Twelve Days of Box Office

By David Mumpower

December 25, 2008

It doesn't matter where in the world you are. He can still hear you.

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Merry Christmas, everyone!

With the release of Christmas Eve numbers, those of you who are new to this are probably wondering what happened. After fantastic Monday and Tuesday business, everything dropped on Christmas Eve, which is an official holiday for a lot of businesses. Theoretically, box office should be way up on a day like that instead of sagging as has happened, right? Welcome to the phenomenon of the anti-holiday. This is an issue at least twice every year. Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve always face this problem as people spend those days traveling, spending time with family and partying. It can also be an issue on July 4th depending on calendar configuration. What is important here (and I know that long time readers are well aware of the phenomenon) is that nothing happened at the box office yesterday that is in any way unusual nor reflective of flagging demand for titles in release.

Here are a few examples to prove the point. In 1997, even Titanic could not overcome the issues caused by Christmas Eve. The number one film of all time fell from $6.1 million to $3.2 million, a decline of 47%. This would prove to be its worst non-Monday weekday drop of its entire domestic release (the Tuesdays after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President's Day and Memorial Day excluded). This box office tidbit alone gives you all the information you need to know about the reality of the phenomenon. Even so, Tomorrow Never Dies and Mouse Hunt fell victim to the same issue. The James Bond film dropped 39% from $4.18 million to $2.54 million while the family film dropped 23% from $1.41 million to $1.09 million. Looking at the rest of 1997 titles in release on Christmas Eve, the average drop was 39% with nothing doing better than Mouse Hunt's 23% drop.

2003 releases performed no differently. The best decline was Something's Gotta Give, which fell only 22% from $2.0 million to $1.56 million. The two openers we have been tracking, Mona Lisa Smile and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, behaved as expected. The Julia Roberts chick flick dropped from $2.2 million to $1.1 million, a stiff 50% decline. Return of the King did better, dropping from $12,476,242 to $7,544,400, which is 40% depreciation. Overall, the top ten titles in release had an average drop of 40%. So, the behavior between the two years was uniform.


So, how do the 2008 titles stack up relative to recent box office history for this Christmas week calendar configuration? About where you would expect. Yes Man spends its sixth consecutive day in first place with $1.98 million. This total represents a drop of 42% from Tuesday's $3.40 million. The Tale of Despereaux nestles into second place for the third straight day after a weekend of a third place start and a pair of fourth place finishes. Its $1.57 million is $900,000 less than Tuesday, a drop of 36%. Finally, Seven Pounds rounds out the openers from last weekend. Its $1.50 million on Christmas Eve is a decline of 32%, the first bit of even marginally good news for the Will Smith movie since its debut. As you can see, the behavior of this titles is almost exactly what we would expect based upon historical precedent.

To wit, Christmas Eve temporarily destroyed every title in release. The Day The Earth Stood Still, the fourth place entrant yesterday, dropped from $1.70 million on Tuesday to $1.24 million on Wednesday, a drop of 27%. Four Christmases, the film that ostensibly had the best chance to not be impacted by Christmas Eve behavior, fell 24% from $1.62 million to $1.23 million. Bolt, a title that had a chance to surprise in this regard, dropped 34% from $1.33 million to $890,000.

Rounding out the top ten were the same films as Tuesday with only the order of the seventh and eighth place finishers reversed. Slumdog Millionaire jumped Twilight to record its best finish yet in seventh with $690,000, up 17% from Tuesday. That is a remarkable accomplishment and the only title out of the 30 qualifying for our discussion to increase on Christmas Eve. The future is very, very bright for this title. Meanwhile, Twilight was less fortunate, falling a whopping 58% to $560,000. Et tu, disaffected teen girls? Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa had the second best hold within the top ten, dropping only 15% to $450,000 yesterday. Quantum of Solace also did quite well, falling only 20% to $390,000. If we throw all of these depreciations together, the average drop for top ten titles for Christmas Eve 2008 was 33% if we exclude the anomaly, Slumdog Millionaire, or 31% if we leave it in. So, the top ten titles in release did a bit better than in 1997 and 2003 but still behaved well within expected guidelines.

For those of you who didn't read yesterday's update (I'm going to excuse you this one time since it was a holiday), there was a site note from BOP's staff. I speak for all of us when I say that we wish you the happiest of holiday seasons. Thanks so much for reading us every day and helping contribute to our success. We couldn't do it without you.



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