The Twelve Days of Box Office Day Nine

By Reagen Sulewski

December 30, 2013

Did you really think making me go on a merry-go-round would win me over?

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Sunday finalized a few of the narratives for this Christmas season, although there was not much in terms of shaking up the established pecking order of films. To put it plainly: if you opened your presents before Christmas, you had a happy holidays. The Hollywood films that waited for Christmas got coal, or a coal-like substance, in their stockings.

Everything took about a 15 to 20% dip on December 29th, befitting its status as a bit of a travel day for people, but far less of a drop than a typical Sunday. For the second straight day, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug took the top spot at the box office, with another $9.1 million. This was enough to make it the weekend champ with just under $30 million for the weekend and ran its total to $190 million after 17 days, about $30 million behind An Unexpected Journey.

A possible bright spot is that this stopped the bleeding somewhat, almost equaling the equivalent weekend for the first Hobbit film. With all things being equal, that's probably where the gap between the films stays, and somewhere around a $275 million final domestic total should be expected. Any kind of drop, considering the Lord of the Rings films all built on each other, isn't a positive sign, but it could have been much, much worse if audiences had turned on the series like it appeared they might. It's also a hopeful sign for the last entry in the series, There and Back Again, but it still has a lot to prove.


The big story of the Christmas season continues to be Frozen, however, which took advantage of strong word-of-mouth and a quirk of the calendar to nearly win the Christmas weekend. Sunday was a solid $8.6 million, leaving it about $1 million short of The Hobbit for the weekend, but completed its 46% boost over the previous weekend and a 62% boost in per screen average. Let's spend a little more time looking at how this happened.

The first thing to realize is that not all Christmas weeks are the same. What day of the week Christmas falls on makes a difference. You don't want it to displace a weekend day, as that's a waste of the boost, and having Christmas Eve fall on one also hurts it. But more important in this year's case, the weekend before can also see some effects. Frozen dropped only 19% the weekend of the 20th to the 23rd, giving it a higher baseline, almost $7 million more, for Christmas week to work with. Compare this to Tangled, the most obvious parallel, which had the booby prize of Christmas configurations to work with. It got hit with the double whammy of a big drop off thanks to that, plus a loss of screens. Both films had similar percentage boosts over their next Friday-to-Sunday period, but Frozen's was standing on a stepladder when it did it. This has meant almost $45 million extra for Frozen compared to if it was in the worst case. This is not to dismiss the quality of the film – it had to have word-of-mouth to even get to this point – but sometimes luck is on a studio's side.

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