March 31, 2012



Frontloading strikes again.
THE HUNGER GAMES (Lionsgate/Summit), with $18.9M on its 2nd Friday, is behaving like a sequel, even though it isn’t one.  It’s down 72% from opening day, which is consistent with the second Fridays of mega-sequels like The Dark Knight (down 65%), Twilight:  New Moon (-76%), Breaking Dawn Part 1 (-77%), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 (-66%) and 2 (-84%), Spider-Man 3 (-71%) and Pirates of the Caribbean:  Dead Man’s Chest (-67%).  Non-sequels, on the other hand, have tended to decline much more slowly on their 2d Fridays:  of the 4 non-sequels in the Top 10 Weekend 2s, only Alice in Wonderland fell more than 50%. (Avatar had a supernatural 14% drop, helped by the fact that its 2d weekend was also Christmas weekend). The 2nd weekend multiples of the giant sequels ranged from 2.3-3.4, which means the Hunger Games weekend number could be anywhere from $43.5M-64.3M.  Assuming a midrange figure of $55M, that would be a drop of 64%, right in the middle of the 2nd weekend range for giant sequel openings (other than Dark Knight, which fell only 45%), but only the 5th highest 2d weekend for a non-sequel.  Does this say something about the way the business is becoming ever more frontloaded, or is it peculiar to Hunger Games?  We’ll find out this summer, when major non-sequels like Battleship, Snow White & The Huntsman and Prometheus (which we won’t consider part of the Alien series) are due to open.

OPENINGS:  This year has seen audiences mete out two helpings of boxoffice justice.  First the 3D return of THE PHANTOM MENACE flopped as the movie should have when it opened the first time, and now the public is proving that it has no happy memories of the fluky hit Clash of the Titans, as WRATH OF THE TITANS (Warners) opens with a $12.4M Friday that’s less than half of Clash‘s opening day just 2 years ago.  Clash earned 43% of its weekend gross on opening day, and if that holds, Wrath might make only $29M for the weekend.  (Of course, like Clash, Wrath will be looking to make the bulk of its boxoffice overseas–but if those numbers decline 50% too, it won’t do the studio much good).  MIRROR MIRROR (Relativity) is headed for little more than $20M for the weekend, and even though Relativity wants everyone to know that it’s limited its share of the production cost to $30M by selling off foreign rights, the hefty US marketing costs are still on the studio’s books.  
HOLDOVERS:  2 previously limited releases tried for an expansion to wider audiences, with limited success.  SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN (CBS) tripled its theatre count to 483 but only doubled its Friday gross, reducing its likely weekend per-theatre average to a mediocre $2500.  That looked good compared to JEFF WHO LIVES AT HOME (Paramount Vantage), which doubled to 513 theatres but saw its Friday gross increase by less than 30%–it’s headed to a lousy per-theatre number that probably won’t reach $1500.  
21 JUMP STREET (Sony) and THE LORAX (Universal) continued to hold very well, with only 25% and 37% drops from last Friday, respectively.  JOHN CARTER (Disney), on the other hand, continued to collapse, down 61% from last Friday and now in real danger of failing to reach $70M in the US.  The anti-abortion piece OCTOBER BABY (Goldwyn) got a great deal of attention despite not much boxoffice last weekend, and yesterday it plummeted almost 60% from its opening, which is what happens when a first weekend is artificially boosted by bloc ticket buying through church and political groups.  
LIMITED RELEASE:  Thinking of attention, no one draws it like Harvey Weinstein, and his supposedly passionate crusade to release BULLY (Weinstein Company) complete with F-bombs resulted in a robust per-theatre number that should reach $20K in 5 NY/LA theatres.  (It’s already been reported that in just a couple of weeks, he’ll release a PG-13 version that bleeps the words at issue.)  

NEXT WEEKEND:  The major opening (actually on Wednesday) is another 3D re-release:  this time it’s TITANIC (Paramount), and the assumption is that with James Cameron behind the controls, it will be as good as a 3D conversion can look.  Friday brings AMERICAN REUNION (Universal), from the American Pie franchise that not long ago was already direct-to-homevideo.   Sony Classics will open Whit Stillman’s DAMSELS IN DISTRESS in limited release–we reviewed it at the Toronto Film Festival

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."