The 12 Days of Box Office

By David Mumpower

December 30, 2009

That's a whole heap of bad luck.

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Tuesday's box office results played out almost exactly like Monday's had. In fact, the resemblance is eerie. To wit, the order of the top 12 was identical to the previous day and no film declined by more than 6.3% or increased by more than 9.6%. This is precisely the sort of behavior that makes this box office period a fascinating model to study. Everything is a (relatively) known quantity.

As I said on the first day of this year's columns, films have a tendency to behave as Fridays/Saturdays for each day of box office during the period. The only exceptions are, perhaps counter-intuitively, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. That means we'll see a decline in box office tomorrow (the daily numbers that will be released on Friday). Every other day of the week offers tremendous performance for every film tracking, even the ones that suck (I'm looking in your direction, Nine).

Total box office revenue for the top 12 yesterday was $58,242,820. Those of you who read the summer daily numbers analysis columns realize that the above represents a Monday-Thursday total during some June weeks. It's also a weekend top 12 during some of the down periods on the box office calendar. The idea that 12 films could earn $58.2 million on a Tuesday is something that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. It also dwarfs last Tuesday's top 12 tally of $27,987,479. This has happened due to a combination of the week between Christmas and New Year's being better overall for films already in release combined with the onslaught of new product on Wednesday and Friday of last week. It's a banner week at the box office on any number of levels.


Continuing last week's theme of focusing on Avatar one day then other titles in release the next, let's simply note that James Cameron's latest box office masterpiece crossed the $250 million threshold yesterday. In the process, it became the seventh 2009 release to accomplish this feat. That's...a lot. In fact, it's the most ever in one year, which goes a long way in explaining why 2009 has been a record box office campaign.

The prior record had been six in 2007, but in case you're curious and since I did the legwork anyway, here are the others from the 2000s. The decade started off with a whimper as only one film, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, earned over $250 million. In 2001, 2002, and 2003, there were four titles that did so each year. That number went up to five in 2004 before declining to three in 2005 then down to two in 2006. After the big year of 2007, the number dropped again to three in 2008. Ergo, we've had as many $250+ million hits in 2009 as there were in 2000, 2005 and 2008 combined. Avatar will of course torch this mark in making a run at $500 million, but it bears noting that The Hangover, which will wind up being the fifth or sixth largest revenue earner of 2009 would have been the number one film of 2000. Part of that is ticket price inflation, but it also represents the depth of quality blockbusters we've had in 2009.

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