box office did so.

Perhaps what’s most impressive was how un-shocking the business of the month was. No film really had a surprising and breakout performance, even as Star Trek was a public and even critical darling, the only really amazing thing about the $79m start and $257m finish was that it did it after a 2nd weekend start, typically the weakest of the month.

The big story might be that four different franchises saw films take steps backwards, and still helped propel the month to such heights. Wolverine fell behind the two previous X-Men films, in both opening and final tally. Angels and Demons fell far behind The Da Vinci Code, earning over $30m less in the opening, and over $80m less in total. Night at the Museum II had a big opening weekend, but fell almost $75m behind the first film in the series.

And Terminator: Salvation. It’s not really awesome, but it is perhaps the biggest story of the month. After the not-very-well liked Terminator 3 earned $150m and got thoroughly trounced by Pirates of the Caribbean in 2003, the producers decided to take a different tactic with the 4th film in the series. However, Salvation both had a smaller opening and a lower $125m total, despite 6 years of inflation helping it along. Since then, we’ve seen the production company go bankrupt and offer up the rights in an auction. The homicidal robots from the future seem to be dead, at this point. While fans may want to see the return of James Cameron to the franchise, he’s clearly moved onto bigger things.

The final weekend of the month brought Up, Pixar’s first 3D pic. After two years of slightly worrying performance between Ratatouille and WALL-e, Up was a huge step forwards, garnering the second biggest domestic take for the brand, after Finding Nemo. (It also claims the domestic animated crown for the year, but there’s a bit more to the story there.)

June

Yet again, 2009 takes the monthly crown, by edging out 2008 by about $50m.

There were some big misses for the month, like Year One, Land of the Lost, and Imagine That, but there was also some massive amounts of awesome.

The big story is The Hangover, a massive breakout hit for everyone involved. While films of this type have a proven track record of success, with most of Judd Apatow’s library and even a number of Adam Sandler works doing fine business, they tend to hit somewhere between $100m and $150m if they’re big hits. Wedding Crashers was the paragon, by cresting the double century mark on some pretty hefty legs of its own.

The Hangover beat all of those in spades, and then some. I’m sure going into it, the producers would have been happy with a $30m opening, $90m finish. Contrast that with the $44m opening and $277m finish (!) The performance was enough that people spent June talking about the comedic hit over Pixar’s latest masterpiece.

However, June wasn’t done there. The Proposal came two weeks later and propelled Sandra Bullock back into the comedy spotlight. She hadn’t had a $100m hit since Miss Congeniality in 2000, and hadn’t had much of anything of note since 2002, but The Proposal opened to $33m and finished with $163m, as yet the best of her career.

Finally, the last weekend of the month brought the juggernaut. The second Transformers film hit everywhere and pulled in a massive $200m in the first five days. Despite being rather incomprehensible and almost entirely a collection of explosions, slow-mo shots, and extremely low-brow humor, the critically reviled tentpole didn’t fall off the planet afterward, and finished with just over $400m. Fans everywhere hope that Michael Bay can have a script the next time he starts shooting a film. Michael Bays everywhere just roll around in the Awesome Pool of money.

July

As a whole, 2009 only had the third best July on record, over $140m behind July of 2007, which at over $1.3 billion is still the biggest month in box office history. It also trailed behind July of ’08. Those months were powered by Transformers, Harry Potter 5, The Simpson’s Movie, and most of the runs of Ratatouille and Live Free or Die Hard in ’07, and the massive hauls of The Dark Knight in ’08, along with Hancock and most of WALL-e’s run.

In comparison, ’09 was a bit lackluster. The latest Harry Potter film did have some amazing midnight sneaks, cresting $20m for the first time in history, as well as a final haul north of $300m (for the first time since the original film in the series in 2001). And not quite half of Transformers 2’s run came in July.

The most awesome story, though, belongs to the latest Ice Age flick. The domestic haul of $196m is respectable, and just barely edges out the second film in the series, but the real story is overseas. It earned $691m outside of the US and Canada. That’s the third most in box office history (at this moment). The only films that earned more are The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King at $742m and Titanic, which pushed an insane $1.2 billion outside the US.

Ice Age 3 earned more overseas than any Star Wars film. Any Harry Potter film. Any Pirates of the Caribbean film. Any comic book movie. Any Shrek film. It did absolutely bonkers business and while it might be regarded as a mid-tier animation hit because of the domestic number, it shows what an absolute powerhouse the series is. Films can make a lot of money, overseas, and Ice Age 3 managed to tap into some cross-cultural zeitgeist in a way that Pixar and Dreamworks have never been able to.

August

Coming in at second place, although it was fairly close, as only $15m separated the $920m of ’07 from the $905m of ’09. As good as G.I. Joe did, it’s rather far behind the third Bourne film to lead the month.

The awesome story of the month has to go to District 9. While it didn’t quite do as well, either in opening or final tally, as Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, the initial expectations for the film were much lower. Despite the producer credit for Peter Jackson, director Neill Blomkamp was a complete unknown on the big screen. He’d had some internet presence and street cred for his short film Alive in Joburg (on which District 9 was based), and had initially been tapped to direct the Halo movie after doing three short films to promote Halo 3, but hadn’t done any sort of feature.

District 9 showed he was able to deliver great sci-fi action on a budget, and get people in the theaters. In contrast to a number of other recent trends, District 9 showed that audiences still just want to be entertained, and you can do that for $30m or less.

Also of note for the month is the now traditional horror entry for Labor Day: The Final Destination, which managed to score the biggest opening and final tally for the now decade old series. But it cost more and made less than D9, so it’s not quite as awesome.

September

Again lagging behind 2007 (there’s a reason it was the biggest box office year of all time), the softest month of the year earned just $543m.

Because it’s such a soft month, there isn’t much that stands out. Tyler Perry’s had a habit of releasing two films a year (one in the winter/spring, one in the fall), and that’s the case here, but I Can Do Bad All By Myself wasn’t really amazing, performing just about average for him with the 3rd biggest opening and 4th highest final tally of his eight films.

Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs gets the awesome stamp for the month, though, simply because it did so well. Its $30m opening is good for third best in September history and the $122m final tally is also third best. September usually sees a family film that does quite well, but none have done quite as well as this.

October

2009 is back on top in the month of frights, with $692m, almost $50m ahead of 2004, which had a pair of heavy hitters in Shark Tale and The Grudge.

There’s actually a fair bit of interesting tidbits here. Couple’s Retreat managed to crest $100m despite almost nothing positive in the way of reviews. Where the Wild Things Are saw a large opening, but an equally large crash afterward. And Zombieland managed to become the biggest zombie-themed film in history.

But there’s only one awesome story of the month, and that’s Paranormal Activity. The ultra-low budget film had the strangest path getting to theaters, and once there it had one of the weirdest box office runs in history.

It actually got started in September, when it opened on just 12 theaters (mostly in college towns and the like), and those theaters only showed it after midnight. The result was a respectable $77 thousand, perfectly fine for a film like this, but it also was the start of a monumentally ingenious marketing campaign. People could go to a website and request a showing for their own town.

The next weekend saw an addition of 21 theaters. Again, with just midnight showings, it earned just over half a million, more than a 500% increase over the previous week. At this point, it was almost apparent that there was something special at play. The first weekend had a per-theater average of about $6 thousand. The second weekend saw that rise to $16 thousand. This is rather rare for a film, especially one that’s expanding.

The third weekend is the shocker, though. Another 127 theaters were added, for 160 total. The film was given a full slate of showings across the day, and the weekend total shot up to almost $8 million. The per theater average went up again to almost $50 thousand, an extremely good number and one usually only seen in the first weekend of a platform release on many fewer screens.

Technically, Paranormal Activity didn’t go wide until its fourth weekend, when it added another 600 theaters and expanded the business again to $19m. At this point, the film was a bona fide hit, and had $33m in total. Nobody would have blinked had it started to fade at this point.

But it didn’t. In its fifth weekend, it saw almost 1200 more theaters added and it finally topped the charts in first place, earning $21m (and a very nice per theater average of $25 thousand). It was also well ahead of the latest in the Halloween mainstay of the Saw series, which saw a measly $14m for the weekend. It was clear at this point that the king of scares had fallen to the little film that could. Saw VI finished with just $27m, which was lower than the opening weekend of any film in the series back to the second and less than half of the final tally of any previous film.

At this point, Paranormal Activity started to fade, but it did so gracefully. A soft decline over the Halloween weekend pushed it to $84m total. While the falls were bigger after that, it still managed to hang on long enough to earn $107m total. Against a budget of $10,000.

It’s brought a lot of comparisons to The Blair Witch Project, which had a similarly low budget and similarly awesome run in 1999. These are justified, because both films were a huge surprise. They also both had some inventive and extremely successful marketing campaigns.

November

By earning $989 million in total, 2009’s November is back on top. The previous record holder was 2003, which is a bit odd because there wasn’t a Harry Potter film that year. In fact, the biggest opening belonged to The Matrix Revolutions. Elf was the biggest film of the month, though. Sometimes the box office is weird.

For awesome, though, nothing ever released in November can compare to New Moon, the second Twilight film. While the first did some boffo business last year, opening to almost $70m and finishing with over $190m, the sequel is something for the ages.

The opening weekend was huge. At $142m, it’s the third biggest in history. While the final tally of around $290m (it’s still playing and earning a bit) doesn’t seem that great in light of such a large opening, there’s a lot more under the hood. In fact, New Moon really showcases some great lessons to learn about the box office.

Let’s start with that opening. In fact, just the first part of it. New Moon started off like a rocket with around $26m in midnight sneaks. This beat the previous record holder in Harry Potter 6 at about $22m, and was a good $8m ahead of The Dark Knight’s $18m. Harry Potter 6 cooled off at that point, and earned $58m for its opening day. The Dark Knight, of course, had the biggest single day in history at $67m. Had, of course, because New Moon beat that, clocking in an astounding $72m in the first 24 hours. That’s $3m an hour! It’s more than the first film earned in the entire opening weekend.

After that, things cooled off quickly. Its Saturday saw a fall of over 40% to $42m, and Sunday dropped again to $27m, which meant over half the opening weekend was earned on Friday. Normally, this would indicate that a film was all hype and no substance. look at the opening and final tally of Friday the 13th in February. A $19m opening day translated to just $40m for the weekend and $65m total. However, there’s two things to consider. First is the simple fact that New Moon is huge. A full 50% growth over the previous film is astounding (and the worldwide bump is even better, jumping by almost $300m).

Secondly, we need to consider the demographics. Twilight, much like Hannah Montana, is a film for tween and teen girls. This is a market force that is strong, but it doesn’t have a lot of crossover. Blockbusters tend to be rather heavily gendered: they’re aimed primarily at boys and men (usually between 15 and 35), but it’s expected that everyone will go see them. The big comic book movies will often see about 40-45% of their audience be women, and I’m sure that things like Transformers and such see similar percentages.

However, films aimed at women don’t have that crossover. Something like Sex and the City probably saw about 70-80% of its audience as women. There’s a very strong cultural message at play: it’s expected that girls will go see the boys films, but the guys won’t see the girls’ films.

And that’s true for Twilight. You’ve got a very dedicated audience, but it doesn’t translate into a breakout word of mouth. And so that audience comes out in force during the opening, but the subsequent business (both for the later days of the weekend and the rest of the run), tapers off quickly because it’s probably mostly just repeat business at that point.

After the massive drops, there was a bit of praising that Twilight was likely dead, that it had peaked and was going to go away. And that next year’s Eclipse would be a failure. I don’t think that’s going to be the case at all. The audience for the films has shown that it’s very dedicated and reacts positively to them. The target market likes the films, and because of that Eclipse is probably going to be another monster next summer.

New Moon showed that blockbusters don’t need to be comic book or sci-fi flicks aimed at boys. Girls can create their own Box Office Awesome, too.

However, that’s not the only awesome story. In a case of counter-programming, another film actually opened against Twilight: New Moon and has seen some stunning success. Sandra Bullock’s third film of the year was The Blind Side, and if The Proposal showed that she could do big things, The Blind Side underlined, italicized, and sent out the memo in triplicate.

The opening weekend for The Blind Side was $34m, a perfectly fine and respectable opening, and on any other weekend, it would have been big news by itself. But it was overshadowed by New Moon’s bow that was $106m higher. The following weekend it saw a rise to $40m over the post-Thanksgiving frame. This time it was just $2m behind New Moon. In the third weekend it earned $20m and hit #1.

Since then it’s held on remarkably well, earning over $10m each weekend and pushing it’s total north of $200m. Between this and The Proposal, Sandra Bullock is back in a huge way, and any future releases deserve respect for box office prowess.

December

Another month, another record. December of 2009 gathered $1.06 billion, the first time in history the billion mark had been passed in the twelfth month.

As for the awesome story, I think everyone’s in agreement that Sherlock Holmes takes it. It gathered the biggest Christmas day gross and the biggest Christmas opening in history. It’s cemented Robert Downey Jr. as a box office force, and spawned another franchise for him. It should be cresting the…

Okay, then. While Holmes is doing some good business, it’s clearly not the big story. That would be long to James Cameron. Again.

Way back in 1997, he helmed a little film about a big boat that sank. It had some negative pre-release buzz, was the most expensive film in history at the time, and was seen as a huge gamble. Titanic opened modestly to $28m, barely $3m ahead of Tomorrow Never Dies, which would go on to be the biggest James Bond film to date. (It’s since been surpassed.) Given the budget and the way films tend to run, it seemed like Titanic would be a failure, even if its opening was strong for the time.

From that point on, history was in the making. It stayed above $20m for the first ten weekend and remained in first place until April, over three months later. It was in the top ten until June. Along the way it shattered box office records, garnering $600m domestic and an astounding $1.2 billion overseas. (That last number, by itself, would be good enough for the biggest worldwide take of any film, topping The Return of the King.) It also won a heap of awards and cemented James Cameron as one of the top filmmakers of all time.

He then effectively retired from feature films. There were some things he wanted to work on, like an adaptation of the brilliant manga Battle Angel, as well as something that was called Project 880. But ever the envelope pusher, he wanted things to be technically perfect, and that wasn’t possible at the time. So he waited. And waited. And waited.

Battle Angel is still in the wings, but Project 880 has come to the screen in the shape of Avatar. It had a lot of hype, about how it would really push 3D technology and was something like the most visually amazing film of all time. Sometime in November, a bit of bad buzz started, and it got the moniker of most expensive movie attached, possibly costing as much as $500m, well ahead of the third Pirates of the Caribbean film (at $300m). While the official number is considerably less, it was apparent that Avatar had a high price tag and would need some good business. Still, it looked fun and enjoyable and even if Sherlock Holmes seemed to have larger anticipation, it looked like it could do $250m domestic and possibly $700m worldwide. Enough that it wouldn’t be a loss. A step down from Cameron’s last film, to be sure, but Titanic was a once in history event.

The opening weekend for Avatar was just shy of the December record. It was visually impressive but a bit thin on story. Audiences seemed happy and a run to $300m wasn’t out of the question.

Then the weekday numbers started hitting. It earned $16m each on its first Monday through Wednesday, extremely consistent numbers, especially for a top tier film. Usually you expect that a film, no matter when it’s released, to see some drop-off in the dailies. But Avatar held on and its first Tuesday was the second best in history, while the Monday and Wednesday were third best for non-opening, non holiday dates.

Then it earned $11m on Christmas Eve, the most a film had ever made on what is normally a very weak box office day. Christmas Day brought another $23m, a nicely strong hold from the opening Friday of $26m. At this point, Avatar was looking good. $300m seemed like a surer bet, but it has also come in second place twice. On Wednesday, it was bested by the opening day of the Alvin and the Chipmunks sequel and on Friday Sherlock Holmes was on top.

Even so, the Cameron flick held out better over the entire weekend, earning over $75m and taking the crown for biggest second weekend in history from The Dark Knight. This is despite having an opening less than half of the Batman flick. It also had its sights set on the biggest box office week of the year: the Christmas to New Years week when everyone’s away from work and school and able to put in some massive leisure time.

Avatar responded strongly. Every day that week was bigger than the week before. The $19m Monday was the second biggest non-holiday Monday. The $18m Tuesday and Wednesday were both second-best non-opening for those days. And the $14m Thursday was the biggest New Years Eve gross in history.

In two weeks, it had gathered $283m, and the questions about the film had evaporated. No longer was there any wonder about whether it’d be a success, but rather how successful would it be? Transformers 2’s hold on the 2009 box office crown was in serious jeopardy. And the third weekend gross of $68m laid to rest any questions about whether Avatar would top $400m. That is by far the biggest third weekend ever, topping Spider-Man’s $45m from way back in 2002.

With $352m in the domestic bank, box office aficionados have started to wonder where it will end up. It seems likely that Avatar will pass Shrek 2 and even Star Wars at $440m and $460m. There seems a possibility that it will even top The Dark Knight’s mammoth $533m. But the real question is whether Cameron has done it again. Will he top his own $600m record and take down Titanic?

Right now, we don’t know. There’s still a $250m gap between the films, and even though it’s shown some amazing consistency, that’s a lot of money for any film to make, much less after it’s already had 17 days in release. At this point in its release, Titanic had $157m in the bank, but it had four more weekends of at least $25m, seven of at least $20m, and twelve above, $15m. Avatar, at some point, is going to start falling behind. When it does, we’ll likely be able to project much more easily where it will end up.

If it managed another soft drop in weekend 4, perhaps pulling in something as ridiculous as $45m, it’ll take that weekend crown (besting Titanic’s $28m). Weekend 5 might be the watershed comparison. Titanic earned $30m then. If Avatar can stay somewhat close by that point, I’d give it even odds to pass $600m, even if it starts to fall faster from then on.

However, if the next two weekends see more normal drops (say around 40-45% each), then it’s probably going to see a final tally somewhere around The Dark Knight. Still massive. Still enough to call it a great success, but not the record.

Of course, the domestic side is only part of the story. Titanic made Cameron king of the entire world. The over $1.8 billion earned was at the time more than twice what the previous record holder of Jurassic Park had gathered. Since Titanic opened, only ten films have even gotten past that half-way mark, and none have gotten to 2/3rds of Titanic’s worldwide haul.

Before this year, only three other films in history had even crested $1 billion worldwide. The Dark Knight was the latest, and it only did so barely.

Avatar’s already done it. In 17 days, it passed the $1 billion mark worldwide, and it seems likely that it will take the #2 spot from Return of the King in the next week or so. It already has $666m in overseas grosses, and will pass $700m in short order. Only RotK and Titanic can claim to have hit that mark. How much further it goes is anyone’s guess. Much like the domestic numbers there’s a lot of questions about how well it can hold on.

Regardless of where it ends up, Avatar is a stunning success. It’s likely that whatever the order, Cameron will have the top two films both domestically and worldwide when all’s said and done. The inevitable sequel might be assured of passing Titanic’s numbers, even if Avatar itself doesn’t.

In the truest sense of the word, Avatar is Awesome.

Conclusion

2009 was awesome. It set seven monthly records and passed $10 billion in total revenue for the year, for the very first time. More than that, it saw an almost 10% increase in the number of tickets sold, so despite the higher priced 3D and IMAX tickets, more people were going to see the films. Whether because of quality or the recession making people have their vacations a bit closer to home, something really worked this year, and the movie industry paid off in a big way.

Will 2010 hold the same? I’m not sure. There are a few bright sequels on schedule, with Iron Man 2, the fourth Shrek film, Sex and the City 2, Twilight: Eclipse, and Toy Story 3 all hitting this summer. There’s also a spate of possibly huge new films, like Prince of Persia, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The Last Airbender (a.k.a. the other Avatar), and Christopher Nolan’s follow up to The Dark Knight in Inception. The holiday season sees another Harry Potter film, a third Narnia, and the slick new Tron film.

Whether this collection is good enough to beat 2009 is a big question. ’09 had a record setting 30 movies pass $100m (and two more could also beat that mark in the weekends to come), and such a broad collection of successful films is necessary to get the box office up so high. We’ll keep an eye on it, though, because the Awesome never ends.

Top 10 Box Office Awesome Stories of 2009

  • 10 Watchmen and Friday the 13th show that some films are done after opening weekend
  • 9 Fast and Furious gets off to a scorching $70m start, shattering the April record
  • 8 Taken, Paul Blart, and Gran Torino prove that January films can be huge
  • 7 The Hangover pulls in some massive holds to be a huge summer blockbuster
  • 6 The Propsoal and The Blind Side show Sandra Bullock’s box office muscle
  • 5 Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs gets third highest international gross in history
  • 4 Twilight: New Moon show that girls are a box office force
  • 3 Paranormal Activity is the little film that could
  • 2 Total box office crosses $10 billion for the first time
  • 1¬† Avatar makes a run at Titanic

Box Office Awesome: The Early ’09 Sprint

To say that 2009 has been a heap of awesome box office is a massive understatement. It’s running no less than 14% ahead of any previous year on record and while it’s only been holding stead against 2008 and has been losing a bit of ground against 2007, it’s still running almost half a billion dollars ahead of any previous year.

But awesome is not created equal. Just this weekend, with the Memorial Day holiday and the traditional “start of summer” has seen two films enter the marketplace and both posting numbers that would be large without context but are somewhat disappointing in practice. WB’s attempt to salvage the Terminator franchise seems like it’s doomed to shoot under the 2003’s Rise of the Machines. And while the new Smithsonian entry in the Night at the Museum franchise is going to open tops in the box office, it’s not likely to reach the much vaunted and desired heights of its predecessor.

It’s actually been the story the entire year: the films with hype and large expectations have generally disappointed. Angels and Demons opened $30m less than The Da Vinci Code and looks like it’s going to be the victim of Prince Caspian syndrome. Wolverine opened large (biggest of the year), but is barely going to double the opening take when all is said and done. And the incredibly hyped and heavily promoted entry into the increasingly valuable March box office, Watchmen, had a large $55m opening and didn’t even double that in the end.

So, if the top of the line films aren’t satisfying, what is? Well, there are some films that are at least meeting expectations. Dreamworks’ latest animated entry, Monsters vs. Aliens has done boffo business and will probably finish up just shy of $200m. A sequel is already in the works (and possibly a TV offshoot.) Likewise, Star Trek has wowed audiences and critics and will soon pass MvA as the biggest film of the year. Between those two alone, Paramount has already had a very nice year, and their big entry, Transformers, is still to hit in late June.

But one studio and two films alone don’t make a great year. What has made this a great year, a year of Box Office Awesome that we can only hope continues is the huge spate of films that have surprised.

What’s really awesome about these surprises is that they have come in two wildly divergent trends. On one hand you’ve got the films that have followed the increasing trend where the bulk of businesss has happened during the opening weekend. While there’s top of the line entries like Wolverine and Watchmen (and possibly Terminator Salvation, but we’ll have to wait and see), a number of others have followed suit.

There’s the Hannah Montana movie, of course, which managed to encourage tweens and parents to drop $32m in one weekend, a large 42% of the current tally. Or Tyler Perry’s latest, Madea Goes to Jail, which earned $41m in three days, an even bigger 45% of the final.

Then there’s Fast and Furious, the fourth installment in the road racing franchise which brings back the original stars. Considering the response to the third, jokes were abound when Universal decided to shift the release date from the cushy summer confines of June to early April, often a box office dead zone.

Things paid off, however, as it pulled in over $70m in three days, shutting up critics of the move and possibly encouraging Hollywood to push summer forward another month. It didn’t stick around long, though, as the opening accounts for over 46% of its $153m total.

However, while all of these films are impressive, they don’t hold a candle to the king of one weekend wonders. Actually, in this case, it’s more of a one day wonder.

I give you Friday the Thirteenth.

The horror franchise reboot opened to a massive $19m on its titular day in February. The prospects looked good at that point for it to pull in some massive business: it had both Valentine’s Day and the four day President’s Day weekend to bolster its business.

However, the Saturday gross fell over 25%. Sunday saw a drop over over 50% and it finished the three day opening weekend just north of $40m, barely twice its opening day. The actual holiday boosted Monday saw another drop above 50% and it finished the long weekend at under $44m.

Still, at this point things were looking fine. Even if it saw large drops in the coming weekends, it should finish up with around $80m. We could make jokes about how it saw almost a quarter of its business in one day and have a laugh while Platinum Dunes took their massive haul all the way to the bank, right?

Well, it did see large drops. Incredibly large drops. The second weekend take was under $8m, a drop of over 80%. Never had a film that large dropped so much. The third weekend saw a drop of over 53%. That would be, in fact, the lowest percentage drop in its first seven weekends. The film was already out of the top ten at that point and after hitting $40m in three days it took another eighteen to get to $60m.

The final tally for the slasher flick is just $65m. The opening weekend accounted for over 62% of this total.

The movie landscape is changing for sure. Even a year ago, we’d have laughed at the idea of big films, #1 films earning more than half their gross in the opening weekend, but it’s already happened twice this year and there are a number of close calls.

Moreover, we’re seeing films that are extremely frontloaded in the opening weekend itself. Friday the Thirteenth isn’t even the most notable in this regard. Hannah Montana fell 40% between Friday and Saturday, but managed to rebound rather well in weekend 2.

Perhaps in the future, if the theater doesn’t disappear entirely, we’ll start to get films that really do become one-day events.

It’s perhaps a bit troubling to consider that, but at the same time it’s something really awesome to behold.

Next time we’ll look at the other end of the spectrum: the dying breed of movie marathon runs. It will include what might be the most Awesome box office story of the year.

The Beauty of Comments

I don’t get many comments here on goddOS.net. That makes sense, since this blog is new, not very active, and probably only read by close friends and such. Still, a few people seem to have come across various posts for whatever reason.

Yesterday one gentleman found my review of Rock Band in which I take a very unfavorable eye towards Coheed & Cambria. Initially, I wasn’t going to release them, but upon consideration I should. I should also respond to them. So, he’s going to get the FJM treatment.

Ok… so, what I just read… was that a review?

Yes. Yes, it was.

It seemed more like an attack.

Admittedly, it’s a biased review. It’s an emotional review. It’s a review from my perspective and response to the music. It’s a personal opinion. But it’s not an attack. It is not an attempt to damage the members of Coheed and Cambria, at least no more than any other critical review. If I wanted to attack them I’d use, I dunno, a laser sword or something.

It also seems to me that you must spend a little too much time sitting at your computer or playing that beloved RB (it is awesome, I’ll admit it).

You forgot that I’m in my mom’s basement.

Coheed and Cambria are a hugely succesfull band, not just in album sales (over 1.5 million stateside alone)

He’s correct in this. They had an album go gold, and then the first Good Apollo album went platinum. That does mean that they’ve sold at least 1.5 million copies. HOWEVER it’s worth noting that the second Good Apollo album, even after over six months in release, has just managed about 150,000 sales, a significant step down from the previous album. Worldwide it’s sitting a bit over 300k. These are fine numbers, and indicative of success, but let’s be clear, it’s not setting the world on fire.

but as a live act as well, selling out venues of sizes ranging from mid-size clubs to arenas and amphitheaters.

I can’t confirm or deny this. It’s probably true. Is it a valid point, though? I don’t think so, but more on that below.

While I’m not the biggest fan of the band (I enjoy the music and story, even Claudio’s vocals… just not a big punk/metal guy) I have to give credit and respect where it’s due.

Fine credit where it’s due: Coheed & Cambria are able to sell music.

Guess what. N’Sync could sell music. No Strings Attached sold over a million copies in a DAY and over two in a week. It sold over 15 million copies total world-wide. As a band, they’ve sold 56 million albums worldwide since 1995 (accepting that they haven’t been together for about half that time.)

And they aren’t even the biggest act in their genre. The Backstreet Boys sold 37 million albums in the US and over 100 million worldwide.

Or from the standpoint of concerts, Coheed & Cambria don’t hold a candle to Miley Cyrus, who’s sold out every show in huge stadiums to the point that she’s increased a recent tour from 55 to 69 dates AND they made a movie out of it just to try and meet demand. That movie, BTW, garnered $31 million in three days, the biggest opening for a film under 1000 theaters. She’s also sold 8 million albums worldwide, and 3 million in the US.

If we’re looking just at the business side of things, Claudio Kilgannon is absolute shit compared to Hannah Montana.

Now my question to you is exactly where the fuck do you get off bashing a band you’ve never listened to outside of one song on a video game and their comics, which you’ve never read.

My criticism of C&C was largely centered on the fact that Welcome Home is an atrocious song. Everything else is extrapolated from that. In order to understand the depth of how bad it was, I needed to research a bit. While that research didn’t extend to finding and buying the comics, online material seems to be fairly comprehensive in establishing that The Amory Wars is a fairly tepid science fiction entry that isn’t establishing anything new.

I can find bad sci-fi very easily, and I don’t need to pay for it.

I imagine you to be a fat, slobby, loser of a guy.

IN MY MOM’S BASEMENT!

I would have been put off by reading this sort of review of anything.

Put off what? Put off giving C&C any money to peddle their at-best-mediocre wares? Then my work here is done.

To keep it short, shut your fucking mouth if you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Y’know, I think I’m going to keep talking. How about I go off half-cocked on a rant without taking full consideration for both my own opinion but also the status of that which I am criticizing.

Oh, wait.

Or just shut your fucking mouth… you’ll catch flies.

True story: I once spent a good portion of a family reunion catching flies with my bare hands. Then I taught some younger distant cousins to do the same.

I did wash my hands afterwards.

Arrogant piece of shit.

I have many vices. Arrogance isn’t generally one of them. In fact, I probably have a nearly crippling lack of self-confidence.

Amusingly enough, Mr. Brent C. came back nine minutes later and added more:

Oh and p.s….

Pedantically, it should probably just be P.S. and then “Oh, …”

Also, an ellipse only has three periods. I’m quite curious why both his posts started with a double-ellipse sentence. It’s like he’s gearing up to think about his point.

I just looked up the numbers…

Yay, numbers! I love numbers!

the first five issues of The Amory Wars (which I haven’t read either, I’ll be honest) have sold over 700,000 copies since their beginnings last year

Really? A five issue series moving 700k copies? SURELY I’d have heard about such a stellar-selling series somewhere in all of the comic news I come across. That’s an average of 140,000 copies an issue. Or roughly the same as what Final Crisis #1 sold.

Let me question. Are you seriously suggesting that an independent, non-superhero comic book tie-in to a musical act is selling on par with DC’s top-tier summer event series?

SERIOUSLY?

Well, okay, then.

and have been released as a trade paperback graphic novel.

Correct. I actually saw it in my local comic shop. I cringed.

The first issue of Volume II is due to come out this week

Fair enough. We’ve established that it’s either successful enough to warrant a second series OR that it’s a really big vanity project.

and Hot Topic (that shitty little store in everyone’s mall)

I’m not sure what you’re getting at. Is Hot Topic a shitty store? Or is it successful because it’s everywhere?

has taken 138,000 pre-orders since June.

That’s a lot of pre-orders for a comic book. I’m really doubting them, as well. A search on Amory Wars sales numbers didn’t bring up anything to cooberate this information.

In fact, a check into ICV2’s sales charts for comics and graphic novels shows that in April, the TPB of Amory Wars volume 1 moved about 2500 copies. This is a perfectly respectable number, and shouldn’t be marked as bad. It’s also just for the direct market. Some titles sell considerably better outside comic book stores, but those are usually Naruto and such. Even if I grant that the sales are going to better in bookshops and Hot Topic, I’m not seeing them hit much more than three or four times what the DM moves.

As far as the comic, the fifth issue sold about 6000 copies in the DM in January. This is down from the 10,000 that #1 sold last June. In fact, except for issue 1, all the issues sold around 6k copies. A five issue title that moves 35,000 copies isn’t bad, and for an indie project it’s fine, but it’s not breaking out. Hell, DC Vertigo tends to cancel titles that move so little, because they can’t make their money back.

Again, even if we allow¬† 2-3 times more than that outside the DM (and issues sell considerably worse than TPBs do, comparitively, outside of comic book stores), we’re still not getting into 700,000. We’re not even at 140,000. For the whole series.

For the mathematically deficient: 35,000/700,000 = 5%.

By the available information, we can confirm that The Amory Wars is at least 5% of Brent C.’s claimed success point.

My point is… these guys are highly successful and talented, obviously.

They are successful. I do not debate that. They are not as successful as a number of other musical talents or a number of other comic book talents. If we’re equating their success to an absolute value of their talent, they’re probably firmly middle of the road.

In comparison, Rob Liefeld is an astronomically more talented comic book writer, and N’Sync are significantly better musically.

Hey, it’s not my argument.

In my previous post, I even allowed that there is some musical skill to C&C. That skill doesn’t extend to lyrics or vocals. (And in the intervening time, I’ve come to realize that even as a musical construction, Welcome Home is absolute shit. However, the guys playing the instruments aren’t bad.)

You blog about comics and movies.

I do. And video games. From my mom’s basement.

You talk about the self-injection

Self-insertion. Self-injection sounds like something heroin junkies do.

story line or whatever you called it with such disdain as if you yourself were not suffering from some pretty serious delusions of grandure.

Grandeur. Which, no, I don’t have. Lovely logical fallacy, by the way.

Arrogant piece of shit.

Repetition for the win!