The Twelve Days of Box Office: Requiem

By David Mumpower

January 23, 2013

Oh, crap. It's the fuzz!

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For several years now, I have mentioned an intention to post a meta-column for the Twelve Days of Box Office. With the 2012 campaign in the books, I’ve decided that this is the perfect time to do so. I figure this column is the least I can do since there was such a struggle to post daily updates during this iteration. For whatever reason, the studios were less reliable with Daily Numbers this holiday season. Also, a look back at what transpired is easier now that we have actual box office totals for the titles in release rather than sloppy estimates.

The obvious topic of conversation is The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The fourth Middle Earth film was the focus of several columns during The Twelve Days of Box Office. When we evaluate its performance, there is an unmistakable conclusion. After years of anticipation for the project, the actual release of The Hobbit was oddly anticlimactic. Other titles debuting during the same timeframe such as Les Miserables and Django Unchained garnered more headlines. The average consumer may not even recognize that the Peter Jackson title easily out-grossed all other December releases.

The how of the box office attainment process is the focus of today’s analysis. Perhaps no movie in recent memory should have been more frontloaded than The Hobbit. There were nine years of pent-up demand created by historic popularity of The Fellowship of the Ring trilogy. The opening weekend reflected this, at least somewhat. The Hobbit debuted to the largest total for a Middle Earth release, $84.6 million. I consider the total disappointing but I also believe that the tragic events of Newtown, Connecticut in combination with the previous shooting in Aurora, Colorado impacted the performance at least somewhat.


As I type this column, The Hobbit has a current domestic total of $289.1 million. This box office income is the equivalent of a couple of other 2012 releases, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 and Skyfall. Their current domestic takes are $290.8 million and $301.1 million, respectively. Since the former film debuted to $141.1 million and grossed $175.7 million during its first seven days, it fails as an analog. That is simply too much frontloading to be useful for this evaluation.

Instead, let’s use Skyfall as a comparison. Skyfall’s opening weekend was $90.6 million, similar to The Hobbit. During its first seven days in theaters, Skyfall grossed $119.8 million domestically. Again, the total is slightly larger to The Hobbit but the scale is similar.

Before we go further, let’s address the obvious aspect of the conversation. Relative to expectations, Skyfall is the much stronger performer than The Hobbit. The return to Middle Earth is probably going to wind up as the worst domestic earner for the franchise to date, a mortal lock with regards to ticket sales. Skyfall is the most popular Bond movie of all time…by 78% and counting. Whichever title winds up earning more money is irrelevant. Skyfall is the box office triumph of the two blockbusters.

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