The Twelve Days of Box Office Day Three
By David Mumpower
December 23, 2013

Tiny baby dinosaurs make great pets, right?

The most magical time of the year for Hollywood is here as we welcome you to BOP's 13th annual Twelve Days of Box Office. Yes, today is technically day three already, but I didn’t write the first two days so please humor me.

By now, you know the drill. The end of December holiday period is the most lucrative time on the box office calendar. Every single title in release is artificially inflated because people have so much free time that they can watch any movie that they think is worth their hard earned money. The proverbial rising tide will lift all boats, at least in theory.

Even so, an unwanted movie is still an unwanted movie. It will earn slightly more in December because consumers have the ability to watch the product. It will earn a lot less because it (presumably) sucks. I mention this aspect because there were a couple of clunkers this past weekend. They will still have solid box office weeks but nobody should be expecting any miracles.

The 2013 calendar arrangement is arguably the least beneficial one for Hollywood. We just had a weekend then we will have a single weekday boost for Monday, one I will discuss tomorrow, then we reach Christmas Eve. As all of BOP’s loyal readers know, Christmas Eve will cause a decline in the box office several titles since it is primarily a travel/celebration holiday. On Christmas Day, box office will spike again. Then, Thursday’s box office will be Saturday-like as will Friday’s. Saturday will actually be Saturday so it will be great as well.

Sunday will be better than usual since so many people will go ahead and take Monday and Tuesday off. Tuesday, New Year’s Eve, is functionally similar to Christmas Eve so box office will drop a bit that day before staging a strong recovery on New Year’s Day. Thursday will again be better than normal despite the fact that the holiday season is technically over because people will still be taking that vacation day. Then, we have reached the weekend and ordinary box office behavior will be restored. So there you have it. You know the next 13 days of your life. That’s what you get as a bonus for reading a site with Prophets in the title.

If you are a new reader, a lot of the above is probably confusing. And that is why we provide detailed analysis for each day of box office during the holiday season. It is an amazing phenomenon to examine. Every year, the rules change slightly based on the calendar configuration with the crucial aspect being the days of the week upon which Christmas and New Year’s Eve/Day occur. What is particularly odd is that no matter how much movie consumption changes, the basic rules still apply.

To wit, the last time we had a calendar configuration of Christmas Eve on a Tuesday was 2002 due to a Leap Year issue. Even though social media did not exist, Netflix was in its infancy and Blockbuster still ruled the land, the behavior then will be a solid (possibly perfect) model for the behavior in 2013. What matters about movie consumption has less to do with scale and evolving technologies. Instead, it is about consumer behavior. The nature of December holiday vacation time has not changed even as the basic abilities of humanity have improved at a historically unprecedented rate. Frankly, it’s fun to know how reliable the movie industry at the end of the year.

With regards to actual box office, there isn’t much to discuss today. John Hamann’s Weekend Wrap-Up yesterday included Sunday estimates. Studios are fully aware of the glorious nature of holiday box office, which explains why so many great titles are all released around the same time. Even as studios distribute fewer films each year, December still bears witnesses to more major releases than any other month, even the summer ones. Hollywood corporations know where their bread gets buttered.

Yesterday’s number one film was once again The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The initial weekend estimate of $31.5 million was impressively precise. Smaug grossed $10.6 million on Sunday, and what is important here is that it was up 23% or $2 million from Friday. That rise is an early warning signal of what will transpire this week.

Anchorman: The Rise of Ron Burgundy’s numbers have not changed. The explanation for this is simple and important. Some studios give their employees the entire week off. The result is that the box office figures over the holidays are a lot sloppier than normal. Keeping this in mind, BOP expresses our gratitude to the unlucky few stuck reciting box office numbers to people like us this week. Truly, you are the greatest heroes of our time.

All of the other top 12 titles in release right now will be discussed in detail as the next two weeks ensue. The noteworthy ones today are those that are significantly different from their initial weekend estimates. The third place film on Sunday, Disney’s Frozen, earned almost half a million more than projected. American Hustle and Saving Mr. Banks, the other titles in the top five, were estimated almost perfectly as was the sixth place entry, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

A Madea Christmas and Walking with Dinosaurs are a bit less fortunate as they fall $100,000 and $200,000 short of projections, respectively. Walking with Dinosaurs is an $80 million catastrophe at the moment although it won’t seem quote so bad in a couple of weeks. In terms of opportunity cost, this project could be the worst disaster of 2013 in my opinion, though. It’s a highly respected brand that translated into a movie targeted to five-year-olds and especially stupid ones at that.

The conversation tomorrow will involve the comparison between last Monday’s box office totals for titles already in release relative to today’s numbers. Spoilers: the ordinary rule of weekly decline in the 50% range is out the window. Instead, most titles will experience an increase from last week. The Twelve Days of Box office exist outside the realm of regular box office behavior.