By David Mumpower
November 20, 2008
What happens when reports of massive early sellouts filter in is that people grow recklessly optimistic about a movie's opening weekend performance. A perfect recent example of this is Sex and the City. That title, also an entrant on Fandango's all-time pre-sales top 10 list, made a whopping $26.8 million on its first Friday. The only places that did better business than theaters that day were places that sold drinks with "tini" in the title. Girls' night out has never been celebrated so significantly at the box office, but the title's opening weekend reflected that almost half of Sex's business happened on Friday. Another $30 million on Saturday and Sunday gave it $56.8 million for the three days, a spectacular total to be sure. It was, however, an amount that fell short of the expectations raised by pre-sales.
In fact, the film just ahead of Sex and the City on Fandango's chart, Spider-Man 3, earned almost $100 million more on opening weekend. What does this say about the differences in the target demographics? The main logical inference is obvious. Women are better planners, ordering tickets online ahead of time as opposed to the primary young male demographic that carried Spider-Man 3 to a new opening weekend record. That bunch just stood in line and played with their PSPs and iPods instead of planning ahead. Practicality is a specialty of women much more than men, and I think that's also reflected by the film just ahead of Twilight on the Fandango pre-sales top 10, Hannah Montana 3D.
That silly little concert movie (just in case my niece is reading this, let me emphasize that yes, the Jonas Brothers are dreamy) opened to $31.1 million in only 683 venues. Your instinct would be to think that the fact that its pre-sales were so high in so few venues is indicative of an even greater number for Twilight if we extrapolate out to the venue count that is over four times as large. That's a rookie mistake. In fact, this is just a finite count of tickets sold that in no way reflects venue count. If anything, what this reflects is what a small portion of overall ticket sales are done online. As a fan of Fandango since pretty much the beginning of the site (and someone who says "Chitra, my queen, I used Fandango" far too often), this depresses me but facts are facts. Being #6 all-time in terms of ticket pre-sales on that site guaranteed Best of Both Worlds nothing more than a $31.1 million opening weekend. As such, let's keep some objectivity when we consider all of these sellout stories floating around for Twilight.
In terms of the negatives and positives of Twilight this weekend, I think they've all been established. The books are huge, at one point owning four of the top six spots on the USA Today sales chart. As I type this, the four books are currently ranked #4, #2, #3 and #6 on Amazon. And one of the two books otherwise in the mix in the top six is the pre-sale of Beetle the Bard, meaning that four of the top five books currently available on Amazon.com are a part of this series. Had the Twilight movies been started this year instead of last and had a more established production house created them, we would be talking about $100 million openings as a solid possibility. That's no exaggeration, at least not from my perspective. As it is, the question is whether Summit Entertaiment has the cachet to bend the movie industry to its will this weekend in the same way that Newmarket did once and only once with The Passion of the Christ. We'll know the answer to that in less than 72 hours, but I think we all it's regrettable that Twilight's production quality is closer in tone to The Convenant than The Order of the Phoenix. That's what holds it back from epic box office greatness in my eyes.