Monday Morning Quarterback Part II
By BOP Staff
March 19, 2014

Trick Shot Titus is the anchor of their 2030 recruiting class.

Kim Hollis: Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel jumped into the top ten this weekend despite being in only 66 venues, with a total of $3.6 million. What do you think is the future for this release?

Edwin Davies: I'm envisioning a similar run to Moonrise Kingdom, which also broke the record for best live-action theater averages in limited release, before slowly expanding out, eventually ending with a very respectable $45.5 million. I think that Grand Budapest Hotel might do better than Moonrise Kingdom, though, both because it's already outperforming it (admittedly with a slightly more aggressive release) and because it's being pitched as an accessible, wacky comedy. More importantly, Grand Budapest Hotel has the goodwill generated by Moonrise Kingdom on its side, and although it's not a sequel, Anderson's films are so distinctly his that each film feels like a follow-up, and he's a franchise unto himself at this point (let's call this The Pixar Effect). I don't see it becoming a blockbuster, but I wouldn't be surprised if it overtook The Royal Tenenbaums to become Anderson's most successful film.

As an addendum: I'm interested in seeing how the film does internationally. Anderson's films have consistently done better in the US than in the rest of the world, with only Fantastic Mr. Fox grossing more than $25 million overseas. Grand Budapest Hotel has already grossed $20 million from foreign ticket sales after just a few weeks, and is doing especially well in the UK. At this point, it's pretty much guaranteed to be his biggest worldwide hit, which is an interesting development for a director whose work seemed to have hit a consistent level and never really exceeded it.

David Mumpower: I am actually not as sold on the movie as some of you for the reason Edwin noted as a positive. It has been platformed at an aggressive pace. The flip side of that is that a month from now, it will be fading quicker than his previous titles.

Matthew Huntley: Overall, I foresee an eventual $50-60 million box-office take for Grand Budapest Hotel, which, as Edwin said, is far from blockbuster status, but given the niche audience that Wes Anderson caters to, it's still a great result. His films always start fast like this before eventually tapering off (the art-house crowd tends to make them very front-loaded but they're never quite able to connect with mainstream audiences). However, I could see Hotel, given its current hype and ensemble cast, continuing to break this trend. I don't think we're too far off from a Wes Anderson film opening at saturation level because, soon enough, his audience will be that much bigger and the film won't depend on word-of-mouth before rolling out to additional venues.

Felix Quinonez: I think this one will be one of the "stronger" Wes Anderson movies. But even though I think it looks great I still find it hard to believe that this has any chance to attract any new blood to the Anderson cult. It will however please the already converted. I see it matching or slightly surpassing Moonrise Kingdom to become his second "most popular" movie.

Kim Hollis: I'd agree that Anderson's films have a dedicated, niche audience that rushes out to see his films at their first opportunity. It's off to a faster start than Moonrise Kingdom, so it should outperform it, but only by so much. And I say that as one of Anderson's biggest fans.

Max Braden: Saturday Night Live's spoof "The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders" had it right - the "you had me at Wes Anderson" crowd will keep this in the box office news, but otherwise it's a wait for DVD title for the rest of the country.

Kim Hollis: Veronica Mars, the Kickstarter-funded film and continuation of the cult television series, earned $2 million this weekend, good enough for 11th place. It earned this $2 million in theaters even as it was available for digital download. What do you think of this result? What does it mean for the crowd-funding model?

Edwin Davies: This is very impressive, even if it's harder to judge just how successful the film has been in traditional terms because so much of its revenue is going to come from people watching it at home. As a proof of concept for crowdfunded movies, I think it demonstrates that it helps to have an idea that people are passionate about (something Veronica Mars definitely had since people had been clamoring for its return for the better part of a decade), and decent execution. I'm sure people would have shown up whether or not the film was good, but the solid reviews probably played a part in convincing people to see the film in an actual theater, rather than just staying at home.

Matthew Huntley: I've actually never seen an episode of Veronica Mars, but given this peculiar and mostly successful rollout of the movie, I'm confident the show is unique and quirky enough that I'd like it. However, as we all know, unique and quirky don't always translate to strong profits, and while I think this movie's opening weekend is good, I think it will fade quickly, evidenced by its 39% Friday-to-Saturday decline. That doesn't speak about the movie's quality, I know, but I think it will be a while before a formidable Kickstarter formula is put in place. And I also think we're still years off before digital downloads really gain traction. Part of the fun of going to the movies is leaving home.

Felix Quinonez: I don't think this really gives any sort of verdict on the crowd sourcing model. It's a pretty good opening weekend but by no means huge and the movie will more than likely fade quickly. But on the other hand it's not bad enough to call it a failure.

Max Braden: I'm a Veronica Mars fan so I'm glad they got this made. But I see it a little like the campaign to get Betty White on Saturday Night Live. If the moment is right it can work out, but I don't think that means you'll see this happen frequently. Even if it's profitable, it's not *hugely* profitable and I don't see ensemble casts making a strong effort to come together like this. And if the cast isn't in to it, you're really talking straight-to-video National Lampoon type sequels.

Kim Hollis: I think you'll see some occasional other crowd-funded films find their way to theaters that might not otherwise have had a chance. I think $2 million for the weekend is easily a best-case scenario for a few reasons. First off, this is a niche show that peaked at 3.6 million viewers (and had only 2.1 million by the time its finale aired). It was automatically limited in terms of potential audience. Add in the fact that those fans had the option to watch the film at home, and I think it's truly impressive that they were able to generate $2 million in ticket sales. I do think it's another example of how day and date can work well. While Matt says that he thinks people go to theaters because it's part of the experience, I'd much rather watch movies at home unless there is something extra special about it visually. I don't think I'm in the minority.

David Mumpower: Thus far, Warner Bros. has been coy with the numbers that matter. The $2 million in ticket sales is roughly triple what most people were expecting, whether they will admit that on the record or not. It borders on irrelevant compared to the digital purchases, and those are difficult to quantify since so many of them were free. While I believe the issues with dissatisfied customers are probably less than 3% of all purchases, I still need to know whether there were significant iTunes/Vudu/Amazon sales beyond the ones that were pre-purchased.

As fascinated as I am by the machinations of the Veronica Mars release, what amuses me the most about the entire situation is the Flixster/Ultraviolet negativity. Tens of thousands of potential new customers discovered the hard way last week how ill-conceived Flixster is as a cloud turnkey solution. I touched upon some of the same issues last year in a Shop Talk column. What I find hysterical is that Warner Bros. has done absolutely nothing to address those same issues, and it bit them in the butt with Veronica Mars. I am curious whether this lights a fire with them on the user unfriendly software they currently employ. Digital viewing is the future (sorry, Mr. Huntley), but it has to work right. As of right now, Vudu is an acceptable streaming ownership system that needs quite a bit of improvement. Flixster is the digital answer to New Coke. In order for Ultraviolet to work and thereby enable future Veronica Mars-esque releases, companies like Warner Bros. and Wal-Mart (the owners of Vudu) have to start taking their criticisms seriously.