Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up
Magical Marketing Catapults Wild Things and Box Office
By John Hamann
October 18, 2009
It's one of those fantastic weekends at the box office, where the movies are interesting and audiences are eating them up. After a sad frame last weekend when the awful Couples Retreat broke out with an opening over $30 million, the box office continues its roll toward Thanksgiving with another huge weekend. Openers this weekend included the long awaited Where The Wild Things Are from Spike Jonze and Warner Bros.; Law Abiding Citizen with what have become fringe players in Gerard Butler and Jamie Foxx; October's natch horror flick The Stepfather; and an expansion weekend for Paramount's white-hot Paranormal Activity (aka The New Blair Witch Project). With all of this and some decent holdovers, the box office has a very big weekend to remember.
Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are took a very long time to reach theatres, but in the end, things have worked out very well for Warner Bros., Village Roadshow and Legendary Pictures, the production partners on Wild Things. Shooting started in the spring of 2006, and it has been a long process of leaked footage, reshoots, studio rumblings, and in the end a fantastic marketing process that made tongues wag for weeks. Jonze, who has one of the most bizarre IMDb resumes out there, wrote the script and directed, after being chosen by Wild Things author Maurice Sendak. Sendak chose Jonze after seeing the auteur's Being John Malkovich, but how the connection was made between the bizarre (but extremely satisfying) Malkovich, and the sparse kids book, I will never know. Jonze set out to make a kids movie for adults, and while this may have scared Warner Bros. more than anyone else, the end product has obviously given audiences what they wanted.
Obviously, our number one movie of the weekend is Where The Wild Things Are, the Spike Jonze creation based on the beloved kids book. Wild Things earned more than many expected, taking in a powerful $32.5 million from a massive 3,735 theatrical and IMAX venues. It had a venue average of $8,693. Tracking was all over the place with estimates between $20 and $40 million, not only because Wild Things is a kids movie for adults, but also because tracking was off by over $10 million last weekend on Couples Retreat, and tracking tends to get shy after a big miss. Wild Things had an $80 million price tag, so Spike Jonze and company were going to need at least $25 million this weekend to set this on the path to profitability. After a Friday gross of $11.9 million, we knew that a weekend take beyond $30 million was in store, and that Wild Things was going to be considered a great success for those involved. What we didn't know after seeing Friday's figure was how the rest of the weekend was going to perform. Would Wild Things be a one-day wonder, frontloaded due to the popularity of the book and a lack of children seeing it, or would it turn into an even bigger success, engaging kids as well as adults? To better understand this, Box Office Prophets uses an internal multiplier (weekend gross divided by Friday gross) to find out how a movie played over an entire weekend, with a 2.5 multiplier (or lower) indicating a frontloaded feature, and a 3.5 multiplier (or higher) meaning solid legs (and usually good word-of-mouth) beyond the Friday gross. In the case of Wild Things, because of the solid Friday, anything over a multiplier of 3.0 was going to be good news, and anything approaching 3.5 would be exceptional news. In the end, the mulitplier came in at 2.7, which means that it was in fact a bit front-loaded, though not to an extreme degree. It should straighten out a bit over the next couple of weekends, too, since there's not much for families until A Christmas Carol arrives in theaters (we're not going to count The Vampire's Assistant as a family film).