Weekend Wrap-Up

High School Musical Jigsaws Saw V

By John Hamann

October 26, 2008

The Scorpions should totally stay away from the Thunderbirds' turf.

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It was a battle of franchises this weekend at the box office, and may have been one of the oddest big business battles ever, as we have TWO films earning back their budgets on opening night. Saw V, the legendary Halloween opener, faced off against High School Musical 3: Senior Year, with its predecessor being the most watched cable broadcast ever. Both films were extremely cheap to make, and carried no big names (unless you read Teen Beat) or had huge production values. In fact, the only opener with a star this weekend was Pride and Glory, which starred Ed Norton and Colin Farrell, and again solidifies the trend away from A-list acting draws, and more into gimmicks. Those gimmicks made Disney and Lionsgate $72.5 million over three days, so expect more in your future.

High School Musical 3: Senior Year is our number one film this weekend, and is admittedly a film and franchise I just don't get (and I know I‘m not alone). High School Musical 3 earned a powerful $42 million from an ultra wide venue count of 3,623. That score gives HSM3 a venue average of $11,593, enough to keep it ahead of Saw V, which opened in about 600 fewer venues. High School Musical 2 debuted on the Disney Channel in 2007, and garnered a record setting audience of 12.7 million viewers, the most ever for cable TV at the time. The franchise became a cash cow for Disney, selling extremely well on DVD, becoming a top selling soundtrack, and creating a musical tour, amongst a myriad of other thins. Disney claimed that prior to High School Musical 2, the franchise had already earned the company of $500 million, and after the second more than $1 billion - not a bad franchise to have in tough economic times.


Now, with the step up to the big screen, the money is even bigger. Made for a very small $11 million (up only $4 million from the TV sequel), HSM3 is going to end up being one of the most profitable films released in 2008, if not the most. The musical earned approximately $17 million on opening night, which likely means Disney was seeing real profit from this one by Saturday afternoon. On top of that, with this demographic, repeat viewings are pretty much ensured, so an opening-weekend to domestic-finish multiplier of as much as 3.5 is a probability, so a finish ahead of $150 million is most likely in the cards. And that's just the start. After domestic box office, international sales should be strong, followed by soundtracks, DVDs, clothes and concert tours and so forth.

We are talking billions here, folks, from a movie that I have to wonder how it resonates with teens. We aren't talking Oscar worthy stuff here (64% fresh at RottenTomatoes - but like this target audience cares what reviewers think), but at least films like Grease had some drama to them. Whatever the case, this is the biggest opening ever for a musical (unadjusted for inflation) ahead of Mamma Mia! and Hairspray, both of which debuted to a meager-in-comparison $27.5 million. HSM3 also has a shot a being the biggest domestic grossing musical ever (again, unadjusted for inflation) as it looks to take down Grease, which earned $181 million way back in 1978, long before Zac Efron was genetically engineered by the kind folks at Disney.

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