Tuesday Morning Quarterback Part I

By BOP Staff

July 5, 2005

They're really all about Monday nights, but hey.

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We are a hard group to please.

Kim Hollis: According to our own John Hamann's Weekend Wrap-Up, "If War of the Worlds is considered a July opener (even though it opened on the last day of June), the three-day is a slightly disappointing fourth best open ever...War of the Worlds should have been exactly what the box office needed in Summer 2005, a huge, star-driven event film that could have provided a solid base while other big films opened in July." Are Hamann's points from his wrap-up valid?

Tim Briody: You know what? If I'm the year 2005, I accept this opening gladly.

David Mumpower: I understand John's argument in that this is not a record-setting opening. When you think Cruise and Spielberg in an adaptation of War of the Worlds, the mind automatically concludes big opening. I do, however, feel that this is a very solid performance. The film can't be judged squarely against other opening weekend numbers since it had so many extenuating factors.

Kim Hollis: For example, Tom Cruise's recent descent into insanity.

Reagen Sulewski: It's only disappointing, in my mind, if you were expecting it to break all records. We've become pretty blasé if $70 million in three days is underperforming for a non-sequel. Also, this is twice what Minority Report opened to. Spielberg/Cruise didn't necessarily add up to big bucks previously.

Tim Briody: If anything hurt War of the Worlds, I'd say Tom Cruise approaching Massive Overexposure Threshold for pretty much the first time in his career affected it the most. And yes, as Kim said, make your own pharmaceuticals joke here.

David Mumpower: It was a Wednesday opening, so that siphoned off some of the early demand. In addition, there was ample time from Wednesday-to-Monday to reach the theater. It didn't have to be on the Friday-to-Sunday period due to the holiday. Consumers received an unusual amount of freedom in determining attendance.

Kim Hollis: Cruise has a pretty standard opening number amount, too. He's generally had his movies start right around $25 million, then go on to have grrrrreat legs.

David Mumpower: So, I'm less concerned about its Friday-to-Sunday number as I am with the estimated $113 million in six days. It's a significant amount of money in a very brief period of time..

Reagen Sulewski: I think this had a lot more room to open lower than it did higher, and it got about 90% of where it ideally could have.

Kim Hollis: Also, expecting this weekend to be the box office savior when it was going against a Spider-Man 2 six-day opening from last year has to be a little unrealistic.

David Mumpower: What film is going to reasonably measure up to that sort of expectation?

Are we focusing on the wrong year?

Tim Briody: That leads me into my wacky, off the wall idea. When do we stop blaming this year and start blaming 2004 for being completely awesome in terms of box office? The pie had to stop expanding at some point.

David Mumpower: The problem with that, Tim, is that most people spent the summer of 2004 arguing that it was a lackluster period with no truly exceptional outing save Shrek 2. Now, we're throwing -under- that. It's a scary thought.

Reagen Sulewski: Even the quote-unquote good films aren't sticking very well, so there is a malaise there. And ticket prices go up every year by 3-4%. That they're off from that is a bigger problem.

Tim Briody: A $400, $300 and $200 million film in the summer months doesn't sound very lackluster to me.

David Mumpower: Chronicles of Riddick, Stepford Wives, Around the World in 80 Days, The Terminal, White Chicks...these were the releases we spent the body of last June apologizing for. Also, the Potter and Spider-Man films performed as expected rather than above and beyond. The only real "surprise" performance last June was Fahrenheit 9/11.

Tim Briody: There's crap every summer. A friggin' documentary earned $120 million last year!

Kim Hollis: If you want to look at the opposite side of the story, though, last summer had Shrek 2, The Day After Tomorrow, Prisoner of Azkaban, Dodgeball, The Notebook, and Fahrenheit 9/11 and Spidey 2 all at or above expectations, anyway.

Tim Briody: Twelve summer 2004 (May-August) films hit $100 million by my count.

David Mumpower: Van Helsing and Troy were two of those. Neither was considered a winner, at least not domestically. And we can't focus on the July/August comparisons since that hasn't happened yet.

Tim Briody: Right, both were unanimously hailed as garbage. We brought this up previously, but does that factor in to the audience getting a tad savvier this year? Like, if Kingdom of Heaven was released in 2004, would it have been a lock for $100 million?

David Mumpower: Tim, I absolutely think the issue does. The issue of positive reinforcement has to exist, but most consumers would say that Episode III performed such a service for them. I don't think it's going to make Kingdom of Heaven look any better, though.

Reagen Sulewski And yet, it's Hollywood's job to bring out films people want to see. I'm not declaring the end of cinema or anything, but Hollywood seems to have lost its formula. May was more or less a write-off, which couldn't have helped.

David Mumpower: To date, we're down 11.7% this summer from last. That's a staggering number to me, especially after we list the films that did better last year.

Kim Hollis: Six $100 million films so far this summer. That really isn't bad.

David Mumpower: The Occam's Razor of it is that films are opening lower and staying in theaters less. First In, First Out isn't just an idea for accountants any more.

Tim Briody: So we've all lost perspective because inflation isn't happening for the first time ever.

David Mumpower: I'm not certain I understand your point, Tim. Is it a losing of perspective to be down 11.7% and have 19 straight weeks where we couldn't match the previous year?

Reagen Sulewski: It's not just that inflation isn't happening, there's significant deflation, especially when you add in ticket price increases.

David Mumpower: I'm quick to argue that box office discussions are far too negative these days, but there is simply no disputing the fact that we are in an unprecedented streak of misfortune. If this were Vegas, studio bosses would be walking away from the pit with empty pockets and a feeling of inimitable remorse.

Tim Briody: When 2004 had Passion of the Christ over $300 million already, Shrek 2 hitting $400 million this weekend a year ago and Harry Potter also over $200 million, that's a decent chunk of money right there, considering we only have one film over $200 million so far this year.

Live what?

Kim Hollis: Moving on to another topic, Was Live 8 a factor?

Reagen Sulewski: I highly doubt it.

David Mumpower: Do we have any hard numbers for Live 8 viewership at this point?

Tim Briody: Most people probably didn't even know what Live 8 is

Reagen Sulewski: War of the World's Saturday figure was $23 million and change, which works out to between 3.5 and 4 million people - this in a continent of 300 million people. Not to mention that Live 8 was over before most of the continent's evening shows started.

David Mumpower: I mean, I watched maybe an hour of coverage Saturday before realizing that MTV should have gotten the Dr. Kervorkian treatment ten years ago. After I got done watching 2/3 of a song from several groups, I headed out to see a movie. It was in no way a determinant to me. And with it ending at 8 p.m. EST, it doesn't seem like it would have been much of one for anybody west of the Mississippi.

Look for Part 2 of this column tomorrow



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