Thursday, June 24, 2010

Knight and Day opens with just $3.8 million on Wednesday. The bane of the stupid Wednesday/Thursday opening.

I've said this several times over the last few years, but it bears repeating: It’s suicide to open on Wednesday unless you’re dealing with a severely hardcore ‘must see it NOW’ fanbase. Knight and Day is not The Lord of the Rings. It is not Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. It is not Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and it is certainly not Twilight Saga: Eclipse. Yes, Fox may have been deluded into thinking that Tom Cruise's star-power alone is what powered War of the Worlds and the first two Mission: Impossible pictures to their massive five or six day weekends. But those three were holiday weekends, not the week before a major holiday. And Knight and Day is not a heavily-anticipated Steven Spielberg adaptation of a classic sci-fi novel. Nor is it a mega-budget adaptation of a beloved TV show that benefited from a killer marketing campaign. It's just an action-comedy that stars Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. I know plenty of people who want to see Knight and Day. But every one of them is able and willing to wait until the actual weekend to do so.

Had the film opened on Friday, it likely would have taken in anywhere from $7 million to $10 million on its opening Friday. Now, because Fox split up its opening day into three days, two of which are in the middle of the work week, the best that Fox can hope for is a $7 million Friday. The film will suffer in the press for its less-than-stellar Wednesday opening, and it will make absolute peanuts today. No matter what it takes over the full five days, that number would have looked far more impressive had it been a straight three-day opening weekend. And no matter what it does, it will still have to fight off the stigma that comes from barely opening on its first day. Even if it performs like the outlier of Wednesday openings, Shrek 2 (which did an eye-popping 12 times its opening day by its first Sunday), the picture will end up with $46 million by Sunday. Not bad, but surely a $35 million three-day weekend would have been more boast-worthy. Heck, had Shrek 2 opened on a Friday back in May 2004, it likely would have eclipsed the $114 million opening weekend record set by Spider-Man two years prior. Of course, I'm complaining about the release strategy of a film that pulled in $441 million in domestic grosses, but the point still stands.

Point being, unless it's a holiday weekend and you're really sure that there is pent-up demand for your movie, do not open it on a Wednesday or Thursday (this means you, Last Airbender). In most cases, you’re just taking the opening Friday gross and dividing it into two or three days (Sex and the City 2 took what should have been a solid $25 million Friday and chopped it into two middling $14 million days). You’re creating the impression of flophood going into the weekend because most moviegoers were just waiting until Friday to see the film. We won’t know the full box office story on this one until Saturday or Sunday. As for the allegedly-endangered Mission: Impossible 4, that will still be a go (especially with Brad Bird already signed to direct), just with a smaller price-tag and likely less back-end for Cruise. Whomever at Fox decided to push the release date up two days should be scolded if not beaten. Consider this a rule-of-thumb: unless you think people will be camping outside the theater for the midnight showing, you open your film on a Friday.

Scott Mendelson

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