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Scott Mendelson

Scott Mendelson

Posted: July 19, 2009 06:07 PM

HuffPost Box Office in Review


The List...

$80 million for Wednesday and Thursday, then $79.4 million from Fri-Sun. $159.6 million for five-days. The prurient 'I heart Alan Rickman' fan club cannot be stopped. I bet Tim Roth weeps into his breakfast each and every morning (I sincerely hope that choosing Planet of the Apes over Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was an artistic choice).

OK, before we get into discussions about front loading and what the total vs the opening day means for the film in the long run, let's get some stuff out of the way right now. The sixth Harry Potter picture had the second-biggest five-day opening weekend in history, behind last month's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (and, let's be honest, the $200 million five-day figure for Transformers 2 is, as Air America radio host Stephanie Miller would say, a 'lying sack of crap') . In many ways, this is a similar situation to May, 2002, where the unexpectedly huge opening weekend of Spider-Man ($114m in three days) dampened the huzzahs for the otherwise fantastic four-day $110m gross of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. The sixth film of a long-running franchises just set a franchise record by about $20 million. And it achieved its second-best five-day opening weekend without the IMAX advantage and with the handicap of discounted kids-ticket prices. This is a fantastic result, and it means that the franchise is likely to become the first sequel of this series to reach the $300 million mark. By any rational, plausible standard, this is a gangbusters opening weekend for arguably the biggest cinematic franchise in film history. With this weekend, the franchise has surpassed $1.5 billion in the US. That's with two more movies left, plus likely another $100-175 million left for part 6. Oh, and part 6 ended its first weekend with $396 million in the international bank, which is a record worldwide opening figure.

So, having said that, it's a little petty to discuss any minor issues like 'front loading' or 'gee, it had the worst multiplier of any five-day release in history' ("Once again Harry, we ask too much of you."). So I'll make this quick and move on. The movie has an all-time low multiplier for a five-day weekend release: 2.74x (that's the kind of multiplier that you see for three-day weekends). The film did over 50% of its five-day business in the first two days. Let me repeat... it made less over the three-day weekend portion than it did over the first two days (that also might be a first). It grossed 36% of its overall weekend total on its first day. Heck, it grossed 14% of its total in the first four hours or so (re - $22 million in midnight screenings). For whatever reason, this sixth Harry Potter film was front loaded in a way that you usually only see in films that people don't like. Yes, this year has been pretty terrible for hardcore weekend front loading (Friday the 13th, Watchmen, Bruno, etc) which is almost always followed by an epic second-weekend plunge (more on Bruno below). But the reviews have been near perfect (my 'B' has been treated as a pan by comparison) and the word of mouth, while not on-fire, hasn't been the sort to cause any damage to the long term prospects.

So, as troubling as these numbers appear on the surface, this may be the rare case where hard-core front loading means nothing in regards to the audience response and/or long term domestic prospects. Order of the Phoenix (the only other five-day opening weekend for which to compare to the Potter series) did 2.1x its five day business by the end of its domestic run. Let's assume that the film plays a little faster being yet another sequel, and let's assume that the IMAX premiere in 1.5 weeks doesn't give the picture a third-weekend boost, a 2x multiplier would still be a franchise high of $318 million (the original chapter, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, ended with $317.5 million). In order to cross the $300 million mark, it needs only to gross 1.88x its five-day number. And for those who were hoping that Harry Potter would slaughter Transformers 2, have heart. Its worldwide total after five-days is already over half of Transformers 2's very impressive current $796 million total. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince likely be the second-biggest worldwide hit of 2009 by just the end of next week. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, with $363 million and rising, is sure to win the domestic crown for the summer (and for the year, unless James Cameron's Avatar really does reinvent the wheel), but never underestimate the overseas might of Harry Potter.

Speaking of worldwide wonders, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs has very quietly amassed $581 million worldwide (#2 for 2009) and has already surpassed $152 million in the US by its 19th day. Down just 34% in weekend three, this second sequel is well ahead of the first film at day 19 ($122 million), and it's neck and neck with Ice Age: The Meltdown, but it's making a bit more per day. Expect this to cross $200 million by the end, and possibly $800 million globally. Plans are already in the works for Ice Age 4, and it seems like a no-brainer at this point (it will join Shrek Goes Fourth as the only theatrical animated franchise to make it to a fourth chapter). Somewhat shockingly, the domestically mighty Star Trek ($253 million in the US) has stumbled overseas, now stuck at $376 million, behind Night at the Museum 2 and Angels and Demons (the latter is about $25 million away from the half-billion mark). Point being, for all the justified rejoicing, the Star Trek reboot will still depend on DVD/Blu Ray sales to actually make a profit. Fortunately, the series is a reliable long-term player in the home video realm (and, who are we kidding, the sequel is going to be an absolute monster).

The big 'holy crap' story was the colossal 72% drop for Bruno. Dropping from $30.6 million to $8.3 million, this is the second-biggest second-weekend drop for any movie opening over $20 million (Friday the 13th plunged 81% earlier this year from a $40 million start). We can all hem and haw about what this means other than that the film just wasn't very well liked, but the picture will still make it to at least $65-70 million in the US alone. Universal picked this up for just $42.5 million, and I'd imagine the much-talked about picture will rent quite well. Yes, this is an absolute collapse and yes it's a little embarrassing for Universal, but the picture will make quite a bit of money regardless (worldwide, it's already at $74 million). Also very much worth noting, The Hangover dropped another mere 16% for a new domestic total of $235 million. That puts it as the third-highest grossing R-rated film of all time (not adjusted for inflation). Alas, it will likely climb no further up the list. Ahead of it are The Matrix Reloaded at $281 million and The Passion of the Christ at $371 million. The Proposal also dropped a meager 21%, so its new total is $128 million. Public Enemies ended weekend three with $79 million, so it'll likely limp to $100 million and then drop dead (again, Michael Mann movies are reliable long term renters).

Other news is the stunningly quiet box office run of Cameron Diaz's Her Sister's Keeper. Opening directly against Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, this melodrama has crossed the $40 million mark and may just make it to $50 million. And, since Warner Bros. didn't spend $80 million on this one (unlike State of Play or Duplicity), this will be a very profitable $30 million-budgeted example of 'the disappearing adult drama'. Finally, the top-ten was nearly invaded by two very limited release pictures. At number twelve, we have the Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel romance 500 Days of Summer. It pulled in $838,000 on just 27 screens for a scorching $31,000 per screen average. Just below it is the fourth limited-release weekend of The Hurt Locker. It pulled in another $764,000 from 90 venues. It goes wide next weekend, and any action junkie that doesn't check it out is an idiot.

Tune in next weekend when the Katherine Heigl/Gerard Butler romantic comedy The Ugly Truth squares off against Walt Disney's G-Force (an action film with guinea pigs... why didn't someone do that sooner?). In other words, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will once again sit atop the box office. For a day-by-day analysis of Harry Potter's box office run, read about Tuesday at 12:01, Wednesday, and Thursday. See how the sixth Harry Potter film stacks up against other parts 6. Check out my review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as well as a look at what happened on this weekend last year (hint... it involved bats and broken records). For all this and more, make Mendelson's Memos a daily stop.

Scott Mendelson

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