Box Office observations...

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by TerryRL, Dec 3, 2001.

  1. TerryRL

    TerryRL Producer

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    This weekend saw 'Harry Potter' take a 58% hit as it begins showing signs of slowing it's pace. Still, the movie has done what WB had hoped, opened huge and made a lot of money very fast. While the film will end up among the top ten domestic performers of all-time, it probably won't reach the top five.

    I then looked over the list of the top opening films in history and realized that out of all the movies that have opened to more than $50 million (19), only four of them had the legs to eventually pass the $300 million mark ("Jurassic Park", 'ID4', "The Phantom Menace", and eventually 'Harry Potter').

    Films that have monster openings, for the most part, have very quick flame-outs. Of the top twenty highest grossing films in history (domestically), only seven of them had opening marks of more than $50 million.

    The questin then becomes, why is so much emphasis put on an opening weekend mark? "The Phantom Menace" failed to topple then opening weekend champ "The Lost World" and many saw this as a sign of doom, yet the film went on to have the best legs of any movie with more than a $50 million opening tally.

    "Planet of the Apes" opened with $68 million and saw dramatic percentage declines in the following weeks. That film didn't even make it to the $200 million mark.

    I think the main emphasis should be put on a movie's staying power, rather than it's opening suggesting it's overall success, the final tally should do that.

    "Titanic" earned only $28 million and it's opening, and look where that ended up. To this day the legs of that movie blows me away.

    What I'm saying is that too much emphasis is put on a movie's opening. Opening weekends are important, but I think more emphasis should be put on a film's legs, but that's just me.
     
  2. Kenneth

    Kenneth Supporting Actor

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    I am not an expert on this but I would assume there are a number of factors that drive companies to pursue the "opening weekend" strategy.

    1. Advertising - if this is a big event picture then advertising is set to coincide with the opening and prepare for that. The more screens the film opens on, the better the chance to get people in the first week. Also, the advertising can drop off dramatically after the first few weeks.

    2. Competition - the big event movies are often staggered to not open directly against each other. This usually gives a film a 1-3 week interval before they have to go head to head with the next new thing. A big opening blitz capitalizes on this advantage.

    3. Unpredictability - no one usually knows which movies will have "legs" and which won't. Titanic was not expected to make as much money as it did, or Paramount would't have sold a partial interest to Fox during the making. Other "leg" movies often catch people by surprise (The Sixth Sense comes to mind here also).

    4. Better me than him - this is a subset of the "competition" item but the rational would be that a theater playing your movie is not playing a competitor's product. This is important when the event movies open against each other or in very close proximity.

    5. Financials - studios get their largest percentage of the grosses in the first few weeks. More money here goes directly in their pockets. Money collected later on goes to the theater in larger percentages.

    That would be my take.

    Kenneth
     
  3. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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  4. Chuck Mayer

    Chuck Mayer Lead Actor

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    Quick correction: Fox sold local dist rights to Paramount on Titanic. It is Fox's movie, not the Mountain.

    The opening weekend is big b/c studios feel they can control it...box office legs require the joining of several factors, including luck. They would rather make the quick, GUARANTEED buck, than hold out hope for long-term success, especially in today's ADD world. Which leads to this summer's MEDIOCRE films being seen as a huge success by the studios. Get ready for more Universal sequels and quick hype machines. They want the opening weekend...that leads to big DVD sales, etc.

    Take care,

    Chuck
     
  5. bill lopez

    bill lopez Second Unit

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    The thing about TITANIC is that after it's 1st weekend people went back to see it again with friends and gave it good word of mouth. Unlike PLANET OF THE APES, where you saw the 1st weekend and didn't return and told friends it wasn't seeing.
     
  6. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    Also, don't forget that way the studio and exhibitor split the box office heavily favors the studio during the first two weeks of a movie's release (up to 90/10), but begins to tilt more toward the theater over the length of an engagement. So, to give an example, it may be more lucrative for a studio if a movie makes $200M in two weeks than for it to make $250M in four.
     
  7. TerryRL

    TerryRL Producer

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    Great points all around.

    I can see why a studio would favor a front-loaded movie as opposed to one that had legs. Still, I'm more impressed by a movie that does huge business over a reasonable period of time compared to one that does 90% of it's business in it's first two weeks of release.

    But I do see why studios prefer it that way, especially on the "bigger" movies.
     
  8. Anthony Hom

    Anthony Hom Supporting Actor

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    I think the box office totals are not as critical anymore. There was a time when that's all they have. Some films that sold moderately had even bigger legs in the home video market. A good example of this is the Matrix.

    You can bet that WB is not going to be as concerned that this will not be the biggest box office draw of all time, but rather the biggest home video draw, getting that lucrative family market along with merchandising.

    In a way, the big box office hype is a marketing promotion for future home video sales.
     
  9. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    I think most of us agree that films with no legs are a bad thing and sadly too common the last few years.
    Besides the good front-end percentage I think another reason why studios like this approach is because they have more control over the opening weekend than they do on overall success.
    Meaning that with star power, buzz, adverts, total screens opened on, etc. the studio has more of a hand in how much they can get from the film "product" than in gambling on the artists themselves.
    The formula for good opening weekends is much more reliable than the formula for making a good film.
    Too bad for us really.
    edit - my post should just be called "What Michael said." [​IMG]
     
  10. TerryRL

    TerryRL Producer

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    Studios are making crazy amounts of money from video and DVD sales and rentals. What's funny is that the major studios are still able to make a ton of money off of major flops because of the home video market. A movie like "Dark City", which was a considerable box office disappointment, was able to make more on home video than it did in theaters.

    Anthony's point is a very valid one, and speaks volums about the nature of the current studio system. Take Fox for example, they get nothing from the theatrical run of AOTC, but they get a big share of the video and DVD rights, that is where they made their money.

    "X-Men" was a big hit for them, but the bulk of it's profits came from the home video market. The same goes for "Cast Away".

    Both Seth and Michael hit upon how a film's box office run, is more about a major PR blitz than anything else. That's true, a film's theatrical run seems to be nothing more than a giant ad for the film's future video/DVD prospects.

    In the last couple of months, there have been new home video sales records every week it seems as films like "Snow White", "The Phantom Menace", "The Godfather" Saga, "Shrek", "The Mummy Returns", and "The Grinch" have all made enormous amounts of coin from their VHS/DVD sales.

    Expect this trend to continue with "Pearl Harbor", "Rush Hour 2", and "Jurassic Park III". Home video is big business and has become the most lucrative branch of all the major studios, with theatrical releases serving nothing more than a marketing tool.

    Damn good observation Anthony.
     
  11. Steve_Ch

    Steve_Ch Supporting Actor

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    >>What I'm saying is that too much emphasis is put on a movie's opening. Opening weekends are important, but I think more emphasis should be put on a film's legs, but that's just me.
     
  12. Steve_Ch

    Steve_Ch Supporting Actor

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    Typo correction:

    "did not purposedly write better screenplays", should be "BAD screenplays", not "better", sorry.
     
  13. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Sounds like William Goldman, whose most famous quotation about Hollywood is "Nobody knows anything!"
    M.
     
  14. TerryRL

    TerryRL Producer

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    The major studios each pull in billions of dollars every year from box office, video sales/rentals, merchandising, television rights, ad revenue, and the booming overseas marking that they can easily afford to pay the top actors the top fees.

    Take "Signs" for example. M. Night Shyamalan got $10 million for writing and directing the movie. Mel Gibson got $25 million for starring in it, and Joaquin Phoenix got $5 million for his supporting role. That's $40 million just to secure three people. The film's production cost is said to be in the "area" of an additional $40 million, with another $25 million (at least) for the film's marketing costs.

    Plus, Gibson and Shyamalan get a backend cut of the movie's box office gross, with the studio (Disney) taking the bulk of the video/DVD rights. The studios spend a lot to make these movies, yes. And it is wise for them to market them as they do, but it's becoming more and more difficult for a studio to actually lose money on a "big" movie.
     
  15. Chuck Mayer

    Chuck Mayer Lead Actor

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    But ultimately, these dollars are coming from us. Do you wonder why Julia gets 25 million a movie? Because the studio will pay. The studio will pay, and force the theater owner to pony up a bit more. To meet his cost, he will charge you, the consumer. It's an entertainers market out there(actors/athletes/"musicians"). They are willing to see how much you'll spend, because you are paying for them. Keep that in mind[​IMG]
    Take care,
    Chuck
     
  16. TerryRL

    TerryRL Producer

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    That's true, the problem is that no matter how bad the product is, we (consumers) still shell out massive coin to see it and/or buy it.
     
  17. Steve_Ch

    Steve_Ch Supporting Actor

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    Mike, thanks for the "edit" button hint, that will come in handy.

    TerryRL, re: it's harder and harder for a studio to lose money on a "big" movie..

    There was at least one lawsuit not that many years ago that a bunch of movie investors sue the studio and producer of a big blockbuster movie (I don't remember what the movie was, but it racked in hundreds of millions in the box office). It's the ugly side of the movie business, because the producer and studio showed the investors that even the movie was a big box office success, the investors lose money because after the big bonuses that were contracted to the producers and directors,.. and the backend cuts to all the stars, the balance sheet actually showed the movie in the red. Everybody involves in making the movie made tons of money, investors that put up the original fund were left out in the cold. I don't know what the ultimate result of that lawsuit is.

    Back to the big openning versus legs, the studio has at least SOME control over big openning, with the massive marketing hype budget, websites,.. etc, they can FOOL people for one weekend, but whether a movie has "legs" or not, that's something that nobody knows. If anybody that has any clues to make movie that has "legs", they will all be making the "Witch Project" type of movie, where it only costed less than $100K but gross something like $80 million in the first round of theater release.
     
  18. TerryRL

    TerryRL Producer

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    A lot of studios are allegedly guilty of "creative accounting", where they are able to show that even a box office hit "lost" money. Disney is notorious for this. While there is no proof that the studios fudge the numbers, there has always been a feeling that this is what actually goes on.

    It raises the question, why do studios spend so much money on these movies that "lose" money? Ultimately, when the other factors are added in (home video, television rights, advertising, etc.) you can see why a guy like Michael Eisner is constantly smiling.

    Steve, I'm going to see if I can dig up any information on the lawsuit you brought up because I vaguely remember something like that happening. You are right though, it does represent a very ugly side the "biz".
     
  19. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    Which makes you wonder...what happens as the audiences start to get saavy from being burned so much.

    After all, while marketing is not new, DVD sales and HUGE front-end campaigns with accompanying HUGE openings is the "new" trend. We've seen marketing before, but this "load up early and trick the audience with crap" has exploded in the late 90's.

    The masses are slow to realize things, like any large entity it can't adjust quickly and has lots of momentum.

    Maybe what we are seeing here at HTF with threads like this is the beginning of that awareness as the vanguard people (us) are moving past awareness to disgust. Others will follow but they simply don't watch and follow the filmworld enough to be put off yet.

    But once Joe6 has been burned 1 too many times by marketing he will start to learn. An example: my buddy was taking his kids to WWWest. I warned him that it was getting killed in reviews which is why I was avoiding it. He went anyway because it was the "big" film. He was really sorry afterward.

    Once that catches on then the studios will no longer be able to rely upon tricking audiences and will have to shift their paradigm of thought. It wouldn't be the first time, obviously.
     
  20. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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