Tag Archives: Box Office

New Chinese Box Office Records Come As No Surprise

Monkey King and Dad Posters

Thanks to a quota on foreign films limiting the number of imported titles to 34, movie studios have often struggled to get their movies released in China. Apparently there is no quota on box office bragadocio and Hollywood has been able to easily export its affinity for trumpeting their latest movie grosses.

Ironically, the Chinese have turned news of their country’s latest theatrical grosses into one of their own exportable goods. When China set a new single-day box office record by earning CNY ¥248 million (USD $41 million) on January 31st, it made headlines around the world. I get it; touting box office grosses helps promote specific movies. However, there actually happens to be good reason this week to take notice of China’s grosses, which I’ll get to in a moment.

This past weekend marked the start of the Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year, a 15-day holiday that has grown into one of the country’s biggest movie going periods. This has been especially true in 2014. Based on box office alone the year of the horse has already been quite prosperous for the China’s homegrown movies, and presumably, its theatre operators.

Over the holiday weekend “The Monkey King”, starring Donnie Yen took in CNY ¥279 million (USD $46 million) in its first three days of release. Also opening with a bang was “Dad, Where Are We Going?”, and based on its CNY ¥205 million (USD $34 million) debut, I’d have to say the answer to that question is… the bank.

These grosses not only put “The Monkey King” and “Dad, Where Are We Going?” at the top of China’s box office, but were also enough to place them in first and second place on the worldwide chart. Thus the reason for the global fuss being made over the news.

Directed by Hong Kong filmmaker Poi Soi Cheang “The Monkey King” is a big 3D epic adapted from Wu Chen-en’s beloved Journey to the West tales and it was widely expected to attract a big audience. So was “Dad, Where Are We Going?” which is based on a hit reality television show featuring celebrity fathers and their families. It’s first day gross of CNY ¥90 million (USD $15 million) is yet another record breaker; highest single-day gross for a 2D Chinese-language title. Because setting just one record in a weekend is so year of the snake (2013).

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Homegrown Movies Help Asian Box Office Surge To Record Levels

China, Japan and South Korea

I wonder if senior management at the big three Detroit automakers during the late 1970s and early 1980s experienced the same sense of pending anxiety that many Hollywood studio executives must presently feel. You see, as the media and certain members of the industry spent this past summer lamenting over a string of underperforming blockbusters like “After Earth”, “The Lone Ranger” and “White House Down”, a threat to Hollywood’s long dominance of the worldwide movie market continued its steady growth. What’s more, this threat comes from the very international territory Hollywood has recently courted as an emerging market; a region which has already proven how effective it is at disrupting American industrial supremacy.

This time however, the ongoing business success of one country may not have to suffer as other countries gain market share in the same industry. Bear with me for a moment while I use an arguably exaggerated analogy to detail the current surging Asian box office.

Starting in 1890 and running all the way through the 1960s, the United States was the largest automobile producer in the world. By the 1970s the U.S. automotive industry was ruled by GM, Ford and Chrysler, a group of companies that came to be known as The Big Three. However, after a series of setbacks in the 1970s starting with the 1973 oil crisis, U.S. automakers began to see their market share decline as car buyers shifted to smaller, cheaper and better engineered vehicles built overseas, mostly in Japan and South Korea.

Offerings from companies such as Toyota, Honda, Nissan and eventually Hyundai outsold those from The Big Three to such an extent that by 1981 Japanese automakers were sending cars to the U.S. under a voluntary restraint agreement.

China, which has recently become Hollywood’s new best friend, didn’t export cars to the U.S. so much as they did… well, just about everything else. I’ll spare you the details of what foreign imports did to the U.S. textile industry. Can anyone even remember the last time they wore a piece of clothing with “Made In U.S.A.” on the label?

When we correlate such recent historical cases with the motion picture industry the similarities are easy to spot. Releases from six Hollywood studios earn a lion’s share of the worldwide box office. However, most of the movies Hollywood has been manufacturing lately are big, expensive retreads of previous versions of the same product. For decades, only Hollywood entities could churn out slick and shiny movies with a high production value. The advent of digital technology though, has lowered the cost of film production and distribution to such an extent that producers all over the globe can manufacture product that equals what is being made in Hollywood. These new movies are smaller, less expensive and offer fresh narratives.

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Dissecting Google’s Box Office Prediction Study

Google's Comparison of 2012 Box Office Index and Film-Related Search Index

Predicting box office receipts for a motion picture release, whether for opening weekend or an entire theatrical run, is anything but an exact science. Leave it to the good folks at Google, those lords of the algorithm, to rely on math rather than fuzzy logic when coming up with a better formula for “tracking”, as the practice of box office prognostication is often referred. Last Thursday Google released a white paper titled “Quantifying Movie Magic with Google Search” which claims it can predict box office grosses for movies four weeks before their release with 94% accuracy.

As a white paper, the document does its job rather effectively and can hardly be faulted; it favorably promotes Google’s products and services through the use of carefully chosen facts and statistics, all in the guise of a well researched report. Its publication served its promotional purpose with industry and technology publications regurgitating Google’s findings in their own reporting. Few, if any, media outlets took the time to read between the lines and highlight the facts being presented from a more circumspect position. That is my intention here.

Don’t get me wrong, adding the kind of user behavior data Google has at its finger tips should most certainly make predicting box office far more accurate. Rather, I would suggest that Google’s narrow study conveniently produced complimentary results that most industry professionals already know or would rightly assume. In Google’s defense, it is their job to continue reminding potential users and customers of its value, even if certain facts can be deduced via common sense and observing overall consumer trends.

For instance, Google states that searching online for information about movies has increased by 56% from 2011 to 2012. We have to take their percentage at face value, but frankly it doesn’t really matter. Of course more moviegoers are searching for info online; (1) newspapers and magazines are disappearing by the day as their subscribers flock to the Internet so there are fewer and fewer places to look up showtimes and reviews, (2) more-and-more people have become Internet users in the same time period, and (3) an influx of smartphones means that more consumers can search for movie information while on-the-go, even if they don’t have a computer at home. Put another way… it’s a big no duh.

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New Yorker Magazine Measures Movie Franchise Profitability

New Yorker Movie Franchise Profitability Infographic

Take a look at the release schedule this summer and you might begin to notice a trend; “Hangover III”, “Iron Man 3″, “Star Trek Into Darkness”, “Monsters University”, “Grown Ups 2″, “Despicable Me 2″ “RED 2″, etc. The number of sequels being pumped out by Hollywood studios is staggering. However are any of these franchises actually profitable?

Last week the New Yorker took a stab at answering that question by publishing an interactive info graphic which displays the financial results of each individual film in 26 different movie franchises. By using adjusted total ticket sales, the magazine was able to compare each franchise by the adjusted gross of each title in the series. As the New Yorker writes

“…with an eye to the bottom line, we created a third ranking that takes a basic view of profitability by calculating the franchise gross as a percentage of the adjusted budge…”

That means visitors can shuffle the order of titles within each franchise, as well as the franchises themselves by gross, per-movie-gross and profitability. This exercise provided answers to age old questions such as whether “Star Wars” or “Star Trek” has earned more.

Have a whack at the chart for yourself and see what lessons you can learn.

NATO Reports Declining Ticket Prices

Movie TicketsIn Technorati Media’s “State of the Blogosphere 2011” report it is noted that the number one influencer of bloggers, whether professionals or hobbyists, is other blogs. Over 60% of all bloggers surveyed say they look to other blogs to find topics and subjects to write about. All the copy-cat posts on the same news story or subject have led some to criticize the blogosphere as nothing more than an echo chamber of people all writing about the same ideas in the same way.

Such an effect was demonstrated over the past two days with a news story about the decline of movie ticket prices. I first saw the story posted yesterday on The Wrap followed shortly after by one published on the Hollywood Reporter‘s website. They stated the National Association of Theatre Owners had announced the average ticket price for the third quarter of 2011 had dropped to USD $7.94. That’s lower than the second quarter’s record setting USD $8.06, but higher than the USD $7.86 price of 2011′s first quarter.

The publications “attributed” the price drop to having fewer 3D releases in the quarter, in comparison to the higher number of titles released in the second quarter. Both stories were short and practically carbon copies of one another leading me to believe they must have been citing a press release of some sort.

I waited for NATO’s press release to arrive via email for confirmation of the news, though nothing ever arrived. So, I went to the press release section of the organizations website, but found nothing had been published since October 14th.

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IHS Screen Digest: Russia Becomes A Billion Dollar Cinema Market

Anyone who has attended an industry trade show this year or has taken even a cursory look at international box office grosses has undoubtedly noticed the increase in revenue being generated in two countries; China and Russia. It’s no secret that the cinema market in both of these territories is on the rise as each goes through their own multiplex boom. While researching a piece on international box office for the July issue of Boxoffice Magazine I was told by Veronika Kwan-Rubinek, President of International Distribution for Warner Bros., “Russia has been the single biggest growth story in the last decade, and China will be the biggest growth market looking ahead.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if Russia continued to be a growth story for some time to come. That’s precisely the subject of a recent IHS Screen Digest report authored by David Hancock. Some of the highlights from the report include:

  • Record box office in Russia surpassing the USD $1 billion in 2010
  • The market has 2,430 screens of which 297 were added in 2010 – the strongest growth in the last five years
  • Over 30% of all the screens in Russia are in Moscow and St. Petersburg
  • Of the 941 digital screens in Russia, 95% are capable of showing 3D

Of course, the IHS Screen Digest report contains enough facts and figures to prove the point ten times over, certainly more than can be recounted here. Suffice to say, Russia is now a market that is so important that Paramount held the world premiere of “Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon” in Moscow on June 23rd.

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Holiday Weekend Gives Box Office Coverage A Record Breaking “Hangover”

The Hangover Part II PosterDid anyone hear that loud “whooshing” sound this past weekend? If so, don’t be alarmed. It was just the collective sigh of relief coming from dozens of studio executives upon seeing the weekend’s enormous box office receipts.

The summer movie season started off with a bang here in the United States thanks to the highest grossing Memorial Day weekend of all time. More than USD $277 million was earned by the top 50 motion pictures playing around the country. Sequels led the day with “The Hangover Part II” pocketing USD $85 million, “Kung Fu Panda 2″ chopping away an additional USD $47.6 million and “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” walking off with an additional USD $39.8 million.

While I was glad to see the industry rebound from receipts and attendance that were down upwards of 17% and 18% respectively over 2010 figures, I couldn’t help but feel a little skeptical upon seeing the news. Maybe I’ve just grown ambivalent to reading about bar setting box office results that are filled with qualifiers. For instance, the following sentence is from a Box Office Mojo story from this past weekend:

Playing on approximately 6,700 screens at 3,615 locations,”The Hangover Part II” delivered the top-grossing weekend ever ($85.9 million Friday-to-Sunday) for a live-action comedy, and it ranked second to “The Matrix Reloaded” among R-rated movies.

I’m not sure when the industry became so jaded that a praiseworthy USD $85.9 million dollar opening weekend needed to be puffed up further with adjectives like “top-grossing”. Especially when such adjectives have to be qualified with yet another hyphenated descriptor, “live-action comedy”.

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CinemaCon 2011: Fithian Urges NATO Members To Begin Digital Transition

John Fithian At CinemaCon 2011

John Fithian At CinemaCon 2011

John Fithian, President of the National Association of Theatre Owners, gave his annual State of the Industry address yesterday at the trade group’s inaugural CinemaCon convention in Las Vegas. His speech covered all the necessary points while reiterating some of the comments about the digital cinema transition which Fithian has made to smaller groups over the past several months.

He began with a handful of statistics that highlighted some economic figures, including a global box office which climbed 30% over the past five years to reach USD $31.8 billion in 2010. North American box office receipts rose 15% to USD $10.6 billion in that same period, while inflation only rose 8%. In what was perhaps a jab at the studios rumored plans to begin offering new films via premium video-on-demand, Fithian compared these numbers to home video sales, which have declined 13% during the past five years.

Fithian also provided an update on North America’s digital cinema roll out, telling the audience of over 2,000 delegates that almost 16,000 screens, out of a total of 39,000 had been converted to digital. Nearly 9,000 of those screens are equipped for 3D projection. After running through more industry numbers than most could ever remember, Fithian paused as he came to the most important point in his speech:

“For any exhibitor who can hear my voice who hasn’t begun your digital transition, I urge you to get moving. The distribution and exhibition industries achieved history when we agreed to technical standards and a virtual print fee model to enable this transition. But the VPFs won’t last forever. Domestically, you must be installed by the end of 2012 if you want to qualify. Equally significantly, based on our assessment of the roll-out schedule and our conversations with our distribution partners, I believe that film prints could be unavailable as early as the end of 2013. Simply put, if you don’t make the decision to get on the digital train soon, you will be making the decision to get out of the business.”

Fithian went on to remark that admissions had climbed in each of the last four decades and that 3D grosses in 2010 made up 21% of total receipts, doubling the amount such films earned in 2009. However, his earlier comments about the ongoing digital cinema transition is what most of the show’s attendees focused on after Fithian’s speech concluded. Was it true that all cinema owners had to convert their screens to digital before 2012 to qualify for a VPF? Are studios really going to stop distributing 35mm film prints after 2013?

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Box Office Review-Sunday 10 May

The Star Trek franchise had its biggest opening yet, as Paramount’s relaunched “Star Trek” topped the North American box office this weekend with an estimated $72.5 million, giving the film a domestic total of $76.5 million (with its Thursday opening night).

“X-Men Origins: Wolverine”—which last week had the biggest opening weekend of the year so far with an $85 million debut–finished in second place with an estimated $27 million, bringing its domestic box office total to $129.6 million. Worldwide, the film has crossed the $200 million mark.

Dreamworks Animation’s first digital 3D release “Monsters versus Aliens” stayed in the top 10 in its seventh week, bringing in an additional $3.4 million as its domestic total climbed to an estimated $186.9 million and worldwide gross reached $329.9 million. The production budget for “Monsters”—still the top grossing film of the year so far–is estimated to be around $175 million.

DWA still has a few more weeks before the next wide digital 3D release, Disney/Pixar’s “Up,” opens in theaters on May 29.

After a disappointing start last week, Lionsgate’s animated 3D release “Battle for Terra” continued to struggle. This weekend it brought in an estimated $184,000 for a $1. 5 million total domestic gross.

Add two more 3D release dates to your lists: Warner Bros.’ “Happy Feet 2”—the sequel to the computer animated Oscar winner “Happy Feet”—is slated to open in 3D on Nov. 18, 2011. Meanwhile Vivendi will open the live action family adventure “Call of the Wild 3D” next month on June 12.

Booming U.S. Box Office Makes Headlines

John Fithian of NATO

John Fithian of NATO

These days, with the global economic crisis at full force dominating headlines, it seems mainstream media will jump on anything that even smells like positive news.  So, it’s no wonder with North American box office earning a billion dollars in January and an additional US $800 million in February that media outlets would break their tradition of only covering box office grosses on Monday mornings in favor of feature stories about how moviegoers have returned to theatres.

A spate of articles in various publications was kicked off on February 25th by Andreas Fuchs’ Film Journal piece in which John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), holds forth in a “state of the industry” interview.  A good portion of the lengthy piece is devoted to the current state of the digital cinema transition, which Fithian still believes will heat up in 2009 despite any financial woes.  Fithian then goes on to describe the exhibition industry as being “recession-resilient” though stopped short of calling it “recession-proof”:

“The cinema is a relatively inexpensive way to be entertained. If people don’t have money to go on a big vacation, they take a mini-holiday at their local movie theatre. So the environment of challenging times is generally good for us, but that doesn’t mean it always works. You need to have good movies. People are not going to escape the burdens of the day by going to see a bad film.”

While U.S. box office set an all time record in 2008 with US $9.79 billion in grosses, Fithian points out that admissions were actually down 2.5% Read More »