Twelve Days of Box Office

By David Mumpower

December 24, 2008

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Before we get to Tuesday numbers, let's take a moment to consider what happened in 1997 and 2003. We want to keep in mind how this Christmas week calendar configuration has worked in the past in order to determine if this past weekend's new releases are behaving as expected.

On December 23, 1997, Mouse Hunt increased from $1,256,047 the previous day to $1.405 million, an improvement of 12%. This total actually exceeded the $1.385 million it made on its first day in theaters. We obviously should not expect similar behavior from other films in terms of Friday/Tuesday holdover, but the increase from Monday to Tuesday is not wholly out of line for strong performers.

As the official holiday approaches, more consumers use vacation days. This liberates them to have the free time to go see a movie if so inclined. To wit, the other pre-Christmas week releases in 1997 also saw Monday-Tuesday increases. Titanic improved 9% to $6.075 million while Tomorrow Never Dies also went up 12% to $4.175 million. Relative to its opening Friday, Titanic retained 71% of its box office while Tomorrow Never Dies managed only 49%. Opening day James Bond rush was a factor in that one's behavior. We'll see over the next several days that it largely performed uniformly to its first Monday/Tuesday over the long holiday period.


In 2003, the two major releases were The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Mona Lisa Smile. Okay, one of them was major and I was being polite with the other. What's important here is that Return of the King had fallen 42% from Sunday to Monday with $13,563,208 on the weekday. Part of that is an issue of scale; we have seen with The Dark Knight over the summer that a lot of $10+ million days is a hard feat for any film to accomplish.

On its first Tuesday in theaters, Return of the King managed a much better hold of 8% depreciation to $12,476,242. That is a retention rate of 57% from its first Friday of $21,811,549, which I feel is a better indicator on this one that the first day of $34,450,834. Fanboy rush was near an all-time high for any movie with the release of the end of the Tolkien trilogy. Frankly, I don't think this one makes for a good model at all when we factor in weekend numbers, but it works quite well in demonstrating that the daily numbers have that same expected behavioral pattern for this calendar configuration. Driving that point home is Mona Lisa Smile, which fell 5% from Monday's $2,311,494 to just under $2.2 million on Tuesday. That number reflects 51% of the film's opening day tally of $4.3 million.

What we can take from the above is straightforward. Films generally should have a Monday/Tuesday performance within 12% of one another, up or down. The five examples above are +12%, +9%, +12%, -8% and -5%. With regards to opening day retention for the first Tuesday, the numbers are 101% (remember that Mouse Hunt increased), 71%, 49%, 57% and 51%. That's a much larger range, but it does demonstrate that anything under 50% is unsatisfactory. These are the facts to keep in mind as we take a look at our three new releases this past weekend.

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