Indiana Jones earns $25 Million on Thursday
Thursday Numbers Analysis
By David Mumpower
May 23, 2008

Harrison Ford attempts to torpedo unreasonable expectations.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull got off to a solid albeit unspectacular start. Its reported box office of $25,041,072 includes Wednesday midnight sneaks, meaning that the movie is probably in the $23 million range for Thursday proper. Even if we do not isolate the number, it's barely half of what its most direct comparison film, Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, earned on its first Thursday. That title brought in $50.0 million on its first Thursday before accumulating $108.4 million over its opening weekend. Given that this title was also a late May/Thursday debut for its release, there is similarity between the two.

The key difference, the one that makes this such a tricky proposition, is that Episode III came out the week before Memorial Day. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has come out the weekend of Memorial Day. I am certain you are wondering to yourself why I consider this a major factor. The answer is that the onus of the consumer changes in this regard. With Revenge of the Sith followed by a three-day weekend, there is more pressure on the consumer in terms of time restraint. This would be the case even if there were not the powerful drive by diehard fans of that franchise to see how its six stories are tied together in the end. Its behavior is simply different from what I would expect for Crystal Skull.

The Indiana Jones film is still facing the prospect of a news cycle stating a disappointing result, however. I am of the opinion that this title will play out like a family film over the next four days, giving it a lot of carryover appeal. That situation may be complicated if the web reports we read over the next few hours indicate that Crystal Skull is a box office disappointment. It is of course far, far too early to make such a determination as BOP has stressed on countless occasions that drawing conclusions about a four or five day performance from a single day of results is simply lousy logical thinking. That will not stop some folks from doing just this, however, meaning Crystal Skull may be hurt a bit by its own iconic status. People will want to report something and the first day result is not a huge positive.

What should happen next is that the film will hold up brilliantly today. As I mentioned earlier, it did night and day worse than Episode III on its first Thursday. The catch is that Revenge of the Sith fell off the table in its second day, plummeting a stiff 33% to $33.5 million. Paramount's hope and my expectation is that Crystal Skull demonstrates inverse behavior, climbing from its $25 million day one result. I know you have to be wondering to yourself how I see this as possible when the movie couldn't even manage $25 million in a single day of showings, needing midnight sneaks to prop it up. That's a completely valid concern and I want to be totally honest with you here that I am simply anticipating a future result. There is only limited historical basis for this thought process, but sometimes I believe that a new model unfolds before our very eyes. I am of the opinion that Crystal Skull could be such a performer.

The key aspect to keep in mind is that American consumers are able to watch the movie at any point over the next four days (counting this one). The holiday changes the entire dynamic of would-be rush factor. Why stay up at midnight on Wednesday when you can watch the film at your leisure a day and a half later? Sure, diehard fans will demonstrate such first day rush, but will mainstream consumers? I have a tendency to think they will not. Given that line of thinking as well as my deeply held belief that the fourth Indiana Jones movie will behave like a children's film, I think it gets better instead of worse. If I am wrong and the Friday box office numbers are lower, this film is in some trouble.

Before you write off what I say as blind optimism from an admitted fan of the series, I would cordially invite you to consider Reagen Sulewski's weekend forecast a bit. He boldly predicted a genuinely lousy box office result of only $14 million for Wednesday night sneaks and Thursday total box office while still projecting a $147 million five-day result. While I would have argued the daily splits with him a bit if he had broached the subject with me, there is a basis for his logic. I have used another George Lucas production for comparison, determining that the similarities in 1980s popularity and iconic film status match up well. He went a different way with it, using the more obvious companion film, last year's Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.

The Jack Sparrow trilogy's conclusion was the first film to use a similar though not identical release pattern to what we are witnessing with Indiana Jones 4 this weekend. It too was a Memorial Day weekend release that saw a Thursday debut, albeit one with exhibitions that didn't start until 8 PM that evening. The heavily anticipated sequel to Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, the largest opener of all time to that point, managed $13.2 million in its first evening of release before spiking to $42.9 million on its first Friday. Over the five-day release period, Pirates 3 brought in $153 million, a multiplier of 11.6 more than its first evening total. Crystal Skull will NOT do that, so please don't start believing a $290 million five-day performance is in the offing. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull had 24+ hours as opposed to only six or so for At World's End. There is a significant difference between the two.

What the example above does demonstrate is that a slow Thursday debut may be dwarfed by its Friday result in some rare instances. I am of the opinion that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is just such an occurrence. If you draw a dissimilar conclusion, that is completely understandable. The honest evaluation is that all of us are just guessing right now. What we do know for sure thus far is that Crystal Skull has $25,041,072 in the bank right now and it will probably earn a little bit more before exiting theaters. Check back tomorrow for Tim Briody's column, as that should paint a much clearer picture of how we should expect the final (?) Indiana Jones film to perform over the holiday.

If you want to skip ahead a bit, here are the two important numbers to keep in mind. At World's End had a 3.26 Memorial Day multiplier based off of its Friday result. Revenge of the Sith had a first weekend (i.e. three-day) multiplier of 3.23 with a Memorial Day (i.e. four-day) multiplier of 4.49. Take from all three numbers what you will when you examine the Saturday results. I cannot stress strongly enough that I expect Crystal Skull to play like a family film, however, which means its internal multiplier relative to Friday results should be sublime.