MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland

Early Weekend Box Office Analysis

All one can really say about Universal’s 1-2 punch of $20 million weekend movies is, “Wow!”  White Noise is a rather low key release, but Universal marketing hit all the right notes, apparently, and got people into theaters. Meanwhile, Meet The Fockers continues to be a phenom, now chasing Bruce Almighty as it passes $200 million this weekend. 

This weekend’s feat of having two $20 million films in one January 3-day weekend is, as far as I can tell, one of a kind.  It’s even more impressive when both films come from one studio. Add to that Universal being the first studio ever to have two $20 million January openers at all, much less two back to back (after last year’s Along Came Polly) and there is reason to celebrate at NBC indeed.

One has to call Universal the Comedy King of Hollywood now.  The movies have strong hooks, but even more so, the marketing of these films speaks to audiences… often not to L.A. or NY audiences… but to audiences worldwide and the success is astounding.

In Oscar box office news, The Aviator took a Friday-to-Friday tumble of 44%, which makes one wonder whether it will be the first casualty amongst the late season entries in perception as an underachiever.   Sideways and Million Dollar Baby are both suspected of same, but neither has not been put to the test of over 500 screens yet. 

Everyone is assuming that The Aviator is in for a Best Picture nod and everyone is probably right.  But Miramax is going to have to find a way to rev the engine again by the end of the month.  The Aviator is the most expensive of the top contenders by double or more (except in the unlikely case of The Incredibles).  The film has to clear Gangs of New York numbers… or at least Ray numbers to have a shot at winning Best Picture.

Closer will hit $30 million this weekend and Spanglish looks like it will get to $40 million.  But ironically, the higher grosser will be a financial loser for its home studio.

Meanwhile, Finding Neverland is grossing less than $100,000 more per day than Sideways or Million Dollar Baby even though it is on roughly triple the screens of the first and nine times the screens of the second.  Dave Karger got his way after six long months of campaigning for Finding Neverland and the film’s Depp and Winslet got the cover of Entertainment Weekly’s comedically named “Start of the Oscar season” piece.  And another Oscar pundit called its name as the likely winner the other night.  But I don’t see it.  I guess we’ll find out in time.

Be Sociable, Share!

49 Responses to “Early Weekend Box Office Analysis”

  1. D says:

    “The Aviator” is doing just fine for a 3 hour long movie limited to 3 showings per day and in less than 2000 theatres. An Oscar nomination for BP (which will definetely get – I don’t understand how you can still have doubts David after PGA, DGA, GG, BFCA and so on…) will give it a major boost and it will end near 80 million. An Oscar win can bring its cume to over 100 million.

  2. JT says:

    i have to agree with D on this one. It will get the BP nod and it will gross at least between 80-100 mil (probably over 100 mil, actually). I still think that among the big awards, it only has a real shot at the director trophy 9though, something tells me eastwood’s got it again) and possibly Best Supporting Actress (i think CB is the winner, though seeing VM win wouldnt ruin my day at all).

  3. JT says:

    i have to agree with D on this one. It will get the BP nod and it will gross at least between 80-100 mil (probably over 100 mil, actually). I still think that among the big awards, it only has a real shot at the director trophy (though, something tells me Eastwood’s got it again) and possibly Best Supporting Actress (i think CB is the winner, though seeing VM win wouldnt ruin my day at all).

  4. Josh Massey says:

    I agree that box office has something to do with it, but aren’t you focusing on it a little too much? How much had “English Patient” pulled in before nominations? “Shakespeare in Love?” Of course, the fact I feel like going back to “The Last Emperor” to prove my point probably proves yours.

  5. Martin says:

    Aviator will no doubt get a nod, but it looks like its a tougher sell than some thought, which will probably prevent it from becoming a BP pic or even director winner. The Academy doesnt really go for the whole “give it to this guy cause of other stuff he’s done”, just look at the old bitch from a few years ago that went home empty handed. So – I have no idea whose gonna get BP, but BD will prolly be Eastwood.

  6. Stella's Boy says:

    Universal sure is good at getting people to see horrible movies. Bruce Almighty, Along Came Polly, Meet The Fockers, and now White Noise. Welcome back Keaton.

  7. D says:

    I can assure you that there is no way that Eastwood will win BD. MDB might win BP but BD will go for Scorsese. No doubt about it.
    “The Aviator” has slightly underperformed so far but Oscar nods will give it a major boost. There is no doubt that The Aviator is the only movie that will grab nods accross the board (major ones, acting, writing and technical) so people will then see it. Look at what happened with Chicago or A Beautiful Mind…

  8. Duarte Oliveira says:

    #3 – “The Aviator” – $7,630,000 for a 32.9% drop and a 42.9 mililion total.
    Looks ok to me…it’s holding rather well.

  9. D says:

    The Aviator will have 50 million next week. That will be 50 million in 4 weeks and with less than 2000 theatres. That’s a great number. A GG win and the most Oscar nods will give it the boost it needs.

  10. Mark says:

    Fifteen years ago who would have thought Michael Keaton would be doing HBO movies and small budget horror flicks? This is Michael Keaton here. Glad he’s back in the game.

  11. Neal says:

    The ONLY film we should be comparing Aviator’s numbers to is Gangs of New York, which after 3 weeks of wide release had $47 million. That’s 5 million more where Aviator is now after the same. Chicago began picking up steam and taking away some of GONY’s business; there’s no way Million Dollar Baby is going to have as big an effect this year. I also think it’s reasonable to assume that without the Robert Wise/Variety controversy a couple years ago, Scorsese might have had his Oscar. If The Aviator can avoid any late hour scandal, it will be in the same position as Gangs in terms of nominations. Considering GONY went 0-10 in wins, The Aviator can only do better, as it is likely to at least win a couple tech awards. Even if M$B goes on to win the Golden Globe for Best Drama, it won’t matter because Oscar nominations because they will have been decided already. It would, however, put a damper on Aviator winning Best Picture. The Directing award would still be in flux, but when was the last time a film didn’t win one of the GG Pic awards and took Oscar?

  12. Neal says:

    Oh, and Michael Keaton has as much to do with the success of White Noise as Naomi Watts did with The Ring. People will see ANYONE in a horror film. It could have been Richard Gere or Robert Patrick for all they care. I doubt this will lead to some Keaton resurgence.

  13. Martin says:

    Actually I think this will be of great benefit to Mr. Keaton’s career, even if it drops off and finishes with a little over $50. The guy hasn’t had a lead hit in a long time and this ones a hit.. so yeah, he’ll probably get a few major roles out of this one. The guy above is right though, horror just seems to never run out of success lately. This opening feels like The Forgotten’s to me. People just want to see these sci-fi/horror/thrillers, thats the marketplace right now. On the other hand, improperly budgeted dreck like Lemony Snicket is going to lose a ton of cash for the studio, since it cost around $180 plus marketing and looks to finish with about $110. Ugh.

  14. D says:

    WN’s numbers have nothing to do with Keaton. It’s just an horror flick with a great trailer. Does anyone really think that Julianne Moore is now a box office draw due to Forgotten’s performance? Or Sarah Michelle Gellar? Of course not…

  15. Chucky in Jersey says:

    Million Dollar Baby rings the bell! In New Jersey the AMC Clifton Commons sold out at least 3 shows for Clint’s latest on Saturday despite heavy rain all day and the Jets playoff game at night. The upmarket/arthouse theaters in nearby Montclair didn’t have room, so people who prefer to see this movie in Montclair had to go to Clifton.
    Let’s face it, The Aviator is getting its tail kicked. Miramax had to take that movie mainstream right away as many arthouses decided they would be Miramax-Free for Xmas. The per-theater averages for this weekend will bear that out.
    FWIW Sideways and Million Dollar Baby don’t go wide (1200+ theaters) until 1/28. Also, DreamWorks has the international rights to Meet the Fockers.

  16. Martin says:

    Actually Julianne and Sarah Michelle have significantly upped their prices since their horror hits, so yeah, the industry thinks they’re a bigger box office draw.

  17. Stella's Boy says:

    But Julianne and Sarah weren’t box office draws before those movies, and they had little to nothing to do with their success. Those were two very well-marketed movies.

  18. D says:

    I also just wanted to point out that Aviator is tracking ahead of GONY, in less screens which shows its good legs.
    Weekend 1: 1504 screens, 9.5 million
    W2: 2190 10.9
    W3: 2305 7.3
    W1 (wide): 1796 8.6
    W2: 1796 11.3
    W3: 1867 7.6 (est.)

  19. David Poland says:

    My point about Aviator was not that there was a disaster going on. The whole point of the entire box office/Oscar discussion is about perception.
    If any film is seen as having shot its load and not being all that impressive, it can have an effect. There is some of that same buzz about Sideways and M$B… but those films have not gone out as wide as Aviator. Yes, it will be nominated… no doubt. But keep an eye on this perception issue. That’s all I’m trying to offer.

  20. Joe Leydon says:

    But Dave: We all know that Oscar voters never think about box-office while casting their ballots, right? Just like we all know that all films, no matter what time of year they’re released, have an equal shot at an Academy Award. Which, of course, why is Kurt Russell will get that Best Actor nomination some people said they thought he deserved for “Miracle” when that movie was released way back in January…
    I think I need to go lie down now.

  21. Neal says:

    David, you’re right about perception being the important word here, but don’t you think Miramax has minimized that problem by being on a smaller number of screens? I’d say that being on 500 less and making the same amount in the third weekend. There’s no doubt that Gangs had “shot its load” by this point, and the negative buzz was already in play. There isn’t the same kind of backlash this time, so perhaps a nearly 3-hour period piece at $42 million doesn’t look too bad.
    You yourself said that it doesn’t have to make a run at $100 million to contend, it just has to pull ahead of Gangs and/or Ray. If Million Dollar Baby and Sideways aren’t making their big moves for 2 more weeks (M$B goes wide on the 28th), The Aviator can add at least another $25 million because of limited competition. What the hell else is anyone going to see until then? That puts it well within striking distance of Ray, which is at $71 million and in less than 500 theatres right now, as well as Gangs’ final tally of $77 million. The academy ballots won’t be mailed back for another couple weeks (at the earliest). So your requirement isn’t a tough one, but perception won’t matter if M$B takes the big Globe win. What makes anyone think that whatever wins that Globe drama ISN’T a shoo-in for the Oscar? Sideways ain’t winning shit there anyway besides screenplay, and one or both supporting awards.
    The only hope Aviator supporters have is that the Hollywood Foreign Press swoon over Leo and Cate, old time Hollywood, and the big thrill ride. Perhaps they won’t want to give both Drama and Comedy/Musical to smaller, unambitious films. Otherwise, you can kiss everything but Marty’s possible sympathy win goodbye.

  22. kats says:

    David, you are starting to sound like a broken record regarding ‘Finding Neverland’. You never fail to spin anything to do with this movie with the most negative slant. This week you compare its box office unfavorably to M$B and Sideways. Neverland has been out 9 weeks to M$B’s 4. Sideways has not tested its appeal beyond 400 screens and has had the boost of all the ‘Lock-Step’ Critics Groups, whereas Neverland is managing to hold on to over a 1000 screens as other movies flicker out.
    A PGA nom? No problem: a fluke.
    A DGA nom? No problem: it won’t translate to an oscar nomination.
    And apparently the EW cover was engineered by an unfair, dishonest pundit, Dave Karger, who dares to foist his favorite weak little movie as an Oscar contender off on a stupid unsuspecting reading public.
    ….when its you who should be the unfair, dishonest pundit who dictates to us which movies are worthy of Oscar consideration…..oh the cruel irony of it all.

  23. Matt says:

    If “Aviator” has to keep on grossing to stay in the game, I think it’s going to have problems, because it’s got to hold on to screens. My neighborhood theatre had already knocked it down to the smallest screen in the house, though the theatre was 85% full when I saw it.
    The other problem is that even though it’s January, you’ve got about 11,000 screens that have to open up next Friday (“Coach Carter” at 2,500, “Elektra” at 2,750, “Racing Stripes” at 2,500, “In Good Company” at 1,750, and “House of Flying Daggers” at 1,500) with 1,750 the following Wednesday for “Precinct 13,” plus about 3,000 more between “Are We There Yet?” and “Phantom” on the 21st. “Aviator” is going to lose screens out of that, I’d expect. “Flight of the Phoenix,” “Blade Trinity” and “Polar Express” will all hemhorrage screens next weekend, but those alone won’t be enough.

  24. David Poland says:

    I have never called Dave Karger dishonest or unfair. I’ve just said that he has worn his rooting interest on his sleeve for a long, long time.
    Why is it that I can leave room for all kinds of possibilities and if I tell you that others are saying that they are hearing that Neverland is strong and I am not, why am I a basher?
    I don’t have a single horse in this race. I would be okay (as though it mattered) with any of the current “locked three” winning and some of those that are not yet locked. I’ve been quite repetitive about the fact that I think it is an open race.
    So you LOVE Neverland… okay… so is the only good answer for you, “GO Neverland!!!”? I never get this… but that’s me being simple minded.

  25. Neal says:

    Finding Neverland is over. OVER!!! It has been in at least 500 theatres for 7 weeks and it’s only at $27 million. That ain’t enough. This isn’t the type of film people want to see Johnny Depp in, and word of mouth that it’s a “nice” film can’t top the selling points of the other contenders. It is not Chariots of Fire (which had Vangelis), and The Aviator or Million Dollar Baby definitely are not Reds (which had Communists). Hell, Seabiscuit had more support and it didn’t win ANYTHING at the Oscars. Neverland had a decent increase 2 weeks ago, but even though it only slipped a bit this week, the weekend total was still barely over 2 million! That’s less an a third of The Aviator’s business, yet it’s on 2/3 of the screens as its competitor. That ain’t good. Even if it stays at 2 million a weekend for the next month, it’s still at $35 million.
    If this wins the Golden Globe for Best Drama I will choke on my own vomit. There’s just no way. Johnny Depp could pull out some Russell Crowe/Gladiator make-up Oscar (if he gets the Globe), but what film did Depp previously deserve an award for that he didn’t receive? He’s done a remarkable range of stuff but I don’t know that anything was ever the year’s best. He wasn’t even nominated for Ed Wood, and Morgan Freeman, Paul Newman, and Nigel Hawthorne were better anyway that year. It would be really sad if this were the film he was finally recognized for, even worse than Sean Penn winning for the histrionics in Mystic River. At least Crowe underplayed Gladiator.

  26. KamikazeCamel says:

    “Let’s face it, The Aviator is getting its tail kicked. Miramax had to take that movie mainstream right away as many arthouses decided they would be Miramax-Free for Xmas.” – Chucky in Jersey
    …er, what are you on about? The Aviator is doing really well for a 3 hour biopic of a man not that many people know and from a director and actor who aren’t exactly box-office draws.
    Arthouses decided they would be Mirimax free because they only have 2 films out at the moment (Aviator and Neverland) and Neverland has been out for 8 or so weeks and Aviator is playing wider.
    Trust me, when Million Dollar Baby goes into wider release it’s $20,000 screen average will plummet.

  27. A says:

    Neal, GONY had an extra Friday that TA didn’t have. Factor that in and the films are running neck and neck, with TA’s per screen average higher than GONY.

  28. bicycle bob says:

    can we please let the aviator go wide before we comment on how its tanking? thats all we ask

  29. kats says:

    David, I would never accuse you of being simple minded…far from it…just like Karger, you’ve worn your rooting interest on your sleeve. That’s ok, but you’ve got a very obvious agenda, just like Karger, despite your window dressing of being even-handed. So your critical, but envious comments about him struck me as a wee bit comical.
    Do I love ‘Neverland’? I enjoyed it, it was very well done, but I don’t rank it among the top 5 movies that I have seen this year. But the more I read manipulative commentary to overtly and covertly cut it down, perversely, the more I am cheering for it to hang on.
    You don’t think that ‘Neverland’ is very strong. That’s fair and you damn it with faint praise in your Oscar column, which is straight forward and also fair. What I find disagreeable is your constant spin on the facts, cloaked in seeming impartiality. You want to have it both ways.
    Personally, I’ve always loathed the obsession with ‘Box Office’ and now that obsession is increasingly poisoning the issue of the Oscars… if to say: we can’t agree upon art, so we cling to numbers.
    PS. By the way, David, I like your column, I enjoy your often clever analysis even when I disagree, I don’t envy anyone dealing with the ‘Tower of Babel’ that is the internet community. But its your load to bear….so grin and bear it.
    Oh, and Neal, good luck with that vomit problem.

  30. Sandy says:

    Dave, you’ve worn your rooting interest on your sleeve for a long, long time too…for Sideways!

  31. Katherine says:

    *can we please let the aviator go wide before we comment on how its tanking? thats all we ask*
    Well the same courtesy wasn’t granted for The Phantom of the Opera, which is apparently the biggest box-office bomb in _history_, despite having made approx. 60 million worldwide and not being widely released until Jan. 21st, so…
    Seriously though, I think the Aviator is doing fine. Not great, but fine. At this point I can’t see any other film winning anyway.
    However I was under the impression that The Aviator’s theater count WAS wide. Is it actually ever going to go wider?
    As to Finding Neverland, I believe it will be nominated, but it doesn’t stand a chance of winning.

  32. bicycle bob says:

    no offense but phantom doesnt have prestige, a box office star of titanic proportions, a director with a pedigree bar none and wait a second, heres the kicker, an actual good movie!

  33. Katherine says:

    All your opinion.
    My opinion is that Scorsese’s direction sucked on the Aviator. Still a good movie, but he doesn’t deserve the Oscar for it.
    Just MY opinion though.

  34. Mark says:

    You really going to try and tell us Phantom isn’t a bomb?

  35. Stella's Boy says:

    While anything is possible and Phantom could do well when it goes wide, I’d have to say that right now it is without a doubt a disappointment at the domestic box office.

  36. Katherine says:

    I’m sorry, I really didn’t mean to bring The Phantom into this. I was only trying to point out a little hypocrisy and be facetious in the process. I make no statements on the BOMB status of Phantom of the Opera. My apologies.
    HOWEVER, since bicycle bob brought it up, seeing as The Aviator has, as he put it, prestige, a star of Titanic proportions, a director of *such* fine pedigree, and apparently status as a GOOD movie… logistically wouldn’t all that make its performance at the box-office all the more disappointing (especially in comparison to, oh I don’t know, a film with no prestige, no stars, a director with no apparent pedigree and which is – as I understand the “cool” party line to be – a BAD movie)? Considering that one of those two movies is still in limited release and the other as I understand it IS in wide release… well, I think you can do the math from here. Just thought I’d point out the flawed logic.
    Oh, but no offense whatsoever.

  37. Joe Leydon says:

    Here’s some news that might be even more pertinent to any Oscar handicapping: Last night (Sunday), the People’s Choice Awards scored its ALL-TIME LOWEST ratings. Is this due to “award show fatigue”? (Possible.) Or were viewers simply unexcited by the nominees, and voted with their remotes?

  38. Geek, Esq. says:

    The low ratings can be explained by two words:
    Jack Bauer.

  39. Lily says:

    Wow this is funny and people think DP doesn’t have an agenda. USA Today just had a feature in Monday’s paper on how well The Aviator is doing at the box office. The article points out how a films box office success is key to winning the Oscar for best picture.

  40. Stella's Boy says:

    Did 24 get good ratings last night? I always thought the show was a critical darling that only got mediocre ratings?

  41. Neal says:

    Katherine, exactly how did Scorsese’s directing on The Aviator “suck”? By what qualifications? Because most of the negative reviews I’ve read have said nothing about the direction, and more about Scorsese’s choice of material, the failure to paint a complete and balanced picture of Hughes, etc. Most of this seems to be screenplay-related. So blame Scorsese for the entire result if you want (although DiCaprio is really the one who shepherded this film), but to be criticizing the direction seems misplaced. Unless you’d care to explain your reasoning.

  42. Joe Leydon says:

    Actually, it looks like Jack Bauer wasn’t the only one who bitch-slapped the People’s Choice last night. “Desperate Housewives” scored 8.6 rating/19 share in the 18-49 demographic, 20.0 million viewers overall. “24” scored 6.3 rating/14 share in adults 18-49 from 8 to 9 and then a 5.9/12 (and 14.3 million viewers overall) in its second hour. Meanwhile, “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” came in third at 4.0/8 in 18-49, 13.3 million. And “People’s Choice”? A lowly 3.3/7 in 18-49, 9.9 million — down 20 perewcnt from last year.

  43. Mark says:

    24 is better than most movies out there. Thankfully Kiefer Sutherland found a good role.

  44. David Poland says:

    I have no agenda against The Aviator… I love Sideways… I love Million Dollar Baby…
    But my analysis is not driven by my personal preferences. Believe me when I tell you… I spend a lot of time trying, especially this late in the season, to make sure there is no overlap.

  45. gombro says:

    I saw THE AVIATOR today (a weekday), at a matinee screening (2:35 p.m.), and the theater was at least 70% full, and it was a decent-sized auditorium (I’d say there were about 125 people there). That’s in a medium sized city where there were three other theaters playing it as well.
    The Pianist won best director just last year, and it didn’t top 20 mil, did it?

  46. Joe Leydon says:

    Gomby: Actually, Peter Jackson won last year – ah, how quickly they forget! – but your point is well taken. “The Pianist” wound up making only $32.5 million domestic ($120 million worldwide) during its entire theatrical run. “Aviator” has already cleared $42.7 million domestic. And, hell, I bet Scorsese would actually show up to collect HIS award.

  47. bicycle bob says:

    i doubt marty is fondling 13 yr old girls in jack’s house either

  48. Geek, Esq. says:

    Well, the BFCA’s seem to have kicked Million Dollar Baby in the nuts.
    If you look at the BFCA voting data, Million Dollar Baby actually got a lower percentage of the vote than did Mystic River.

  49. Cal says:

    “Closer will hit $30 million this weekend and Spanglish looks like it will get to $40 million. But ironically, the higher grosser will be a financial loser for its home studio.”
    Yes, ‘Closer’ has made it over the $30 million mark, so probably won’t lose tens of millions for SONY as was predicted in your earlier ‘hot button’ column. The production budget for ‘Closer’ was $27 million and although it has been slow-going, the film was not expected by any to be a hit with mainstream audiences. It’s done okay for a film that sends some people fleeing from the theater, and one that half the critics won’t recommend because it’s too difficult.
    ‘Spanglish’ has a reported budget of $80 million. Will likely lose money for SONY.
    I think the high per screen averages for ‘Sideways’, ‘Million Dollar Baby’ and ‘Phantom’ will hold for at least the first weekends when they all double or triple (or more) their current theater count.
    ‘The Aviator’ is losing momentum (so many people have seen it by now) but will gain again with awards wins and adding theaters.

The Hot Blog

Leonard Klady's Friday Estimates
Friday Screens % Chg Cume
Title Gross Thtr % Chgn Cume
Venom 33 4250 NEW 33
A Star is Born 15.7 3686 NEW 15.7
Smallfoot 3.5 4131 -46% 31.3
Night School 3.5 3019 -63% 37.9
The House Wirh a Clock in its Walls 1.8 3463 -43% 49.5
A Simple Favor 1 2408 -50% 46.6
The Nun 0.75 2264 -52% 111.5
Hell Fest 0.6 2297 -70% 7.4
Crazy Rich Asians 0.6 1466 -51% 167.6
The Predator 0.25 1643 -77% 49.3
Also Debuting
The Hate U Give 0.17 36
Shine 85,600 609
Exes Baggage 75,900 62
NOTA 71,300 138
96 61,600 62
Andhadhun 55,000 54
Afsar 45,400 33
Project Gutenberg 36,000 17
Love Yatri 22,300 41
Hello, Mrs. Money 22,200 37
Studio 54 5,300 1
Loving Pablo 4,200 15
3-Day Estimates Weekend % Chg Cume
No Good Dead 24.4 (11,230) NEW 24.4
Dolphin Tale 2 16.6 (4,540) NEW 16.6
Guardians of the Galaxy 7.9 (2,550) -23% 305.8
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 4.8 (1,630) -26% 181.1
The Drop 4.4 (5,480) NEW 4.4
Let's Be Cops 4.3 (1,570) -22% 73
If I Stay 4.0 (1,320) -28% 44.9
The November Man 2.8 (1,030) -36% 22.5
The Giver 2.5 (1,120) -26% 41.2
The Hundred-Foot Journey 2.5 (1,270) -21% 49.4