Saturday, November 14, 2009

What to really watch for with New Moon's opening weekend gross.

As of this writing, my local AMC multiplex (the Promenade 16) has allotted twelve of its sixteen auditoriums for Thursday night midnight sneaks of Twilight Saga: New Moon. So while the sky truly seems to be the limit for next weekend's opening, it will be a fascinating one to watch for one simple reason: front-loading. If you recall, Twilight opened with a $35.9 million opening day, which only translated into a $69.6 million three-day opening. That gave the film an all-time record for the worst opening day to weekend multiplier, a stunningly poor 1.9x. That record has since been usurped by The Hanna Montana Movie, which opened on Easter Sunday (with kids out of school) with $17.4 million, but by Sunday was down to just $4.4 million (weekend total - $32.3 million; 1.85x multiplier). Ironically, despite the massive opening weekend front-loading, the film actually played longer than expected, eventually grossing $191 million for a 2.7x weekend to final gross multiplier, which is almost considered leggy in this day and age.

Obviously the optimists are predicting a $100 million+ opening weekend. Is that possible? Sure it is. It would only be an increase of about 43% from opening weekend to opening weekend. That's quite a bit, but it's well in line with other sequels to 'surprise' hits that exploded. Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and The Dark Knight grossed more on their respective opening days ($55 million and $67 million) than the original made in their initial Fri-Sun opening ($43 million and $48 million), and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen came awfully close ($77 million Fri-Sun opening for part 1, $62 million opening day for part 2). Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and Terminator 2: Judgment Day out-grossed the entire domestic total of their predecessors in the first weekend. A more realistic comparison would be the X-Men series, which went from a $54 million opening weekend for X-Men to an $85 million opening weekend for X2: X-Men United (a 36% increase).

However, there is that pesky front-loading that needs to be discussed. It stands to reason that a sequel would be even more frontloaded than the original, so the weekend multiplier could be even lower this time around. But presuming it stays the same, let's do a quick calculation. In order for Twilight Saga: New Moon to cross the magical $100 million mark in its initial three-day sprint, it will have to gross about $52 million on Friday alone. Again, that's a tough thing to predict (predicting or expecting record-breaking numbers is a dangerous thing), but it's well within the realm of possibility. Of course, despite all of this speculation, let's remember that the sequel will have both the benefit of fan frenzy over the original, as well as the handicap of being a known quantity (anyone that didn't like the first one isn't going to be coming out for opening weekend this time around). So anything resembling the $69 million opening weekend numbers of the original should be considered a big win for this sequel. Second of all, let's keep expectations in check if the film does pull in an astounding opening day figure. Even more so than Harry Potter and X-Men fans, Twilight fans prefer to sample on the first day.

Scott Mendelson

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