Daily Box Office Analysis for July 30, 2007
By David Mumpower
July 31, 2007

74 million divided 36 ways is still a lot of dough.

The Simpsons Movie had a debut this weekend that was considered so shocking that even Fox execs were taken aback. The vice-president in charge of distribution indicated that the movie was expected to make $40 million, while the president said after the fact that it had been tracking at roughly $55 million. The question that follows is why there is a $15 million variance between the two employees, but given that this is Fox, we'll just assume it's all Rupert Murdoch's fault and leave it at that.

What is important here is that The Simpsons Movie is a bona fide blockbuster. In fact, it is one of the five largest openings ever for a non-sequel as well as the biggest opening ever for a traditionally animated title. In determining its box office behavior for weekdays, that's where the fun begins. See, there is not a model for this one. None. As one of the most popular openings of all-time as well as the first true television-to-movie adaptation of a still-airing show to ever break out, it is a phenomenon unto itself. As someone who bases future expectations on models of past behavior, this is...problematic.

Fear not. I have a plan. I am going to take the easy way out. It's what those who have learned all of their life lessons from Homer Simpson love to do. The plan here is simple. We are going to compare The Simpsons Movie to the two most recent $70 million openers, Transformers and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Before doing so, however, I want to explain why this probably isn't the best idea.

The Simpsons Movie performed in a quirky way this past weekend. Its daily splits were $30,758,269 on Friday, $23,799,369 on Saturday, and $19,479,149 on Sunday. Folks, this is a movie that had a 22.6% drop on Saturday as well as Sunday box office representing only 63.3% of Friday box office. That screams of front-loading, right? This has been the debate amongst the BOP staff over the past 48 hours. The reason why it's not settled is simple.

Friday estimates had The Simpsons Movie pegged at $29 million. As such, expectations for the weekend fell in the range of $70-$72 million. As it turns out, the movie earned more than that on Friday, and it also exceeded weekend estimates by a comfortable $2.1 million over the initially stated $71.9 million BOP reported on Sunday. An actual weekend total of $74,036,787 indicates that The Simpsons Movie surprised on Friday, it surprised for the entire weekend, and its overall performance has been nothing short of jaw-dropping thus far. It also means that we should not have firm expectations for the future behavior of a movie that has already proved unpredictable every step of the way thus far.

Keeping this in mind, let's take a look at yesterday's box office. As expected, The Simpsons Movie finished in first place, earning an impressive $9,277,515. How does this line up with Transformers and Order of the Phoenix? It's dead last, but don't let that fool you just yet about how it's doing. We'll get to the why of it in just a moment. First, let's address the actual dollars involved. Transformers earned $9,927,640 on its first Monday after a weekend debut of $70,502,384. So, it had only 95.2% of the opening that The Simpsons Movie did yet had a bigger first Monday by 7.0%. Order of the Phoenix earned $77,108,414 in its first weekend then followed it up with $10,415,480 on the following Monday. So, it had a bigger weekend by only 4.1% but a bigger Monday by a full 12.3%.

If we look at these performances in terms of percentages, here is what we have. Transformers earned 14.1% of its weekend total on its first Monday. For Order of the Phoenix, the percentage is 13.5%. The Simpsons Movie managed only 12.5%, easily the weakest weekend-to-Monday holdover of the three. All of the above sounds troubling for The Simpsons Movie.

The news grows more positive when you consider it in these terms, though. The first day for The Simpsons Movie is an outlier, a performance it won't match again. Transformers and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix were identical in this behavior save for one aspect. Their mega-massive-ultra-huge days of box office came prior to the weekend. Transformers earned $27,851,016 during its Tuesday debut, an amount it failed to duplicate on any day of its first weekend. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix earned $44,232,338 during its Wednesday debut, one of the largest single-day performances in box office history. Its best weekend day of revenue of $28,310,875 represents only 64.0% of the amount on its best day. Look at that number carefully and scroll back to the page 1's fourth paragraph, the one discussing the significant drop from Friday-to-Sunday. Doesn't that look familiar now? Suddenly, The Simpsons Movie's intra-weekend holdover doesn't seem so troublesome.

Given this new-found information, let's not unfairly punish The Simpsons Movie for having a disproportionately large first day simply because the timing of it was different from the other two models. What we need to do, then, is look at this in different terms. Transformers fell 55.2% on its first Monday relative to the previous day, a Sunday. Similarly, Order of the Phoenix fell 54.6%. Meanwhile, The Simpsons Movie fell only 52.4% from Sunday-to-Monday. Even if we allow for the fact that it had the "worst" Sunday with $19,479,149 relative to Transformers' $22,144,125 and Order of the Phoenix's $22,955,554, it's still effectively a draw in terms of Sunday/Monday holdover.

In an attempt to gain further information earlier in the release period, let's take this a step farther. The Simpsons Movie's $9,277,515 represents 21.4% of its Saturday/Sunday box office, the period of its weekend not affected by the out-of-whack Friday performance. The numbers for Transformers and Order of the Phoenix are 20.7% and 19.9%, respectively. The logical inference here is that The Simpsons Movie held up at least the same if not slightly better than the other two recent $70 million openers in terms of Monday holdover relative to Saturday/Sunday revenue. It's simply hidden by the fact the sizzling Friday debut is bunched into the sum total. Once you isolate it out of the equation, The Simpsons Movie goes from appearing wildly front-loaded to showing some early signs of legs.

Fox execs have stated that they expect this behavior from the movie going forward since it is at heart an animated movie that is fun for the whole family. The exemplary critical reviews and word-of-mouth certainly help. Even so, the suspicion of front-loading will be hard to shake until at least the upcoming weekend of box office is in the books. Until then, it's a fun exercise in the unknown we will continue to study during the week. Of course, there are also three other new openers from the previous weekend to track a bit, but I am fresh out of Lindsay Lohan jokes at the moment. So, we will save them until later in the week.

Overall top ten box office receipts attain combined revenue of $22,347,944. People who have been reading this column throughout the summer know this to be a solid number. It is a marginal increase of 1.1% from last weekend. This represents the third largest Monday of the summer period thus far.