Box office numbers

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  • Box office numbers

    I need a little help understanding how the success of a movie
    is determined. Opening weekend box office numbers apparently
    mean everything. If a film does not fare well then it's considered
    a failure.

    It seems to me, however, those numbers are misleading.
    Today's strapped economy is forcing many moviegoers
    to be very selective. The cost of a ticket and what
    is offered at the concession stand is astronomical.

    Also, many consumers are investing in big screen tv's with
    great sound systems and prefer the comfort
    of their homes to watch the same movies.

    I believe (admittedly, I have no statistical data to back
    this up) that a lot of people would rather wait until a
    movie is available for rent or purchase instead of going
    to the theater. It has little to do with likes or dislikes.
    The decision is based on economics and comfort.

    Personally, there have been a lot of movies released that
    I've been excited about that I've chosen to watch later.
    I'll only go to the theater to see a movie if it's something
    that I think requires a really big-screen experience. For me,
    that usually means some huge tent-pole action flick with
    lots of explosions and special effects.

    Point is, it doesn't mean I prefer those movies over a
    good drama or rom com. In fact, most of the films I love
    are not action tent-pole movies. I just choose to watch
    the smaller films later in the comfort of my home. I may be
    wrong but I believe a lot of people think the same way.

    So, when the industry measures the success of a movie
    by opening weekend numbers, isn't the result skewed more
    toward big production movies because most people would
    rather rent or buy the smaller ones later? Smaller movies
    could very well bomb at the box office but end up being
    extremely successful later.

    Am I totally wrong here? Someone who knows the business
    please help me understand why everything hinges
    on opening weekend box office numbers.

    Thanks.
    The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense - Tom Clancy

  • #2
    Re: Box office numbers

    For the studio/distributor opening weekend is the best chance to make money.

    In general, the deal with theaters is that the studio gets its biggest % of the dollars spent on tickets during the first two weeks. Thereafter, the % going to the studio declines and the % kept by the theater increases.

    Also, if something does not perform well in the first week or two, the number of screens showing the film will decline dramatically after week #2. (Armored for example)

    Occasionally word of mouth yields great ticket sales week after week for a long period of time (Blind Side for example).

    While DVD sales can be good for Hollywood, those sales are also partly dependent on how a movie performed in the theaters.

    Furthermore, a strong US opening may increase the number of screens the film gets when it opens in foreign markets.

    Lots of caveats and other sources of revenues over time, but opening strong is still the best indication of everything that will follow (foreign BO, pay-per-view, rentals, cable, DVD sales, etc).



    R.O.T.

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    • #3
      Re: Box office numbers

      Originally posted by RogerOThornhill View Post
      In general, the deal with theaters is that the studio gets its biggest % of the dollars spent on tickets during the first two weeks. Thereafter, the % going to the studio declines and the % kept by the theater increases.

      Also, if something does not perform well in the first week or two, the number of screens showing the film will decline dramatically after week #2. (Armored for example)
      I could be wrong, but I thought this was the other way around. I thought the exhibitor's take went down, but the studio's take went up, the more "legs" a movie had.

      By your Armored example, the exhibitor would be disinclined to pull a movie in its second week, even if it was doing poorly, because it's % of the take would still go up. But if it's the studio's take that's on the line, then they would pull the movie in favor of a newer film that's getting a push from a distributor and for which they have a better % of the revenues.


      To the OP - opening weekend gross is the primary indicator of how well a film will do in its theatrical run as well as an indicator of how it will do in ancillary markets. It's rare that a movie will outperform in secondary markets in contradiction with how it performed initially. It does happen, but it's not the norm. Sure there are a lot of people who catch movies later, but many more people who miss one never get back to it. Plus, I would wager that there are more people who will repeat view on video a movie they liked in the theater, than people who skipped that movie in the theater to wait to watch it on video.

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      • #4
        Re: Box office numbers

        Originally posted by Logliner View Post
        Personally, there have been a lot of movies released that
        I've been excited about that I've chosen to watch later.
        I'll only go to the theater to see a movie if it's something
        that I think requires a really big-screen experience. For me,
        that usually means some huge tent-pole action flick with
        lots of explosions and special effects.
        I understand this tendency, but the sheer amount of people who do this are convincing the studios that we are OK with all the horrible crap they constantly foist on us. And waiting for home video to see the smaller, subtler films tells them that we don't want to see movies without explosions and special effects. I plonk my money down for films at the theater when I want to tell the studios "yes! more like this!" And I think the theatrical experience adds a lot to even the small and quiet films, even if there are no giant robots or superheros in them.

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        • #5
          Re: Box office numbers

          A quip about the studio/theater split...

          Who Gets What From Your $10 Ticket?
          Ok, so you walk up to the box office and drop down your $10 to buy your ticket. Who gets that money? A lot of people assume (as did I at one point) that the movie theater keeps 50% of it, and the rest goes off to the studios. That's not really true.

          Most of the money that a theatre takes in from ticket sales goes back to the movie studio. The studio leases a movie to your local theater for a set period of time. In the first couple of weeks the film shows in the theatre, the theatre itself only gets to keep about 20% - 25% of the green. That means, if you showed up to watch Bridget Jones' Diary on opening night, then of the $12 you put out for a ticket, the movie theatre only got to keep between $2.40 and $3.00 of it.

          That's not a lot of money, especially when you think about how much bigger and elaborate theatres are these days. It's not cheap running one of these places. It can get even worse. This percentage will vary from movie to movie depending on the specifics of the individual leasing deal. For instance, 2 movie theatre managers told me that for Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, the studio took 100% of the box office take for the first week of release. Can you imagine that? They had to over staff and have above normal capacity flood into their theatres... and they got to keep $0.00 from the ticket sales. That almost seems criminal.

          Now, as you move into the second and third weeks of release, the percentage starts to swing to anywhere from 45% - 55% that the theatre gets to keep. It gets better after the fourth week when theatres generally can keep up to 80% or better of the ticket sales. There is an obvious inherent problem with this arrangement. I don't know about you, but when I finally get around to seeing a film that's already been in the theatres for 4 or 5 weeks, I'm usually one of the only people in the place. It doesn't do the establishment a lot of good to keep 80% of the ticket sales when only 14 tickets are sold per show. And with more and more and more movies getting released every week, the length of time that a movie stays in theaters is shrinking. Bad news for the movie theaters.

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          • #6
            Re: Box office numbers

            The percentage for the exhibitor increases the longer a film stays.
            Titanic was a dream come true, it hung out in theaters forever.
            Theaters make most of their money on concessions.
            Incentive is to sell out every showing.
            Theater makes more money with a full house opening weekend, than they do with a half house four weeks in.
            That's why you see movies pulled in a week or 2 if they bomb.

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            • #7
              Re: Box office numbers

              The numbers are the numbers.

              In fact, there's some other thread where all of this got hashed out.

              2009 was a record box office year... and ticket sales were up, too.
              But DVD and other home video earnings were *way* down.
              But NetFlix was making a bunch of money.

              Are you *buying* those movies you watch on your big screen? If not, then how much money is the studio making from you? If you use Netflix, then you pay $9 and get unlimited movies... and the studio gets what?

              Compare that to a movie ticket, where (as has been said) studios often get 80% of opening weekend, then as the film continues to play the % lowers... but they aren't getting less than 50%. That is money that goes right into tio studio's pocket.

              So studios make movies for the people who they make money from. They make money from ticket sales, they make almost nothing from Netflix. They used to make money from DVD sales - but people are not *buying* DVDs like they used to.

              And when you look at the movies people *do* buy? They are all of the big hits. They tend not to buy the small movies. Do you buy them and pay the full $21.95 price?

              If you aren't buying tickets, they aren't making money from you, and they do not care about you.

              - Bill

              Here - found the post I was talking about, and I pulled the DVD/Blu Ray sales #s for the week TRANSFORMERS 2 came out...

              1 (-) Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen 5,442,793
              2 (1) The Proposal 623,744
              3 (-) Transformers 262,887
              4 (3) Monsters vs. Aliens 230,230
              5 (2) Land of the Lost 157,297
              6 (4) Drag Me to Hell 119,741
              7 (-) Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead 108,312
              8 (5) X-Men Origins: Wolverine 91,983
              9 (7) Hannah Montana The Movie 62,592
              10 (6) Year One 62,048

              So that is what people are watching at home on their big screen TVs. What is the small drama on that list? The top movies at home are similar to the top movies in cinemas.

              - Bill
              wcmartell
              Member
              Last edited by wcmartell; 01-30-2010, 12:52 AM.
              Free Script Tips:
              http://www.scriptsecrets.net

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              • #8
                Re: Box office numbers

                i stand corrected and I learned something! thanks.

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                • #9
                  Re: Box office numbers

                  I learned a lot too.

                  Thanks for all the helpful explanations. Makes sense now.

                  The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense - Tom Clancy

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