Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Inflated Expectations...

For the record, if a rival executive tells you that someone else's movie is going to break records on its opening weekend, don't believe them. In the same way that politicians inflate the expectations of their rivals in a primary, convention, or general election, studios often use the media to create unrealistic expectations of how someone else's movie will perform.

To wit - anything over $70 million for Iron Man is a huge win, especially as the reviews are positive, so it should have some breathing room before Indy 4 (Speed Racer is a huge question mark and Prince Caspian is chasing a different demo). Anything under $50 million is a disappointment and cause for concern for franchise potential. This is the best slot to open your summer movie - period. Even with bad reviews and bad pre-release buzz, Universal's Van Helsing still pulled in $52 million in this slot back in 2004.

But Marvel comic book movies are not sequels to each other. In the same way that Madagascar was not a sequel to Shrek 2 (if you recall, analysts went crazy because Madagascar opening on Memorial Day Weekend 2005 to 'only $65 million in four days', 'less than half of Shrek 2's opening five day figure!!'), Iron Man is not Spider-Man 4. Anyone who is expecting Iron Man do to over $100 million is either lying or overly optimistic.

Could it do such a number? Of course, it COULD. Despite the 'no girls allowed' nature of the marketing, Downey Jr is the ultimate 'rebel in need of saving' for many women. And, of course, you need both sexes to do anything over $40 million. If the Downey factor is enough to draw in willing females (as opposed to begrudging girlfriends and women who like big metal toys as much as boys), then X2 numbers are not out of question ($85 million on this same weekend in 2003).

For the record, I'm not one who believes that Grand Theft Auto IV is going to make a major dent in the numbers. The game came out yesterday and gamers have to take a break sometime this weekend. Besides, what about the much anticipated release of Mario Kart Wii? Or will that be the alleged cause if Speed Racer under performs next week? But, it could make a small impact, perhaps the difference between doing $75 million and $85 million. There are plenty of adults who bought the game yesterday but will be too busy with jobs and family to play it before the weekend.

Point being, as the summer begins, let us try to keep perspective and be realistic about what movies will open to how much. $100 million+ would be an ungodly triumph for Paramount/Marvel, but don't believe the Monday-morning quarterbacks who snicker at $65 million.

Scott Mendelson

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