Knocked Up Scores Against Blockbusters
By John Hamann
June 3, 2007
I love these weekends. For the first time in what feels like forever, a comedy with fantastic reviews scored with audiences this weekend, where usually it's either awful films being embraced, or the good ones being ignored. That film is Knocked Up, as it faced off against our famous trio of third-in-a-franchise blockbusters, as well as Kevin Costner in Mr. Brooks, and a forgotten soccer film in Gracie. All of this made for a lucrative weekend for studios and exhibitors, who I'm sure are happy to have more than one film doing all of the business at the box office.
Our number one film is the record-breaking Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, but we will get to how well it did below. In the last frame, Jack Sparrow and friends enjoyed a huge three-day Memorial Weekend gross of $114.7 million, and all eyes were on the follow-up to that number this weekend. Would audiences bail on the over-long, somewhat convoluted blockbuster, or line up for a second turn at the effects-filled thrill ride? Spider-Man 3 had seen a 62% drop in its sophomore weekend, and even the kid-friendly Shrek the Third experienced a 56% drop. With no real blockbuster competition coming down the pike this weekend, PotC was better off than its blockbuster compatriots, but really, Spidey 3 only had to deal with 28 Weeks Later and a slew of weak sisters. At World's End had to contend with the strong Knocked Up, but that was an R-rated comedy that only slightly infringed on Johnny Depp's target demographic.
Almost as a sign of the times, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End got crushed in its second frame, grossing a lower-than-expected $43.2 million from its record-setting venue count of 4,362. It had a second weekend venue average of $9,901. At World's End dropped a scathing 62%, which has to be higher than Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer were expecting. That drop puts in right on par with Spider-Man 3, and means that this will be another blockbuster that opens in the top five, but will fail to make the top ten domestic grossers list of all time. Are the studios okay with this? Of course they are. At World's End crossed the $200 million mark on Saturday, its eighth (or ninth) day of release, depending on how you consider its Thursday opening last week. Disney and Bruckheimer take the largest slice of the box office from exhibitors (as much as 90%) over the first two weekends a film is shown in theatres. At World's End will gross over $200 million in its first ten days, and should earn about $100 million more over the next two months. Studios want that big business in the first ten days, and are willing to ignore these huge investments in the weekends that follow, due to the fact that no matter how much they spend on marketing, their slice of the box office after those first ten days isn't going to change all that much, with a big financial effort or not. So far, At World's End has earned $216.5 million, and should finish in the same neighborhood as Spider-Man 3, around $300 million and change.