Monday Morning Quarterback Part I
By BOP Staff
October 27, 2008

Whatever prayer he's doing is working.

We welcome our Zac Efron overlords

Kim Hollis: High School Musical 3 became the biggest opening for a musical ever as it earned $42 million domestically in its first three days. It's also the first film since The Dark Knight to win domestically and internationally in the same weekend, making $40 million abroad. What do you think of this result?

Eric Hughes: Sure, it won the weekend. But I was really expecting this thing to earn a lot more in its opening frame. Of course, not all 17 million people who watched HSM2 on Disney were ever going to turn out this weekend. But I certainly thought HSM3 could handle Scary Movie 3's record $48 million October opening.

Brandon Scott: Did you really just say you expected more from this, Eric? Please tell me you are kidding. The result is a knock out of the park and it's scary to me. I guess this means more Efron and Hudgens and potentially more of these films. When a third film and fifth film in a franchise do these kinds of numbers, its a clear indication that Hollywood's original idea tank is bare. Just further clarification. Awful.

Scott Lumley: I'm sorry, but I expected this to do more as well. This is light-hearted fare featuring singing teenagers in a country that's obsessed with American Idol. You guys have to remember, there's a certain demographic of filmgoers that don't really want to be challenged or think about difficult topics. They just want to watch pretty people sing and fantasize about them or about being them. Does that say really good things about the human race as a whole? Nope. But it is what it is and if people really want to plunk down their hard earned money for a musical, then musicals are going to get made. I do have to agree with Brandon, though. We are lessened as a species by this "movie".

Max Braden: I expected it to do about this range, but I was expecting that on fewer screens than it had. $42 million is big but its $11,500 per screen average is much lower than other TV-to-theater phenoms, and the Harry Potter films. But hey, just in that opening weekend Disney made enough profit to finance the series through HSM65: Senior Citizen.

Sean Collier: To brand this the third in a franchise sort of works, and sort of doesn't. It was the first High School Musical on the big screen, and that should've been more of a draw then it turned out to be. A gigantic number this weekend would not have surprised me, and I was personally expecting at least $50 million. I'm guessing Disney was as well. If this were any other property, we'd be calling it the biggest musical of all time (which technically it is, I suppose); somehow, it still feels like an underwhelming performance.

Eric Hughes: When you've got the biggest thing on cable television EVER making the jump to theaters, you'd hope you could at least surpass Ghost Rider. I'm just saying.

Reagen Sulewski: Let's not forget that this was working with a pretty big handicap - what's the percentage of tickets for it that were full price - 15%? 10%? To invert the usual saying, the base for this was a mile deep but an inch wide.

David Mumpower: I largely agree with Eric. If you had told me in late August of 2007 that the third film would debut in theaters to $42 million, that would have been a disappointment. 17 million people is a $100 million opening weekend, even if we take 20% off the ordinary ticket average to adjust for such a predominant number of children in attendance. And that 17 million figure only reflects the Friday audience for High School Musical 2. The franchise lost some steam over the past 14 months as a portion of its outgrew the product. Even so, this is still a huge win for Disney. The film has almost quadrupled its production budget in just three days in domestic release and done roughly the same internationally. $82 million in the coffers in three days for an expense of $13 million is the stuff of box office myth and legend.

Kim Hollis: While I agree that there was probably money left on the table here (we'll discuss the reasons why in a later topic), I nonetheless think that this is a big win for Disney for a number of reasons. The first and most obvious reason is the fact that HSM3 has blown away its $13 million budget already - and they're actually likely in a better situation than typical movie studios as far as advertising since they were able to largely push the product on their own channels and attract this much audience. Everything from here on out is gravy, and that doesn't even include soundtracks and other merchandising.

I think the second reason that this is a win is that it's actually getting positive reviews. I seriously expected to see this at around 10% when I pulled up RottenTomatoes, but it's 66% - which pushes it into the Fresh category. This gives hesitant parents incentive to actually see the film, which is even better for the bottom line. Other folks here are talking about being disappointed in the movie-going public, but when I was a teenager, I certainly wasn't watching Citizen Kane, Casablanca, or anything else highbrow for that matter. This is light-hearted entertainment that parents can consider "safe" for their children to watch. Frankly, I don't really see anything so wrong with that, even if it is the third trip to the well, so to speak.

If you ask me, everybody in this theater is a giant sucker! Especially you!

Kim Hollis: It's been 14 months since High School Musical 2 debuted on the Disney Channel. It has been viewed by an estimated 191 million people worldwide. Fewer than seven million people went to see High School Musical 3 in a North American theater this weekend. Do you believe the discrepancy is in having to pay for the film, or do you think if Disney had this to do over again, High School Musical 2 would have been the first movie they put in theaters?

Tim Briody: I know it's already profitable since all the kids are still working for cheap (for now). But for failing to turn the vast majority of HSM and HSM2 viewers into paying customers for HSM3, utterly I think it's a disappointment. In hindsight now, HSM2 would have been the film to put into theaters. I could have seen a considerably higher opening for that than what HSM3 pulled in.

Brandon Scott: I guess I am scratching my head at these comments. Admittedly, even following the film industry as closely as I think I do, my awareness of the High School Musical pics is not high. I have never seen any of them nor will I. But to call $42 million a low opening figure seems absurd to me. Can't wait until Speidi makes a movie now. What kind of money would that pull? I am appalled. Perhaps I shouldn't be, but I truly am. (Note: I hope this isn't an angry hangover from seeing the Chargers attempt to play defense this week, 'cause it could be.)

Scott Lumley: You cannot possibly be whining about the Chargers. You can't. I'm a Lions fan so... just don't go there. In regards to the film, did you really expect all 191 million fans to go see the movie on opening weekend? I think that indicates tremendous legs, not a monster opening... (And yet here we are looking at a $42 million opening, so go figure.)

Sean Collier: I'll have no bellyaching from either of you. Your teams are supposed to be bad - my Steelers lost due to long snapping trouble, for god's sake. Here's why the High School Musical performance can still be considered low. Disney just managed to open WALL-E to $63 million. Aside from not being part of a proven franchise, WALL-E was a hard sell, despite its brilliance. Yet, due to faith in Pixar and Disney's marketing, they still turned $63 million. High School Musical, a franchise moving to the big screen with quite literally a hundred million fans, made $20 million less than WALL-E. I understand that you're not too familiar with the product, Brandon, but believe me - this is a huge, rabid, obsessed fanbase. A lot of them were missing at the theater this weekend. Can't say I can figure out why.

David Mumpower: Let's scale this back a bit to demonstrate why there were even loftier expectations for the third High School Musical release. That 17 million number that was mentioned in the last reply was the total number of viewers for the title's Friday debut on Disney. If those same people showed up in theaters this past Friday, that would have been a $100 million box office day, even if we adjust down 20% to reflect children's ticket pricing impact. $42 million for the entire weekend is of course a massive accomplishment for such an inexpensive film, but the overwhelming majority of High School Musical 2 premiere viewers did not show up at theaters this weekend. Well over half of them were left behind for some reason. This is also reflected in the iTunes sales chart for the music. Upon the debut of the High School Musical 2 songs, every one of them was ranked in the top 100 with seven in the top 30 for the weekend. As I type this, "only" four are in the top 30, "only" nine are in the top 100 and nothing is higher than #15. There is some slippage in the product, meaning that the last film probably was the one to launch into theaters. It's a splitting of hairs for one of the most lucrative products of the 2000s, though.

Kim Hollis: I am definitely in agreement that High School Musical 2 would have had a stronger performance in theaters and would have blown people away with its opening. I think what we're seeing here is the fact that a lot of kids who were big fans of the first two movies simply outgrew the product before HSM3 hit theaters. Fads fade so quickly in the world of teenagers, and once they hit a certain age, it's not "cool" (or whatever word they use these days) to like something like High School Musical. I think this is especially true when you realize that a lot of the movie's fanbase is actually five- to 11-years-old rather than the teenagers I'm sure Disney is hoping to target. An older teen is going to eschew the fad if a younger brother or sister is hugely into it. I know I sure did when New Kids on the Block were all the rage...a long time ago. That doesn't mean they didn't have a massive, dorky audience.

Marty Doskins: I think Kim hit it right on the head. If this movie/series had been more appealing to the teenage crowd, it would've probably brought in even more money since they're the ones that spend the cash. My 13-year-old daughter has no interest in this whatsoever and she said that neither do her friends. Even though it's high school, they just don't care. I wonder if they're too close to the age of the characters and are separating reality from the fantasy version of high school they're being shown on the screen. Maybe if we had a disgruntled cafeteria worker chasing the kids around the school with the "spatula of death" there would've been more interest from the older kids.

Mamma Mia! Meets Freaky Friday could be the next big thing in horror

Kim Hollis: The age-old debate about front-loading versus legs takes an interesting turn with High School Musical 3, which was clearly front-loaded on Friday. Do you feel High School Musical 3 has met its paying customer demand or do you expect it to behave like Mamma Mia! meets Freaky Friday?

Brandon Scott: Based on my apparent ignorance on these films, I truly cannot say. I suspect it won't make under $10 million next weekend. Still seems like far too much to me. What did this thing cost to produce?

Scott Lumley: The budget on this one was a minuscule $13 million, so we're already looking at one of the most profitable films of the year right here. It's not exactly Fireproof yet, but the folks at Disney have to be mighty happy with this result. And oh yes, this thing will have legs... long, long legs.

Sean Collier: Well OBVIOUSLY all the nation's parents were home watching a combination of the World Series and Penn State-Ohio State on Saturday, thus refusing to drive the kids to the theater. Is it possible that the target audience outgrew the franchise between HSM2 and now? If so, there might not be legs. Otherwise, though, it'll run until Christmas.

David Mumpower: This is a gut reaction rather than one based on the data at hand. Given the paltry Friday-to-Sunday internal multiplier, the title looks heavily front-loaded. I am going to ignore the facts at hand and make an educated guess that the film behaves like a solid family film from here on out. I think that kids are going to lean on their parents to make an effort to see this in theaters. Given the lousy quality of upcoming November releases due to the writer's strike, they should be worn down over time and give in. I just cannot believe that the 100 million North Americans who have seen High School Musical 2 will completely abandon the third film to the point that it fails to clear $100 million.

Kim Hollis: My gut disagrees with David's. I think it's going to drop off drastically. Halloween Friday is a terrible night for movies anyway, and there are other shiny things like Madagascar 2 encouraging kids to "move it move it" to movie theaters in the coming weeks.

You people know they're just going to keep on making Saw films until you refuse to see them, right? This isn't really the end. And in 20 years, some Michael Bay-type will remake it.

Kim Hollis: Saw V became the fourth consecutive Saw film to open north of $30 million this weekend. What do you think of this result?

Eric Hughes: I'm shocked. There didn't seem to be a lot of buzz surrounding the new release, and I'm fairly certain a full trailer was never released. But I guess that goes to show that interest in the franchise hasn't yet died, and that Saw sort of just sells itself, without much of a marketing push from Lionsgate.

Brandon Scott: Hold on, I am gnawing off my limbs just to free myself from the shackles to be able to t-y-p-e th--eee-s-e w--o--r--d-----s! This hurts!! (Both the result...and the gnawing.)

Scott Lumley: It's a decent horror film, in October, from a known franchise. This was guaranteed to make money as long as they kept control of the budget and didn't do anything too ridiculous behind the camera. The trailers that I caught were creepy enough that I knew I'd never see it, but that same fact guarantees that the gore hounds would be out in force.

Max Braden: I guess it hasn't overstayed its welcome. Note that it opened over twice that of Quarantine two weeks ago, probably due to proximity to Halloween but I think its serial killer theme also trumps monster movies for the season. I still expect the declining trend in box office gross to continue for the series.

David Mumpower: I strongly suspect that billing this as the last Saw film was the key to creating novelty. I had been expecting it to come in $5-$10 million lower than the prior titles due to its over-saturation. When the marketing switched to "see how it ends", I must admit that even though I haven't cared for the franchise, that got my attention enough to make me want to see the movie.

Kim Hollis: I'm very surprised this didn't come in closer to $22-25 million. Torture porn seems to have had its day, but apparently people really like this franchise for some reason. I'm going to choose to attribute it to Scott Patterson from Gilmore Girls. People just miss him that much, I'm sure. No? Well, that's the way it's going to work in my little world.