August 28, 2011



The probable effect of Irene is most evident in the weekend’s limited releases, where loss of NY business would have been most damaging.  HIGHER GROUND, seemingly headed for a per-theatre average of $12K, could only manage $7600, while CIRCUMSTANCE, on track for a $8K average, made it to only $6200.  Similarly, some expansions were hit:  SARAH’S KEY, which looked to hold steady on Friday (while increasing theatre count by 35%), instead went down 17%.  And Sony Classics was unlucky in its last-hurrah expansion of MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, which increased its theatre count by almost 150% but saw grosses rise only 34%.

For the wider releases, the storm’s effect was less serious.  THE HELP seemed hardly to be touched at all, probably because its audience isn’t particularly centered on the East Coast, and the same goes for the genre movies COLOMBIANA and DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARKOUR IDIOT BROTHER could plausibly claim that Irene caused it some pain, but even another $1M for the weekend wouldn’t have made its bleak result much brighter. 
Labor Day weekend is historically terrible at the boxoffice, and studios will have to decide whether the possibility of making up for some of this weekend’s shortfall justifies increased marketing for next weekend, in an effort to bring some of those lost audiences back in.  The big studios will probably do little, if any, of that–this weekend’s openings were unlikely to have much gas in them anyway.  Smaller distributors like Sony Classics and Roadside Attractions, however, may find the push worthwhile.  

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."