Twelve Days of Box Office
By David Mumpower
December 23, 2008
Hello and welcome to the eighth annual 12 Days of Box Office here at BOP. This year is going to be a bit more interesting than usual due to the calendar configuration. Christmas last fell on a Thursday in 2003 and 1997 before that. Before we get to today's results, I want to examine how each of those two years behaved. As always, BOP stresses that historical precedent is huge with regards to late December box office behavior.
1997 had the more novel behavior, so we'll start with an examination of that time period. Let's first focus on the titles that opened the same weekend then that Yes Man, Seven Pounds, and The Tale of Despereaux opened this year. Two of those titles were a James Bond release, Tomorrow Never Dies, and an eerily similar title to Despereaux, Mouse Hunt. Coincidentally, there was one other title that has come up from time to time during our Daily Box Office Analysis discussions over the summer. It's called Titanic. No, we won't be using that one much for modeling purposes. If Yes Man is still the number one film in March, feel free to taunt me for my mistake.
Upon release, Mouse Hunt earned a paltry $6,062,922. What makes this one of the most fascinating releases in recent box office history is that its final domestic take was $61,894,591. Wide releases don't behave in such a fashion any more, but it wasn't that unusual just 11 years ago. Consider that a 1996 December release in the same time frame, Scream, actually surpassed what Mouse Hunt did. Scream started with $6,354,586 before becoming a bona fide blockbuster with final receipts of $103,046,663. That's a final box office multiplier (final take divided by opening weekend) of 16.2. Those don't come around much in 2008. If The Tale of Despereaux behaved similarly to Mouse Hunt, it would be a $100 million movie. If it matched what Scream did, we'd be talking about a $160 million result. Obviously, that won't happen, and it exemplifies the changing behavior of box office since the late 1990s.
Even with the revolutionary changes, there is still much to be learned from 1997's behavior. Let's look at the numbers for Tomorrow Never Dies and figure out what we know. The James Bond flick started with $25,143,007 and wound up with $125,304,276. Along the way, the film's first two weekend depreciations after its debut were 18.5% and 32.6%. Those are good drops, but they are certainly not enough for a movie to have a final multiplier in the range of 5. What aided Tomorrow Never Dies were its weekday results during the holiday period. From Monday to Thursday of its first week, the film accrued receipts of $16,287,946. That's a retention of 65% on the weekdays from the weekend. After a $20,480,931 weekend, the following Monday-Thursday period had receipts of $15,984,086. Effectively, $45.6 million worth of weekends were matched by $32.3 million worth of weekdays. This phenomenon is what makes the December holiday period so lucrative.