This summer is on track to equal, and maybe even surpass, the B.O. record. To date, tallies are running even with last year's summer numbers at $3.6 billion. And it could eclipse the record-breaking $4.3 billion earned in summer 2008.a
So in theory, studio executives have plenty to learn by studying what worked this summer -- and what didn't.
But, in fact, Hollywood has tried some daring experiments with the summer formula this year and the results are inconclusive.
There were whopping successes and embarrassing failures, and execs are scratching their heads to figure out why some succeeded and others didn't.
There are plenty of questions to be raised from these numbers.
•Does a May bow assure longer playing times?
A few years ago, the studios opened three blockbuster titles in May: The third editions of "Spider-Man," "Pirates" and "Shrek," all had great bows, followed by long shelf lives. This year, the studios opened five pics in May and early June: Fox's "Wolverine," Paramount's "Star Trek," Sony's "Angels and Demons," Warner Bros.' "Terminator Salvation" and Fox's "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian."
They ended up cannibalizing each other, depressing overall results. Each had strong opening weekends, but sustained big drops in the following week as audiences went for the next big opener. It's called "leaving money on the table."
Studios wanted to get out of the way of "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," opening June 24, but was the strategy worth it?
•Is it a good idea to counterprogram?
Over the past few years, the studios abandoned their tactic of filling the season with pics targeted at fanboys. But "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Mamma Mia!" showing the benefits of wooing other demos.
The fear now is that there is too much demo-specific fare, with the possibility that they are undercutting each other's longevity.
This month alone offers plenty of fodder for doubt. Sony's female-skewing "The Ugly Truth" opened July 24, followed by the studio's "Julie and Julia" Aug. 7, followed by WB-New Line's "The Time Traveler's Wife" Aug. 14.
It's not just females with so many choices this month. Studios are also giving guys plenty of testosterone-driven fare: Paramount opened "G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra" on Aug. 7, followed by Sony's "District 9" Aug. 14 and the Weinstein Co.'s "Inglourious Basterds" on Aug. 21.
•Do stars matter?
Par's "Transformers 2," and "Star Trek," Disney-Pixar's "Up," and Warner Bros.' "The Hangover" represent four of the top five summer films so far, but none is a star vehicle. Conversely, the Eddie Murphy Par comedy "Imagine That," Will Ferrell's U pic "Land of the Lost" and the Jack Black-Michael Cera Sony starrer "Year One" were sold on star power, but it wasn't enough.
To a lesser extent, marquee names didn't seem to aid the John Travolta-Denzel Washington "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3," from Sony. Its domestic cume is $65 million and $27.3 million overseas.
But, star wattage did help Universal's Johnny Depp gangster pic "Public Enemies." The film has grossed $95.5 million domestically and $63.5 million overseas.
•Do critics matter?
Many media pundits derided Par for not screening "G.I. Joe" for critics (a few online reviewers were shown the film). The studio said it had nothing to gain, since it's not a reviewer-friendly type of film. It opened to a tidy $54.7 million. "Transformers 2" received some of worst reviews of the year, but it's become 2009's top-grossing film, with north of $819.4 million worldwide.
At the same time, glowing reviews for "Star Trek" and "Up" appeared to bring in auds who might otherwise not have seen those films. And raves have helped smaller films like Fox Searchlight's "500 Days of Summer."
•Do the old box office formulas work?
A few years ago, distribution execs could calculate weekend grosses based on Friday's numbers. But with word of mouth via Twitter, Facebook and texting, a film can tumble more steeply than ever from Friday to Saturday, making it ever harder to come up with accurate weekend estimates.
Sacha Baron Cohen's U comedy "Bruno" fell a debilitating 39% from Friday to Saturday, as an example.
• Has audience taste changed on Iraq war pics, or was it the movies?
When a flurry of 2007 Iraq-themed pics stumbled, analysts declared audiences didn't want to see the war on the bigscreen. Either tastes have changed or they just didn't want to see those movies. One of the specialty-level successes of the summer has been the $9 million for Summit Entertainment's "The Hurt Locker," the Kathryn Bigelow film about a U.S. bomb-diffusing team in Baghdad.
Aside from the questions, this summer provided confirmation for some long-held beliefs.
•Mega-grosses are great, but it all comes down to profitability.
"G.I. Joe" got off to a good start, but it will need to do a lot more biz to break even. The pic, co-financed by Spyglass, cost $175 million to produce, plus the expenses of a worldwide marketing campaign.
•B.O. gets a boost from 3-D.
The overperformance of "Up" and Fox's "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" proved how much the upcharge for a ticket to a stereoscopic 3-D pic can bump up box office revenues, both domestically and overseas. Studios estimate that 3-D grosses make up as much as 50% of the gross, even though 3-D screens represent only a fraction of the total theater count.
"Up" is the second-highest grossing title of the summer at the domestic B.O., grossing $287.4 million through Aug. 9. "Dawn of the Dinosaurs" has grossed a massive $576.4 million internationally. Disney's "G-Force" had a surprisingly strong bow, with $67 million domestically so far, as it begins to open overseas.
•Overseas is invaluable.
Sony's "Angels and Demons" reaped $233 million domestic, $349 million overseas. "Terminator" found salvation overseas, with $124 million domestic, $237 overseas.
•Seasonal shifts are sometimes possible.
Though the first two "Ice Age" pics opened in March, Fox bowed "Dawn of the Dinosaurs" in July. The pic has grossed $187.9 million domestically and became top grossing animated film of all time overseas, surpassing "Finding Nemo" ($524.9 million).
While the first "Narnia" film had whopping numbers when it bowed in winter 2005, the second "Narnia" film, "Prince Caspian," saw a big dropoff by opening in summer 2008. So studios fretted whether franchises can switch their lucky opening dates.
Fox likely left money on the table by opening "Night at the Museum 2" in the summer, in a crowded scene. But the fact is, it did make money,
"Harry Potter" proved a few years ago that a durable franchise will draw audiences whenever it bows. Last year, fans raised a ruckus when Warners pushed the release of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" from Thanksgiving to July 15. But all was forgiven after the film opened to a record-breaking grosses. To date, it has cleared $273.4 million domestically and $542.2 million for a worldwide tally of $817.4 million.
•The marketing should reflect the pic.
U's Adam Sandler starrer "Funny People," directed by Judd Apatow, is both a comedy and a drama, but the campaign played down the latter. Moviegoers quickly spotted the difference, something that may have hurt the movie's Friday opener vs. Saturday performance.
U also ran into trouble with "Land of the Lost." In the campaign, the movie seemed to mirror the 1970s TV show, but in truth, the pic wasn't a family title. Film's domestic cume is $43.4 million.
Though some adages were re-proven, a couple were refuted this summer.
•Midrange pics are dead. That "truism" popped up a few years ago, but summer saw sizeable returns for such titles as Disney's romantic comedy "The Proposal" ($154.7 million), which managed to beat out last year's "Sex and the City's" gross ($152.6 million).
Box office returns for Warner's "The Hangover" are downright astounding: The R-rated comedy has cumed north of $263.4 domestically.
That's a better showing than summer pics "Star Trek" ($255.3 million/Paramount), "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" ($187.9 million/20th Century Fox) and "Terminator: Salvation" ($124.7 million/Warners).
•Fanboys are dangerous. A month before "Wolverine's" release, a pirated copy of the film was leaked on the Web. Fox didn't know how much the film's grosses would be hurt, but the losses seemed to be minimized when fanboys around the world decried the piracy and websites like Ain't It Cool News made good on its promise that no reviews of the Web version would be posted.
Source Variety Read more...