Weekend Wrap-Up for April 23-25, 2010

Box Office Waits For Iron Man

By John Hamann

April 25, 2010

More charming than any recent romantic comedy.

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The box office had the spring blues this weekend, as two openers failed to ignite. The story is again the now five-weekend-old How to Train Your Dragon from Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Animation. While no records will fall for a fifth weekend gross, Dragon is showing that a well put together 3D picture has the tendency to equal legs, a body part Hollywood hasn't seen since the early '90s. Openers were soft, and included the Jennifer Lopez rom-com The Back-Up Plan, and the lovely Zoe Saldana in The Losers.

The last couple of weekends at the box office have proven to be completely unpredictable, but in a different way than we are used to. Usually, the inconstant behavior comes from a breakout opener, whose first weekend gross came completely out of the blue (think last year's Fast & Furious, which earned $71 million over its first three days in the first weekend of April). The last two weekends have been different, where there haven't been blow out successes, but analysts have been surprised about grosses internally in the weekend. For example, last weekend Kick-Ass earned $7.65 million on opening night, and How to Train Your Dragon finished fourth, well back, with $4.4 million. When weekend estimates were released How to Train Your Dragon was the number one film, until Monday, when actuals were released that had Kick-Ass on top. The weekend before, Dragon finished only $2 million behind Date Night's opening Friday (not the $3.25 million it finished behind Kick-Ass), but somehow Dragon failed to be the number one film. Simply put, 3D is causing havoc with box office forecasting, like a new weather pattern messing with normal forecasting conditions.


This weekend is another example of the different patterns being created by 3D. As Tim Briody reported yesterday, How to Train Your Dragon finished second behind The Back-Up Plan on Friday; however, the now five-weekend-old film is number one (for sure) this weekend. The mighty 3D Dragon earned $15 million and dropped 23%. Almost unbelievably, this is only the second weekend that Dragon has finished on top, as it opened at number one on March 26th ($43.3 million), dropped to #3 on April 2nd ($29 million), held at third on April 9th ($24.9 million), and rose to second last weekend ($19.6 million). It has seen drops of 34%, 14%, 21% and now 23% - regardless of format, audience, or competition, these are excellent holds – not quite to the Avatar standard, but better than Coraline, and much better than Alice in Wonderland. So far, its cumulative total is $178 million.

An argument can be made that How to Train Your Dragon was propped up by the R-rating given to Kick-Ass, as one film wilts and the other takes off. To look at this, we examine a film's internal multiplier (Friday box office divided by weekend box office). The weekend before Kick-Ass opened, How to Train Your Dragon was up against Date Night as the only opener. That weekend, Dragon had an internal multiplier (Friday box office divided by weekend box office) of 3.5, which isn't bad for a kids flick, but likely lower than Paramount might have expected. The lower than expected multiplier might have been due to Clash of the Titans being a 3D film that was partially aimed at the kids crowd, and the combination of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Alice in Wonderland (there's that 3D again) combining for about $10 million. However, the following weekend when Kick-Ass opened, Dragon's internal multiplier rose to a massive 4.46, a number reserved for the kiddiest of kids fare. Remember how this works: if no one attends a film on Friday, and then buckets of people see it on Saturday and Sunday, we get a huge multiplier. So, if a film plays very young, fewer little kids are going to see the 9 p.m. show on Friday, so the trend is for a larger internal multiplier. But that's not the demographic that Dragon represents – it would play much more broadly than, say, a Muppets flick or a Rugrats Movie.

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