Simpsons Movie Dominates Box Office
By John Hamann
July 29, 2007
The weekend that many BOP staff members were looking forward to finally arrived, as Homer Simpson, his family, and of course Spider-Pig finally made it to the big screen. The Tracy Ullman Show spin-off was a phenomenal success at the box office this weekend, turning over 15 years of popularity on TV into incredible returns now that they have their own movie. Other openers didn't have the power of North America's favorite family. They included No Reservations, the bland new rom-com with Catherine Zeta-Jones, and I Know Who Killed Me, with problem child Lindsay Lohan. Would real life drama for Lohan sell some tickets?
The number one film of the weekend is of course The Simpsons Movie, as the Fox show finally becomes a Fox big screen success story. Homer and Spider-Pig earned a huge $71.9 million, easily becoming the number one film of the weekend. Released to a large 3,922 venues, The Simpsons Movie had a venue average of $18,320. After grossing a huge $29.4 million on Friday, the James L. Brooks product had a weekend multiplier of 2.45, meaning it was expectedly front-loaded on Friday night. The Fox production set an opening weekend record for a movie based on a TV series, narrowly getting ahead of The Transformers, which opened to $70 million only a few weekends ago. The Simpsons played just like a sequel, as the known-product already had legions of fans anticipating the release on Friday, which led to the low multiplier. Fox isn't worried about opening weekend legs. According the IMDb, the production budget for The Simpsons Movie came in at about $65 million, so this opening frame is definitely a coup for Fox. Don't forget - The Simpsons isn't just a North American phenomenon, it's worldwide, and despite being a comedy, I would look for foreign grosses to meet or beat what this one earns stateside.
Other than the obvious, why the big opening for The Simpsons Movie? The marketing here was fantastic, and not just for the content (although Homer swinging upside down between a rock and bar called "The Hard Place" still brings a smile to my face). Fox decided to hold the film for review until the week of release, which meant plot points weren't readily available until Thursday or Friday. This built the demand for the film, and it paid off hugely with Friday's gross. Teasers, trailers and TV ads have all been spectacular from the beginning on this one, with much of the continent aware of the impending release for many months. Fox spurred that pent-up demand by delivering a quality film, as a large percentage of reviewers liked what they saw. Despite many statements that The Simpsons Movie was like three combined episodes of the series, it still drew 108 positive reviews out of a possible 123 at RottenTomatoes, giving Homer and family an 88% fresh rating at the review compilation Web site. This also means we have had a July with some fantastic reviews for films like Rescue Dawn (90% fresh), Hairspray (93% fresh) and now The Simpsons Movie. Is this the Renaissance of the summer movie industry?
Before we start talking about legs for this one, let's have a look at South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, which obviously has a lot in common with The Simpsons Movie (except for the MPAA rating, of course). South Park also had a strong fan base (but not nearly as large as The Simpsons). It debuted over the July 4th weekend in 1999 and had a five-day opening weekend of about $19 million. After a successful opening frame, South Park suffered huge declines in the weeks that followed, and ended its run with only $52 million. It was also seriously fresh (80%), but failed to come close to being a $100 million film. X-Files: Fight the Future was another still-in-production TV show that opened big ($33 million) but failed to show any legs - it finished south of $100 million at about $84 million. The Simpsons do have a larger, more loyal fan base, but I think this one will fail to reach $200 million. Don't get me wrong - there's a party on the Fox lot this morning - but make sure you check back next weekend to see where The Simpsons are heading.