The Twelve Days of Box Office

By David Mumpower

December 22, 2011

I love these new gloves! What a wonderful Christmas gift!

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Welcome to the 11th annual Twelve Days of Box Office here at BOP. This is the forum in which we demonstrate the unique methodology of holiday movie revenue. I am going to preface this year’s column with a confession that I wasn’t particularly pleased with the way last year’s columns turned out. Part of that was the fact that box office was down across the board, part of it was the fact that even the biggest release (Tron Legacy) was not much of a story and part of it was the fact that after Avatar in 2009, nothing was going to sound as interesting in comparison. Still, I am a perfectionist to a point of fault and I was dissatisfied with my overall 2010 performance. As such, I wanted to acknowledge in advance that I am going to attempt new (and hopefully improved) methods in evaluating holiday revenue.

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. So, the above is a bit misleading in that this particular calendar configuration, the one with Christmas Day and New Year’s Day on Sunday, has a somewhat truncated pattern. The week leading up to Christmas, while lucrative, ordinarily does not have quite the same expansion as a more spread out holiday calendar configuration. Also, we’re going to be short a couple of days because while some people will have January 2nd as a holiday, the reality is that by January 3rd, everything is back to normal once more.


What I mean when I say back to normal is that the x-factor in going to the movie theater is – stop me if you’ve heard this before – free time. Most people are inclined to see quality movies at the earliest possible opportunity since movies remain an affordable, enjoyable usage of free time. The problem is that finding the requisite free time is never easy. Toward the end of December, this is not the case as a pair of government holidays, saved vacation days that have to be used, school vacations and the like create an otherwise unprecedented amount of free time. The end result is that holiday box office is up across the board. The manner in which this occurs is where the story lies.

There is one other aspect to 2011 that will make this year’s conversation a bit trickier. A lot of titles are being released on different days as studios attempt to maximize revenue, which means that we’re going to have a lot of new titles pop up on strange days, which is why I have held off on starting the discussion until today. The primary title I have been awaiting is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but the expansion of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol was also a key factor in my decision.

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