Weekend Forecast for August 8-10, 2008
By David Mumpower
August 6, 2008
This weekend marks the beginning of the period every couple of years that theater owners fear. That's what the mainstream media would have you believe of the start of The Olympics. Alas, neither of the two major openers this week is going to be impacted by this, no matter what Sony and/or Warner Bros. may be saying on Sunday if they need an excuse.
Now that the Winter Olympics and the Summer Olympics are no longer held during the same year, this is an issue that comes up in all even-numbered years. The last time the Summer Olympics were poised to impact box office was August of 2004. In that time frame, the weekends of August 13th-15th, August 20th-22nd and August 27th-29th. What happened was simple. We had a pair of $18 million openers in Jet Li's Hero and The Exorcist: The Beginning, a $38 million opener in AVP: Alien Vs. Predator and a $37 million five-day performer in The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. What do these four titles have in common? They all skew young. And there is a reason for that. Over the past couple of decades, the Olympics have evolved from being must-watch programming for all involved into being a popular distraction for the 25+ crowd. In short, titles that appeal to the younger demographic are not particularly impacted by the Olympics.
If there is any debate on the point, the Winter Olympics of 2006 should settle the matter. February is well established as a mediocre period for box office results. Somehow, the three weekends during the Olympics that February managed to have seven (!) titles open to $13.6 million or higher. Five of those opened to at least $19 million, with Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion managing one of the ten best February openings ever to that date (it's currently still 13th best).
The weekend of February 17th-19th in particular is indicative of strong overall box office. Two films, Eight Below and Date Movie, opened to $20 and $19 million, respectively. Meanwhile, all four of the previous weekend's releases - The Pink Panther, Final Destination 3, Curious George and Firewall - all fell less than 50% with Curious George and The Pink Panther both under 20% declines. Yes, these totals were all a bit holiday-inflated due to the fact that the following Monday was President's day.
Even so, there were five films that earned at least $10 million that weekend and eight films that earned at least $5 million. As a point of reference, this past weekend saw only four releases - The Dark Knight (natch), The Mummy: Tomb of the Emperor, Step Brothers and Mamma Mia! - earn at least $10 million. There were only seven films that earned at least $5 million. And the #10 film from 2006, Nanny McPhee, earned $3,761,885 while this past weekend's #10, Space Chimps, brought in over a million less at $2,720,177. Sure, the overall top ten for this past weekend brought in $140,934,095 while that February weekend in 2006 managed only $105,938,077. If we isolate the titles in release to get rid of the skew created by The Dark Knight and The Mummy, however, films 3-10 in 2008 managed $57,812,106 while films 3-10 in 2006 accrued $66,673,640.