Saturday, November 24, 2012

Reason 4,325 why cumulative box office is a stupid statistic...

If you've read this site for any length of time, you've heard me claim about the constant reporting of what's basically called cumulative box office.  Cumulative box office is basically the total weekend box office of all films currently in theaters.  It's the kind of statistic that presumes that box office is a team sport, rather than a solo enterprise.  It's the stat that led to the whole 'great movie-going slump' of 2005, wherein various box office pundits screamed that movie going was doomed because the cumulative weekends were down from the same respective weekends in 2004, never mind that different movies were being released in summer 2005 compared to summer 2004.  Since then we've had any number of 'slumps!', usually during periods when we had more smaller, lower-budget films instead of non-stop tent poles every weekend.  This weekend  we're going to hear a lot of talk about how this Thanksgiving is the biggest Thanksgiving ever by around $20 million.  That's terrific news for the industry I suppose, especially if you're the part of the industry releasing The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn 2 or Skyfall.  But if you're the part of the industry that's releasing Rise of the Guardians, you're probably not having a very good Thanksgiving.

The numbers are still rolling in, but it looks like Rise of the Guardians will be Dreamworks Animation's lowest-grossing opening in many years.  With about $22 million for the Fri-Sun and $33 million for the five-day, it's five-day gross, let alone its three-day figure, would be the lowest Fri-Sun opening for DWA since Flushed Away ($18 million) back in 2006.  Among all DWA debuts since 1998, its five-day and three-day figures would both rank 17th out of 25.  I bring this up not to embarrass Dreamworks (there will be time to analyze the weekend tomorrow) but to point out the obvious silliness with treating the film industry as a collective whole unit when discussing box office.  If your film is performing well, you're thrilled.  If your film is tanking, you're not so thrilled, even if the pundits are celebrating a record cumulative weekend.  During the great slump, I'm sure Warner Bros. was devastated by the news considering how well their summer films (Batman Begins, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Dukes of Hazzard) were performing.  On the other hand, during that 'great' summer of 2004, I'm sure Paramount wasn't too thrilled with the relative under-performances of The Manchurian Candidate and The Stepford Wives, both of which couldn't pass $60 million despite star-filled casts.  As I've said any number of times, box office isn't poker, it's blackjack.  Every film is competing only with itself and every studio cares only about whether their film is doing well in the marketplace.

20th Century Fox is thrilled this weekend because Life of Pi may crack $30 million over the holiday weekend when $20 million was arguably a pipe dream. Film District has to be a little surprised that Red Dawn isn't just not tanking but opening just under $20 million.  But Dreamworks Animation is devastated because Rise of the Guardians will be one of the lowest-grossing debuts in their 25-film history. That the industry will have a 'record Thanksgiving box office' makes for nice headlines, but it's a meaningless statistic when your film is the one that tanks.

Scott Mendelson


Bulldog said...

I guess it's how the tea leaves are interpreted and not the reporting that irks me Scott. While sites like Guru will report the year to year comparison, there is no announcement of gloom and doom because we have had three weeks of consecutive shortfalls on their behalf. It's the ones like our dear friend Finke who do this teapartyesk interpretation, which then is repeated ad nausea by other outlets that gets frustrating.

As a fan of just the numbers I don't mind seeing the comparison just to chart where we are this year compared to the last, especially when one sees that we are up over $600m compared to last year. Interestingly, besides Hobbit, December is full of wild cards and I'm having difficulty predicting any sure bets that will be breakout hits passed $150m, and since Dec 2011 scored the second lowest cumulative box office take since 2000, and that was with 1 $200m grosser and 3 100m grossers, maybe 2012 it might be the first December since 2000 to not gross $1b, and that being said, I still see 2012 being the biggest of all time at the box office, just needing to cross $10.6b.

That's why I like the cumulative. It's merely academic to me.

Bulldog said...

Also, I was looking at the possibility that Skyfall may now eventually outgross Twilight at the domestic box office. Reminds me of 2009 when New Moon fell to $15m in it's 3rd weekend and was overtaken by The Blind Side. Granted, The Blind Side had tremendous legs, but this Bond film is holding remarkably well. Quantum of Solace lost the battle against the first Twilight in 2008, maybe Bond will have his revenge this time. Too bad I thought it was the weakest of the three Craig films.

Scott Mendelson said...

I noticed that too and made a point to include it in Sunday's BO write-up. Yeah, I don't think anyone saw that coming even 60 days ago. Of course the real win is if Skyfall can kick the adjusted-for-inflation buttocks of The Bourne Ultimatum...

Scott Mendelson said...

I can't disagree with a word of that. But the cynic in me already sees 2013 being deluged with 'slump!' headlines every weekend due to the mega-successes in 2012 (Hunger Games, Skyfall, Dark Knight Rises, Avengers, Breaking Dawn 2) that arguably won't be replicated in 2013 by the likes of Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, etc.


Related Posts with Thumbnails