The Twelve Days of Box Office: Day Seven
By David Mumpower
December 28, 2012


Today is the moment during the Twelve Days of Box Office discussion wherein we collate data. Thursday’s daily numbers provide the perfect opportunity to examine late December revenue patterns as well as demonstrate the importance of the calendar configuration. 2012 features one of the worst such configurations possible with Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve falling on Monday. I will demonstrate this in a later column but it applies in every Twelve Days of Box Office column this year. Before then, let’s highlight the biggest story of the day.

The Hobbit accomplished the feat I had mentioned as a possibility yesterday. The Peter Jackson epic overtook Les Miserables to become the number one film in North America once again. Thursday became the 12th day that The Hobbit has claimed first place. Another $10.1 million yesterday raises its North American tally to $189.8 million. This is only part of the story as the fantasy event of the holiday season has already reached $370 million in overseas revenue. I am going to ignore that aspect for now and focus on the domestic side of the box office equation.

Thursday represented the end of The Hobbit’s second week in theaters. Its $189.8 million places the fourth Lord of the Rings title $15.7 million ahead of the pace of The Fellowship of the Ring. I keep mentioning this particular title because it shared the same holiday calendar configuration in 2001. Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve both fell on Mondays 11 years ago, the same as now.

The key difference in the release pattern of the two titles is that The Fellowship of the Ring debuted on Wednesday the 19th. The Hobbit snuck in an additional five days of results via its Friday start on December 14th. There is not a one to one comparison to be made. This is why I am using The Fellowship of the Ring’s 14-day take of $174.1 million. Keep in mind that the first Lord of the Rings title’s 14th day was January 1, 2002. In other words, it was already at the end of its Twelve Days of Box Office.

Why is this important? Here are the December weekday performances for The Fellowship of the Ring: $18.2 million, $9.7 million, $7.3 million, $11.6 million, $14 million, $11.1 million and $8.1 million. The $18.2 million occurred on its opening day. Long time readers of this column should easily identify Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and December 26th as the $11.6 million, $14 million and $11.1 million tallies. Even 11 years ago, the basic pattern was still the same.

The Fellowship of the Ring’s situation changed in January. Here are the equivalent weekday performances for the first seven of the month: $10.2 million, $5.2 million, $3.7 million, $1.9 million, $2.2 million, $1.7 million and $1.4 million. Again, there is an easy inference about where New Year’s Day and January 2nd are in this group as opposed to the weekdays when normalcy returns to the box office. January 3rd was better than normal due to the calendar configuration. On the following Monday, January 7th, The Fellowship of the Ring attained only 23% of the box office of the prior Monday, New Year’s Eve.

I have just thrown a lot of numbers at you. Let me summarize them in an easily understandable manner. For Christmas week of 2001, The Fellowship of the Ring earned $44 million in domestic box office, an average of $11 million a day. For the following week including the New Year’s holiday period, combined weekday box office was $27.2 million. Obviously, revenue was down from the prior week yet we are still discussing an average weekday of $6.8 million.

The second set of weekdays of 2002 reflects the time frame after the Twelve Days of Box Office. The Fellowship of the Ring attained a respectable $7.2 million over these four days, an average of $1.8 million a day. The average weekday for Christmas week is $11 million, $6.8 million for New Year’s and $1.8 million for the post-holiday period in early January. This is the meta evaluation of how much the late December period inflates box office.

An average film should fall 50% from one set of weekdays to the next. The Fellowship of the Ring fell 74% from New Year’s week to the second batch of post-holiday weekdays. And we are talking about an overall leggy movie. From January 7th until its exit from theaters, the movie earned another $110 million but at a much slower pace than during the Twelve Days of Box Office. From December 21st to January 1st, The Fellowship of the Ring earned $146.2 million. This total represents 46% of its entire domestic total of $315.5 million.

The information above is pertinent since we now have a full set of Christmas weekdays for The Hobbit. From Monday to Thursday of this week, the movie grossed $39.7 million. That is an average of $9.9 million a day. In direct comparison to The Fellowship of the Ring, its pace is $1.1 million a day worse. I have concerns about this due in large part to 11 years of ticket price inflation, especially for a 3D/IMAX feature.

At least some of these concerns are negated by the fact that The Hobbit is five days further into its release pattern. If it has a similar weekday drop to the first LOTR movie’s 39%, the New Year’s weekdays would have an average of $6 million. What I can say with certainty about next week is that Tuesday will be the best, Monday will be the second best and Thursday will be the worst. In terms of the upcoming weekend, The Fellowship of the Ring fell only 18%. There will be further bells, whistles and alarm sirens ringing if The Hobbit drops any more than 30%. With people on vacation on Monday, its weekend hold should be solid. If it’s not, it’s done, current first place position notwithstanding.

Les Miserables remains upbeat despite the tragic subject matter. Despite falling to second place, the news is still glowing overall. Its $9.2 million Thursday brings its three-day take to $39.4 million. I can say with all sincerity that three months ago, I wasn’t convinced it would earn more than that during its entire domestic run.

Most musicals count their blessings if they reach $60 million. Les Miserables will earn that much during its first week, which will be enough to place it within $9 million of the all-time top ten for musicals. The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (now there is a re-make that needs to get done) currently holds down that spot at $69.7 million. Les Mis appears to be headed toward $100 million (or at least close to it), which is rarefied air for the genre…and usually indicative of a solid awards contender.

The other two Christmas Day openers stabilized yesterday. Django Unchained declined a solid 17% to $8.3 million, bringing its total domestic revenue to $33.3 million after three days. Parental Guidance, the one with Bette Midler, effectively matched its Wednesday total. $4.1 million on Thursday is a decline of only 4% from the prior day’s $4.3 million. It has now accumulated $14.8 million in three days.

Daily stability is a staple of this particular calendar configuration. Many consumers are on vacation the entire week, which means Friday-like weekdays on Wednesday and Thursday. To wit, Jack Reacher, This Is 40 and Lincoln all fell less than 10% yesterday. Jack Reacher had the “worst” drop of 7% to $3.6 million. This Is 40 fell 5% to $3.1 million. And Lincoln came within a few thousand of duplicating its Wednesday total with another $2.1 million. These are the films that dropped.

The other three titles in the top ten all gained from Wednesday to Thursday. The re-release of Monsters, Inc. sneaked up to eighth place thanks to a 17% gain to $1.9 million. The movie has earned almost half of its current re-release total of $12.1 million over the past four days. The Guilt Trip, the one with Barbra Streisand, duplicated its Wednesday total of $1.7 million. If estimates hold, it earned a few thousand more yesterday than the day before.

Finally, Rise of the Guardians is up 33% in two days. After earning $1.2 million Christmas Day and $1.4 million on Wednesday, it finished with $1.6 million on Thursday. At this current rate of gaining $200k per day, it will break the single day box office record of $91.1 million in 448 days. Yes, I was goofy enough to do that calculation. Rise of the Guardians has now earned $85.5 million. We should know by the end of next week whether it can edge past $100 million.

Combined revenue for the top ten yesterday was $45.8 million. This is a drop of 12% from Wednesday’s $51.9 million. To reinforce how lucrative the holiday period is, consider this. The past three days of revenue, a Tuesday through Thursday, have combined revenue of $166.1 million. This would be one of the 11 best weekends of the year were it, you know, a weekend. And yes, I researched this as well. Now is a good time to mention that my wife is out of town. I get bored.

Tim Briody and John Hamann will take the next two updates so I will speak to you again on Monday. You’re in the best hands until then.