The Twelve Days of Box Office

Daily Box Office Analysis for December 21, 2010

By David Mumpower

December 22, 2010

He looks like Billy Mack right before he strips nekkid on Christmas.

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Welcome to the tenth annual daily box office analysis for the December holiday season. Whereas we had a unique calendar configuration last in 2009, this year finds us a relatively straightforward one. With Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve on Fridays and Christmas and New Year’s Day on Saturdays, weekday box office we will examine in the Monday-to-Thursday range will not be affected any by holiday-specific behavior.

For those of you new to the process, the time frame of the week before Christmas to the third day of January is the most lucrative box office period on the calendar. The end result of this is that most films will experience daily revenue on a par with a Friday, sometimes even a Saturday. So, we are looking at a 12-day period wherein all films in release experience a run of a dozen consecutive Fridays, give or take a bit. This is a blueprint example of a rising tide lifting all boats.

As we discuss each December, the key to anticipating box office behavior for the titles in release is the calendar configuration. The “holidays falling on Fridays/Saturdays” one mentioned above was last seen in 2004. There are other similarities as well. In 2004, the only heavyweight box office contender at the start of Christmas week was an underperforming big budget title, the movie adaptation of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. That title underwhelmed with a $30 million opening and had fallen out of first place by the following Wednesday. History should repeat itself in 2010 as Tron: Legacy debuted to an okay $44 million; it appears likely to fall out of first place with the release of Little Fockers on Wednesday.

2004 also had a significant disparity between the movie in first place and the other debuts that weekend, Spanglish and Flight of the Phoenix. The gap between Tron: Legacy and the other new releases, Yogi Bear and How Do You Know, is quite like 2004. In short, the first two weekdays of the holiday box office period should behave in eerily similar fashion to the last time we had this particular calendar configuration. So, did they?


Tron: Legacy fell from $11,480,261 on Sunday to $6,002,804, a decline of 47.7%. It then bumped up a bit on Tuesday to $6,350,783. That’s a daily increase of 5.8%; this total also reflects 55.3% of Sunday’s box office. The combined Monday/Tuesday total of $12.3 million is 7.1% more than its Sunday total. On the surface, these numbers mean absolutely nothing to anyone. This is where the modeling process comes into play.

What we want to do is compare the (thus far) underachieving number one film of Christmas week 2010 to the underachieving number one film of Christmas week 2004. Would this process work every time? Of course not. The number one film for Christmas week of December 2015 almost certainly will not be a valid comparison for the number one film for its most recent Christmas Day-on-a-Friday calendar configuration. That would be the Avatar model and that particular model breaks the mold. Even so, a surprisingly large percentage of the models in place for prior December holiday box office have held up over time.

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