Transformers vs. Ice Age = Roddick vs Federer
By John Hamann
July 5, 2009
With July 4th falling on a Saturday, the box office was already behind the 8-ball heading into the weekend, as the biggest moviegoing night of the week was set to be usurped by fireworks and picnics. However, it's been a year of Paul Blarts, Takens, Hangovers and Transformers, so obviously there are no safe bets at the box office in 2009. Opening this weekend were Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Public Enemies, two films that not only face off against the July 4th weekend and Transformers 2, they are also facing off against what make them July tentpole releases. One is a very popular franchise trying to stay ahead of a very successful past, and the other showcases two of the biggest male stars working in the movies today. Would they both be able to stay above water against those mighty Transformers? Read on to find out.
With the first Saturday July 4th happening since 1998, the box office was in a large amount of disarray this weekend. Armeggeddon was the big opener the last time the calendar fell like this, and the result was noticeable. After opening to a strong Wednesday/Thursday business of $9.7 and $8.4 million, Armageddon pulled down $13.6 million on its first Friday, a huge number for the late 1990s. However, on its first Saturday, July 4th, the daily gross fell a large 23% to $10.5 million before increasing 13% on Sunday to $11.9 million. That's a large reversal from the usual weekend trend, where the box office pattern usually works like an upside down V, with the box office peaking on Saturday. So, instead of Armageddon finishing its first weekend with $45 million, it had to settle for a weekend gross of $36.1 million. For an opening weekend, especially in 1998, the difference between a $45 million opening and a $36.1 million debut is huge, as it can affect audience perception as the film moves forward, sometimes due to the media's representation of these numbers. The NY Times said over that 1998 weekend that "the lower figures were at least partly a result of the fact that the Fourth of July fell on a Saturday". Forget partly; the July 4th on a Saturday blows up the entire business model.
With that in mind, our number one movie of the weekend is unique in and of itself in that we have a tie between Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen - at least until actuals come in. Let's start with Transformers 2, which earned another $42.5 million and drops a large 61%. On Friday, Revenge of the Fallen posted a Friday figure of $18.3 million, approximately half of what it grossed over its opening Friday. Had it been a normal weekend, this would have been fantastic news for Paramount and Michael Bay, as a drop was expected; also, films in their second weekends will actually "catch up" somewhat over the remainder of the weekend as the Saturday tends to improve on that percentage. This time out, we knew that wasn't going to happen. This year, due to July 4th falling on a Saturday, things actually got worse instead of better. So while the drop this weekend can be perceived as nasty, it really isn't the case. Following Armageddon's opening weekend, it fell in the next weekend only 35%, and never saw a drop higher than that until almost three months later, when it was earning less than $2 million per weekend. Do the box office gods balance things out in the long run? Yes. Armageddon went on to earn over $200 million at the domestic box office, or 5.5 times its opening weekend gross. For Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, this title already has a gross so far of $293.5 million, and has only been in release for 12 days. Like it or not, that's impressive.