December 30, 2012

YEAR TO DATE BOX OFFICE ACTUALS & YEAR TO DATE: 2012 Wrap-up through December 30

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Written by: Mitch Metcalf
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The following is based on early estimates for Sunday, December 30.  The 2012 figures will be updated as needed when the actuals are released, but any change will be minimal.

The Past Week: Total Box Office Volume

All films in wide release playing between December 24 and December 30 grossed a very encouraging $399 million, up 10% from the four-year average for the week and up 12% from week #52 last year.  The entire week bounced back nicely after the disastrous weekend of December 21-23.  

The past six weeks are now only 1.3% above the four-year average but still a significant 10% above the same six-week period last year.  

Year to date box office ($10.1 billion for wide-release films for the 364 days and 52 weeks between January 2 and December 30) is 5.5% above the average for the same period the last four years and 6.8% ahead of the same period last year (the 364 days between Monday, January 3, 2011 and Sunday, January 1, 2012).         

Domestic Box Office Volume: All Wide-Release Films through December 30, 2012 ($ millions)  2012 vs 2011  2012 vs 4yr Avg
2011 4-year Average 2012
Week #52 355 363 399 +12% +10%
Past Six Weeks 1,157 1,262 1,279 +10% +1.3%
Year to Date 9,495 9,615 10,143 +6.8% +5.5%

The year breaks down very nicely into three parts.  An incredibly strong first part (January through mid-May), a rather forgettable summer (late-May through September) and a solid finale (late-September through December).  The January-May year-part was, of course, topped off by the opening few weeks of The Avengers, but also anchored by The Hunger Games ($408 million), The Lorax ($214 million) and 21 Jump Street (a surprisingly strong $138 million).  And one weekend early in the year (February 10-12) launched three films that went on to gross over $100 million domestic: Safe House ($126 million), The Vow ($125 million) and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island ($104 million).  All of this activity added up to a January-May fully 21% ahead of the same period in 2011 and a sturdy 17% ahead of the average for the previous four years.  (See table below.)

Summer 2012 just felt like work, particularly the month of June: Snow White and the HuntsmanMadagascar 3, Prometheus, Rock of Ages, That’s My Boy, Brave, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Ted, Magic Mike, Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection, Moonrise Kingdom, and People Like Us.  Sure there were three films that managed to break $200 million domestic (Brave, Ted and Madagascar 3), but there is an inordinate number of clunkers in that bunch.  And regardless of commercial appeal, that’s a pretty lame and forgettable list of 13 movies.  The summer was also hampered by the mass killings in the suburban Denver movie theater, which certainly depressed the box office for The Dark Knight Rises and probably some other business in late July and early August.  Out of 19 weekends in this dreary period, 14 weekends were down from prior years  (and 10 of those declines were stiff double-digit percentage drops).  The middle part of the year finished over 8% below summer 2011 and almost 5% behind the average summer the past four years.

And then the final part of the year turned around completely.  Out of the final 14 weeks, 12 were up versus prior years (and 11 of those were up double-digits).  Films as varied as Hotel Transylvania, Taken 2, Argo and Wreck-It-Ralph drove their weekends past expected performance, but it was the one-two punch of Skyfall and Breaking Dawn Part 2 in early November that really broke the box office wide open.  The Hobbit is not quite living up to the height of The Lord of the Rings commercially, but it is doing well enough to cover for the one true disaster of the holiday season and the end of the year, the weekend of December 21-23 anchored by quartet of holiday manque movies (Jack Reacher, This Is 40, The Guilt Trip and Monster, Inc. 3D).   September-December finished 16% ahead of 2011 and about 8% of the multi-year average, bringing the entire 2012 period a comfortable 5-7% ahead of prior years.  A good year for Hollywood, indeed.

Domestic Box Office Volume: All Wide-Release Films by Yearpart ($ millions)  2012 vs 2011  2012 vs 4yr Avg
2011 4-year Average 2012
Full Year (weeks 1-52) 9,495 9,615 10,143 +6.8% +5.5%
Jan-May (weeks 1-19) 2,972 3,085 3,598 +21% +17%
May-Sep (weeks 20-38) 4,206 4,034 3,853 -8.4% -4.5%
Sep-Dec (weeks 39-52) 2,317 2,496 2,692 +16% +7.8%

Note: 2012 dates — Full Year (1.2.2012-12.30.2012), Weeks 1-19 (1.2.2012-5.13.2012), Weeks 20-38 (5.14.2012-9.23.2012), Weeks 39-52 (9.24.2012-12.30.2012)

2011 dates — Full Year (1.3.2011-1.1.2012), Weeks 1-19 (1.3.2011-5.15.2011), Weeks 20-38 (5.16.2011-9.25.2011), Weeks 39-52 (9.26.2011-1.1.2012)

2010 dates — Full Year (1.4.2010-1.2.2011), Weeks 1-19 (1.4-5.16.2010), Weeks 20-38 (5.17-9.26.2010), Weeks 39-52 (9.27-1.2.2011)

2009 dates — Full Year (1.5.2009-1.3.2010), Weeks 1-19 (1.5-5.17.2009), Weeks 20-38 (5.18-9.27.2009), Weeks 39-52 (9.28-1.3.2010)

2008 dates — Full Year (1.7.2008-1.4.2009), Weeks 1-19 (1.7-5.18.2008), Weeks 20-38 (5.19-9.28.2008), Weeks 39-52 (9.29-1.4.2009)


About the Author

Mitch Metcalf
MITCH METCALF has been tracking every US film release of over 500 screens (over 2300 movies and counting) since the storied weekend of May 20, 1994, when Maverick and Beverly Hills Cop 3 inspired countless aficionados to devote their lives to the art of cinema. Prior to that, he studied Politics and Economics at Princeton in order to prepare for his dream of working in television. He has been Head of West Coast Research at ABC, then moved to NBC in 2000 and became Head of Scheduling for 11 years.