Thursday, May 19, 2005

Attack of the American People!

Holy crap! Did Star Wars 3 ever make some huge bank last night. I have just gotten home from the midnight opening--this sucker had the lines going around the building and to the very back. We had 8 prints, and we interlocked 2 to get a grand total of 10 screens. I also happen to know Opry Mills, with 8 prints, sold theirs out and likely interlocked. It's probably all over the map doing business like this, which means we're going to see some record numbers put forth this weekend, and, OK media--you guys can shut the hell up now about people not coming to the movies. Take that, DVD!

There's nothing more electric than starting a franchise film for thousands of people. Everyone goes crazy when the film starts, clapping, buzzing. We have these bright cleaning lights that are usually turned on for special showings so people can see their seats--5 minutes before the show I cut these lights off and everyone went hopefully ballistic that their movie was going to start right then and there. This happened with Lord of the Rings, too.

But guys, this episode of Star Wars is going to set some serious records, and the fact that 10 screens were sold out (a total of around 2200 people or so) easily dwarfs the LOTR mania that I saw (7 screens). You might have several kinds of records--gross in a day, gross in a weekend, fastest to $100 million and $200 million. Of course, word of mouth and sustained geek interest will be important should it challenge Titanic.

It's going to be fun to see how it goes. Going to the movie theatre, apparently, isn't dead after all. A shock. Totally unexpected.


At 5/19/2005 09:09:00 AM, Blogger Jonathan said...

Man, Chris, you are the most sarcastic mother fucker on the planet. I love it, man. I love it.

At 5/19/2005 11:32:00 AM, Blogger Kennelworthy said...

I agree. Chris is a sarcastic bastard.

I also agree, by the way, that it's going to be fun to watch the box office on this one.

But really, what do records in box office dollars mean anymore anyway? Seems like every year several of them are broken again.

At 5/19/2005 12:09:00 PM, Blogger Chris said...

While box office money doesn't mean much anymore, I will stress that due to the fact that we have video games, home video, and TV, the box office dollars even out.

Ticket price is certainly higher and grows more and more every year, but so do distractions (satellite radio, iPods, Natalie Portman)

At 5/19/2005 12:28:00 PM, Blogger Kennelworthy said...

Yeah, Dude, I agree. The inflation is cancelled out by how many more other venues there are today (DVD, Video Games, Etc.). I actually think the number of screens is the true reason the box office numbers don't mean much. Seems like every year some film goes way overboard and shows on a huge number of screens. Then you have a mamouth opening weekend...but dollars die off after that. Stupid studios!

At 5/19/2005 01:35:00 PM, Blogger Kennelworthy said...

Just read an article that backs up what I was just saying. Here's a direct quote from the article:

"The film bows Thursday at 12:01 a.m. with an astronomical 9,400 prints, a number bested only by DreamWorks' "Shrek 2" and Sony's "Spider-Man 2." In 3,661 theaters, "Sith" marks the widest release of a "Star Wars" film. ("Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones" bowed on 3,161 in 2002.)"

So Sith opens on 9400 screens?!?! Man, I remember when Godzilla and the other summer 1998 movies came out and broke records by being on 3500 or 4000 screens. So then, does it really mean anything if Sith breaks the opening week (or opening day) record? I mean, it's on more screens than any other film.

Chris, you said there were 10 screens showing it at Hollywood. Man, when I worked there...which ended in 2001-ish... the most we'd ever had for one movie was five. That's what Phantom Menace opened on. I know that recently there have been a lot more movies (Lord of the Rings, for instance) that opened on more than five screens...but still...

...take the number of screens they put it on and the math just logically goes that the movie should make more money. The more screens the more money.

Personally, I think the only number that should matter in box office tracking is the "per screen" average. That's an accurate number.

Here's another fun quote from that article that is unrelated to the last point I made:

""Lucas has allowed us to play (theaters equipped with) nondigital sound and drive-ins," said Bruce Snyder, president of distribution at Fox. "The market has changed, and we have to get out as wide as possible while the heat is on. He's been very gracious in allowing us to go out as wide as we're going."

Lucas is "allowing them" to play the film on non-digital theaters and drive-ins. He's being very "gracious." And that's the freaking studio talking!! Man, clearly a case of one man having too much power.

At 5/19/2005 03:02:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

I'm not meaning to disagree with you here, KW. I think most of what you said is valid. But remember Per Screen Average can be a little misleading too. Entertainment Weekly always likes to point out this statistic when a smaller movie they love opens on two or three screens and slowly builds as the weeks go on. When the initial opening happens (2 to 3 screens)it will average some ungodly amount per screen, but if those are the only screens it's on then of course it's going to make a lot of money if you only use the per screen average. The only way we may be able to track a movie's success is not in the first week, but in the following weeks. A movie like last year's "National Treasure" is a huge success. It was able to stay at number one three weeks in a row. In today's movie going climate, that is a hard feat indeed.

At 5/19/2005 03:27:00 PM, Blogger Kennelworthy said...

What?! How dare you disagree with me?!

Just kidding, of course.

I think you're right. The per-screen on a film playing only in NY (on two screens) grossly overinflates what that movie would make if it were on a thousand screens.

I should have said that per-screen average "over the life of the film" or "over a few weekends" is the best measure. Or maybe what I meant is that the wide-release movies' per-screen average is a better number than overall box office dollars.

Fact is, there's a way to manipulate whatever number the collective Hollywood decides to make the most important number. And while it's fun to watch a movie's box office roll up (like Titanic) it's really not as fun as it used to be.

If Sith makes some ungodly opening day number like $80 million...the cool factor of that is somewhat diminished by the fact that you know it's on more screens than any movie ever.

At 5/19/2005 04:20:00 PM, Blogger Chris said...

Statistics, of course, are easily manipulated into what you want them to read many times, especially if you narrow or widen the factors involved.

Nowadays, films are trying to break that opening weekend record. Opening weekend accounts for most of your business, of course, so they want everyone to show up that weekend. This morning, I was looking at some comments about how last night's mega-launch would hurt the weekend numbers, because it's Wednesday night.

To me, it doesn't really matter what it makes in one day, or if you take that day out your weekend isn't nearly as good. It's the overall. Some of these "factors" make people feel better, like the guys from Sony who might be sweating it out that SPIDER-MAN's opening weekend might get beat.

I'm looking for the bottom line--how much does this end up making? And the number of screens is incidental. Sure, it'd make less money on the weekend on half the screens, but would it make the just as much as a bigger launch over a longer period of time with those screens? Tough to say. That first weekend is so important.

This is also a topic discussed in Biskind's "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls." THE GODFATHER changed the way prints were distributed, and then the following blockbusters JAWS and STAR WARS piled on. It used to be a movie had a chance to get some word of mouth and become a winner over time. But the studios know that their percentages drop over each week. It becomes more favorable to the exhibitor. So, that's how the business changed.

The opening weekend will be incredible, but what will it do over time, and I think that's the theme that has begun to lace comments and posts.

At 5/19/2005 07:10:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

I think it's interesting to note how movies back in the day didn't get what we would now consider a wide release. Some people in smaller cities wouldn't even get the film for a year after it had gone through all of the major cities. Can you imagine you live in Boise, and your jackass friend in L.A. got to see "Godfather" a year before you; it's not like there were VCR's or anything. This is also why the same film would be in the top ten box office list two years in a row; rereleases also figured into this statistic. In fact, I might be mistaken, but I think "Star Wars: Episode 4" wouldn't even be in the top ten of all time if it weren't for the rereleases. Talk about stats not meaning a damn thing.

At 5/20/2005 03:15:00 PM, Blogger Kennelworthy said...

"'Sith' scores $50 million on first day in theaters", whatever that ultimately means.


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