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The Twelve Days of Box Office

Daily Box Office Analysis for December 22, 2010

By David Mumpower

December 23, 2010

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True Grit is a different beast. The box office history of the Coen Brothers is all over the place. They’ve never had a $75 million film although No Country for Old Men got all the way to the finish line in that regard with $74.3 million. Along with Burn after Reading, the Coens have only had these two features earn north of $50 million. Conversely, six of their releases failed to earn $10 million domestically. Those are Blood Simple, Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink, The Hudsucker Proxy (my personal favorite of theirs), The Man Who Wasn’t There and last year’s A Serious Man. Yes, most of these smallish performers came from the mid-90s and before with The Man Who Wasn’t There released in 2001. That means that over the rest of the 2000s, only A Serious Man has been a box office non-factor. Meanwhile, their two releases prior to it are their two most successful in their careers. They’re trending up. And True Grit reeks of quality. Expectations for it are off the charts.

Those expectations were largely met on Wednesday as True Grit debuted with $5.5 million. And yes, I appreciate the oddity in defining Little Fockers as a disappointment by earning $1.7 million more. That’s how the evaluation process works. Everything is relative. If Steve Spielberg opens a movie to $50 million, everyone stifles a yawn. If Uwe Boll does it, well, the world probably ends. The point is that by Coen Brothers standards a $5.5 million first day is strong. That number bests the debut of Intolerable Cruelty or The Ladykillers, two Friday openers that managed double digits on opening weekend. $5.5 million is also a better single day of box office than No Country for Old Men attained during its entire domestic run. It never exceeded $3.1 million yet still wound up as their most lucrative performer. That’s good news for True Grit, the film I consider to be a co-favorite to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards.




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I will go into them in more detail over the next few days, particularly starting next Tuesday. In the interim, the openers tracking we discussed yesterday will be analyzed briefly. The model we are using for Tron: Legacy, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events saw a Wednesday of Christmas week decline of 10.4%. Note that this is not the least bit unusual for Wednesday behavior of in-release titles during Christmas week. You can tell this by scrolling to the chart at the bottom of the column. You’ll note that only one out of the eight movies listed (that didn’t come out on Wednesday) saw a Tuesday to Wednesday increase. Everything else dropped at least somewhat. Tron: Legacy fell victim to this fate, declining 11.3%. Its Monday-Wednesday revenue of $18.0 million represents roughly 67.8% of its Saturday/Sunday performance. The percentage hold for Lemony Snicket was 63% under the same guidelines, meaning that Tron: Legacy continues to hold up better overall.

In big picture terms, what we learn from this information is simple. Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events opened to $30.1 million and wound up with domestic revenue of $118.6 million. That’s a final box office multiplier (final domestic revenue divided by opening weekend revenue) of 3.94. Thus far, Tron: Legacy is ahead of that pace. This is good news, because a 4.0 multiplier, one that sounds good in theory, would mean final box office of $176 million for Tron: Legacy. It needs to do better than that. In fact, the line of demarcation is 4.55. That’s the amount that would get Tron: Legacy to the $200 million level it needs to reach to be considered a draw domestically. Part of the process in monitoring the 12 Days of Box Office will be determining whether this happens.


Rank
Film
Studio
Gross ($)
Venues
Per-Venue
Percentage Decline
Domestic Total
1 Little Fockers Universal $7,200,000 3,536 $2,036 New $7,200,000
2 Tron: Legacy Walt Disney $5,630,623 3,451 $1,632 -11.3 $62,010,421
3 True Grit Paramount $5,539,010 3,047 $1,818 New $5,539,010
4 Yogi Bear Warner Bros. $2,907,171 3,515 $827 -1.4 $24,795,312
5 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Fox $2,516,171 3,532 $712 -5.4 $50,153,571
6 Tangled Walt Disney $2,255,536 3,201 $705 -8.4 $134,624,911
7 Black Swan Fox Searchlight $1,763,495 1,456 $1,211 +10.7 $20,645,672
8 The Fighter Paramount $1,396,450 2,503 $558 -26.6 $17,488,707
9 The Tourist Sony $1,011,771 2,756 $367 -31.0 $34,313,272
10 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I Warner Bros. $903,132 1,840 $491 -19.5 $268,711,916

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