October 15, 2012

SBD AWARDSWATCH: “Argo” Springs a Small Leak


Mitch Metcalf will have more to say about this weekend’s actual boxoffice numbers versus Sunday’s studio estimates later today, but one point is worth noting for its Oscar implications.  It was important to Warner Bros that ARGO, the studio’s big awards season hope and the fruit of its golden-boy director Ben Affleck (and also a terrific movie–see our review HERE), have an opening weekend gross over $20M, because the studio knew that the movie wasn’t going to win the weekend against the 2d week of Taken 2, nor would it match the opening of Affleck’s more mainstream action movie The Town, which debuted with $23.8M 2 years ago.  Although boxoffice isn’t all-important to Oscar voters (e.g., The Artist and The Hurt Locker), it’s always better to look like a “hit”.  So the weekend estimate was an aggressive $20.1M, which would have required a very low Sunday drop to hold true.  In fact, that didn’t happen–Argo fell a perfectly acceptable 43% on Sunday (only the family movies in the market did significantly better–Hotel Transylvania actually won the day), for a final weekend total of $19.5M.  (In fairness, 20th was also overly aggressive with its estimate for Taken 2, which ended up falling 56% for the weekend to $21.9M.)

Warners got what it wanted, for the most part:  the boxoffice articles that draw the widest attention are the ones that appear on Sunday, where Argo hit its target number, and relatively few people outside of sites like this follow up on the percentage point differentials on Monday.  As far as most of the public is concerned, particularly Academy voters, Argo had a $20M opening.

The movie’s next test will come in a few days.  Given Argo‘s older-skewing audience, its superb exit poll scores, and the fact that this week’s two wide openings (Paranormal Activity 4 and Alex Cross) are aimed at different demos, Argo will be expected to have an exceptionally good boxoffice hold this weekend (The Town fell only 35% in its 2d weekend).  If it doesn’t, that will be harder for Warners to obscure.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."