Labor Day box office heads One Direction
By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis
September 1, 2013
A concert film was finally released this weekend. It is the one that all of your daughters have anxiously anticipated for roughly 15% of their lives. Don’t you feel old? The debut of the One Direction came with the concerns that the always brief tenure on the top of the pop music world may have ended for the latest English boy band sensation. Combined with the spotty track record of other recent concert music films, there was plenty of intrigue at the top of the domestic box office this weekend. The question was not whether One Direction: This Is Us would finish in first place but rather how high a box office total it would achieve.
The answer to the question is that One Direction: This Is Us debuted with $17 million over the Friday-Sunday portion of the Labor Day extended weekend. Early estimates indicate a $20.5 million take for the four-day holiday period. For a production with a frugal price tag of only $10 million, the One Direction opening weekend represents nothing but upside for everyone involved, especially film distributor Sony.
The One Direction concert movie has been penciled in as a likely number one movie for roughly 18 months now although it was only “officially” announced last November. The primary concern is that the movie failed to capitalize on the dramatic surge in popularity that the band experienced after its U.K. debut in 2010. For those unfamiliar with the story – and aren’t you the lucky ones – One Direction finished in third place during season 7 of X-Factor in England. Something called Matt Cardle won the battle that year, but One Direction continues to win the war.
Thanks to their relationship with their mentor, Simon Cowell, One Direction’s global appeal has spiked to a degree that almost requires me to mention the Beatles as an analog. In reality, the closer comparison is probably Wham!, but the average One Direction fan has no idea who that is. The band’s career highlights thus far feature $19 million in digital singles, $10 million in digital albums, hundreds of thousands of sexual awakenings in teen girls, roughly two dozen celebrity hook-up rumors involving front-man Harry Styles and one fairly clever Pepsi commercial co-starring Drew Brees.
One Direction’s insane popularity has been a given, but the prospects of the concert movie have been murkier. The reason is the scattershot track record of other recent releases. Twerk icon Miley Cyrus re-started the trend five years ago with the release of Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour. The movie grossed $31.1 million on opening weekend before finishing with a domestic total of $65.3 million. Disney executives famously held a weekend retreat in order to group-think ideas about how to capitalize on her newfound celebrity, which speaks volumes about what a popular concert movie can do for a pop sensation.
The fate of the Jonas Brothers was less kind. Joe, Nick and Kevin’s 3D feature in February of 2009 managed only $12.5 million on opening weekend. In other words, the Jonas Brothers earned less in three days than Best of Both Worlds grossed on its first Saturday ($13.1 million). There was immediate speculation that Miley Cyrus was the exception with regards to concert movies.