The Twelve Days of Box Office Day Five
By David Mumpower
December 25, 2013

I wonder how he gets that ebullient glow.

Merry Christmas, everyone! Let’s quickly talk box office before you return to the eggnog, mistletoe and rampant consumerism.

As suggested yesterday, all of the titles in the top five declined a bit on Christmas Eve. I mentioned yesterday that this is standard behavior independent of calendar configuration. A few holidays each year negatively impact the box office performance of all titles in release. The explanation is that even though consumers have nationally designated vacation days, potential movie-goers instead spend their free time in other ways. July 4th, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve all qualify.

If you are confused by this quirk, simply consider what you and the people you know ordinarily do on those particular days. Was movie going an option? For most of us, the answer is undeniably no. As such, box office is better on counter-intuitive days such as Christmas Day and July 3rd than it is on Christmas Eve and July 4th.

Today’s list of examples reflects the incongruity of Christmas Eve box office behavior. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug once again finished in first place yesterday. Its earnings were down, though. The Hobbit 2 fell 33% from $7.8 million on Monday to $5.2 million yesterday. Also, this total was lower than the prior Tuesday’s $6.3 million. As we discussed in yesterday’s column, films oftentimes increase the week before Christmas. The latest Peter Jackson epic did not yesterday due to the unique nature of Christmas Eve box office.

The rest of the top five shared a similar fate. Monday’s triumph, Frozen, dropped 34% from $7.2 million on Monday to $4.8 million on Tuesday. I would note that yesterday’s total is still a massive spike from the last Tuesday’s $2 million, though. Meanwhile, American Hustle jumped into third place with $2.9 million, a modest decline of 20% from Monday. It was able to claim third because Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues experienced the worst drop in the top ten, losing 51% from Monday’s $5.8 million. Ron Burgundy-er managed only $2.8 million yesterday, which is a bit troubling. We will know more about its long term prospects once we have today’s box office totals.

Out of the major studio releases, Saving Mr. Banks had the strongest Tuesday relative to Monday. The Tom Hanks celebration of Walt Disney fell only 10% from $2.1 million to $1.9 million. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was hit much harder, dropping 40% from $2.3 million to $1.4 million. The Lionsgate title still needs another $25 million to reach the $400 million plateau and thereby join some elite company in terms of franchises with multiple $400+ million titles. It’s going to be close.

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas did not receive much of a holiday bump. After a disappointing $1.7 million on Monday, the yuletide comedy fell 21% to $1.3 million yesterday. Obviously, this title stops being a box office factor in a couple of days so its current box office of $31.3 million is indicative of Madea saturation.

Similarly, Walking with Dinosaurs, the $80 million production, continues to bomb. The Fox title fell 37% to $1 million yesterday, and it STILL hasn’t reached $10 million in box office after five holiday-inflated days of release. This project is a money loser no matter what. Relative to opportunity cost, it is one of the biggest bombs in recent memory. We are talking about a viable, well established brand whose theatrical adaptation is being completely ignored by consumers. The mind boggles.

The one movie that does bear special mention today is Dhoom 3. Every time I type this title, I start thinking about Cyberdemons and the BFG 9000, but Dhoom 3 is obviously in no way related to id Software. The lavish Bollywood release is the first ever IMAX title, and the results have been glorious for Yash Raj Films.

Dhoom 3 was already the surprise of last weekend. Yesterday, it achieved something fairly rare. It experienced an increase on Christmas Eve, rising 48% from $455,000 on Monday to $675,000 on Tuesday. Do you know how many films experienced Christmas Eve increases over the previous three years? Zero. The last movie to accomplish this feat was Up in the Air in 2009. That title gained a whopping 1% on Christmas Eve. Assuming that Yash Raj’s estimate for Dhoom 3 is correct, it has done better on Christmas Eve relative to December 23 as any film in the 2000s. The explanation is probably a simple one. People of the Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Jainist faiths in North America had a vacation day on Tuesday that translated to the free time to watch one of the most publicized Bollywood productions in recent memory. Ergo, it demonstrated ordinary holiday behavior on a day when most other titles were impacted by Christmas plans.

Tomorrow’s update will include a discussion of all the new Christmas Day releases plus further evaluation of the most interesting titles in theaters right now. Until then, continue to enjoy all of your new technological devices and ugly sweaters.