Monday Morning Quarterback Part One

By BOP Staff

August 8, 2005

Does nobody else find this incredibly creepy?

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$30.6 million is the new 'I didn't inhale'.

Kim Hollis: Dukes of Hazzard made $12.5 million on Friday, and then dropped to $9.9 million on Saturday. That's a decrease of 26.3%. The $30.6 million estimate for the weekend would indicate an $8.2 million Sunday, which would be a decline of only 20.7%. What do we think of the $30.6 million opening for Dukes? And do we believe that's the real number?

Tim Briody: "$30 million estimate or bust" was the mantra this weekend, I bet.

Lance Mogul: There's math. Nobody said there would be math.

David Mumpower: If everyone got such generous estimates as Dukes of Hazzard has been given, all women would be ridiculously buxom and men would be well-hung. Having said that, the $28 million number I expect to see with actuals is still a strong performance opening weekend.

Joel Corcoran: I've had a really hard time figuring out Dukes of Hazzard -- and I'm one of those guys that just *loved* the show as a kid. I watched it every week like clockwork. But I was surprised at the strength of its opening weekend.

Lance Mogul: Just doing the numbers quickly in my head this morning, I thought that's either the nastiest hold of the year or somebody is lying.

David Mumpower: The alarming trend is that everyone who wanted to see it seemed to show up Friday.

Tim Briody: And then told everyone else who wanted to see it that it sucked.

David Mumpower: I just don't see how that could be surprising, Tim. A film with Seann William Scott and Johnny Knoxville sucking is redundant, is it not?

Kim Hollis: Well, not for those of us who think they're adorable....but I digress.

Joel Corcoran: It didn't have to suck, David. I think Johnny Knoxville is a much better actor than people give him credit for.

Tim Briody: Though the pairing of Stifler and the guy from Jackass is comedy nirvana to some.

David Mumpower: They were using Jessica Simpson and Willie Nelson as draws, for God's sake.

Lance Mogul: But $30M is a nice round number and nobody on Tuesday will report the real numbers so the public at large will basically never know they fudged the figures.

Maybe Dukes of Hazzard was their Friday night babysitter.

Kim Hollis: Two-thirds of Dukes viewers were under 25. The show ran from 1979 to 1984. That means a good portion of the people showing up were either not born or not potty trained when the show ran.

David Mumpower: That tidbit blows me away. It's like having a Green Acres movie be popular with pre-teens.

Joel Corcoran: I just thought the movie was much more crass and sharp-edged than the TV show, and I think maybe the numbers reflect a word-of-mouth trend.

David Mumpower: It's quite unusual for word-of-mouth to spread that rapidly. It's a more exotic process than a quick-striking one.

Tim Briody: Which makes me think the cast actually drew some money here. It's going to fall hard and fast from here, though.

Joel Corcoran: Precisely. I haven't yet talked to anyone who watched the TV show as a kid who has seen or is planning to see the movie. It's sort of non-existent in our generation.

David Mumpower: I'm scared to say you might be right, Tim. It might very well be Jessica Simpson fans and Jackass lovers carrying Friday rather than people who know anything about the show.

Stifler has fans. Who knew?

Tim Briody: Like John mentioned, Seann William Scott is an amazingly consistent draw from his start in American Pie.

Joel Corcoran: And he's amazingly consistent in his acting, though that's not necessarily a good thing.

Kim Hollis: Scott is probably not really given enough credit here. You're absolutely right. People are always going to love Stifler (though personally, I like him most for The Rundown).

David Mumpower: With all respect to Scott, American Pie does not sell because of him. Dude, Where's My Car? does not sell because of him. The Rundown does not sell because of him. I credit him for picking smart projects but the same goes for Dukes of Hazzard. I don't think a significant percentage of its attendants were there because of his presence. Simpson in a bikini, I'd buy, but not him.

Sorry, Cooter. It's a hit.

Lance Mogul: $28M give take isn't really a bad BO number, the movie only cost them $50M to produce, and I'm sure they are happy with the numbers as it came in on the high side of the estimates. It's going to have one of the worst legs of the year.

Joel Corcoran: Back to the questions at hand, though, I think the $30.6 million opening is the real number. I just have no idea how the movie did so well. I'm completely boggled by it.

Tim Briody: *holds up picture of Jessica Simpson* Exhibit A.

Kim Hollis: I tend to disagree. I believe it was over-estimated by as much as $3 million, but probably closer to $1.5 million. They're definitely fudging to get the $30 million into the public consciousness.

David Mumpower: When we factor in that domestic box office is only about a quarter of a film's earnings these days, Dukes of Hazzard is unquestionably a winner. Even if it vanishes fast, it has proven to be a smart project decision.

Tim Briody: The potential overestimate is going to make a big difference in whether or not this weekend topped last year, too.

Box office is up this week! Err, maybe.

Kim Hollis: Box office appears slightly up depending on what happens with the Dukes of Hazzard estimate. That's the third week out of the last 25. Is this the beginning of a correction from the slump?

Lance Mogul: There is no way it just only dropped to $7.5 million on a Sunday after having a big sell-off on Saturday.

Tim Briody: Not with the crap being served the next few weeks, but I digress.

Joel Corcoran: I don't think you're digressing at all, Tim. I agree with you.

David Mumpower: I am certain you will see comments of this variety this week. I am stunned by the sheer tonnage of box office apologists working overtime this summer to act like the market has not changed.

Kim Hollis: Unfortunately, other than The 40 Year-Old Virgin, August looks absolutely dismal to me. I don't foresee the next few weeks doing much to help the box office, and we're probably going to be talking decline for several more weeks.

David Mumpower: If any of them would take a moment to study August and September releases, though, they would realize just how grim the situation is.

Joel Corcoran: Oh, to be a PR flack in Hollywood these days...

David Mumpower: When I was doing my August monthly forecast, there were only three films I thought had a chance to open over $20 million. Three. Where did the big August openings go?

David Mumpower: This is a month that has seen xXx, American Pie 2 and Signs launched.

Kim Hollis: Come back, Rush Hour 2! It's an issue we keep coming back to again and again. Is quality affecting the box office? The opening for the Dukes would seem to indicate no. But then we see bombs like The Island and Stealth and are forced to wonder, at least a little bit, if audiences aren't wising up.

Tim Briody: I think you look at March of the Penguins for the answer to that question, Kim.

Virgins are people too. Horny people.

David Mumpower: A man who can't get laid highlights the month of August. If I want to watch that, I'll hang out at a comic book store.

Joel Corcoran: I'm not especially thrilled about 40 Year-Old Virgin, either. I just don't see Steve Carell being able to carry an entire movie.

Kim Hollis: It has pretty good advance buzz, though, and director/co-writer Judd Apatow has all my goodwill thanks to Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared.

Joel Corcoran: I [heart] Judd Apatow, if for nothing more than Freaks and Geeks. But ... I dunno. I'm just not that thrilled. It looks like a cute movie, and maybe I'm underestimating Carell, but I don't see it making any sort of big splash this summer.

Tim Briody: He was the best part of last year's Anchorman.

Lance Mogul: I just don't want to see a movie about my sex life. *Oops did I say that out loud?*

Is Manny the Stuntman's livelihood threatened?

Lance Mogul: I have trouble with the theory that box office is down because of DVD coming out faster, Internet downloaders, etc. I'm a big fan of keep it simple and that's probably the real reason. And it's simply the fact that Hollywood is turning out movies people aren't interested in seeing. I've seen fewer movies this summer than any summer in the last five years. Once we got through Batman Begins and War of the Worlds it has been a vast wasteland of movies I want to see.

David Mumpower: The way I think the DVD trending impacts box office is not at the top. A film like War of the Worlds won't be affected. A middling project like Stealth will get eaten alive.

Joel Corcoran: Totally agree, Lance, but I think there's a deeper rift in the entertainment culture than just quick-release DVD's and pirated copies. I don't think that many people actually avoid the theater simply because they can watch a ripped off copy of the same move that some Ukrainian teenager made with his Handycam.

David Mumpower: That's an interesting line of thought, Joel. What I wonder is whether the people who watch pirated movies ever intended to see a film in the first place.

Lance Mogul: Look at XXX: State of the Union. The cost is $10 to see it at the theater vs. $17 to order from Amazon. Unless it's date night, it's much cheaper for people to wait for the non-event movies to come out on DVD.

Kim Hollis: The other interesting aspect to that, Lance, is that XXX 2 and King's Ransom made almost as much in week one on DVD as they earned in their domestic runs. It's the empirical data supporting the fact that not-so-must-see-TV gets delayed until later markets now.

How many movies do you individually pay for? Think a moment before answering.

David Mumpower: What analysts never consider is how few people watch a film in a theater. It is not in the consumer's nature to pay for movies like that. Think about all of the movies you have seen in your lifetime. The overwhelming majority of them came from free television and/or cable. You pay the cable bill and get all the content in that way. You do not pay per title. I think that this is the spillover in piracy. Consumers have been conditioned a certain way.

Joel Corcoran: That's true, but you also have to look at everything else that movies are competing against these days, especially the abundance of computer games out there. But there is something about seeing a movie in a theater that you can't get from TV - even with most consumer-oriented home theater systems.

David Mumpower: I completely agree that seeing a film in a theater is a superior experience (as long as there is no interference from other movie-goers). What has changed in the trending is that it is no longer night and day better.

Joel Corcoran: The different options for watching movies (formats, venues, costs, etc.) do undercut the theater box office, but I think some deeper issues lie in all the different entertainment options people enjoy these days that we couldn't, even just a couple years ago.

David Mumpower: It's like name brand merchandise vs. off-brand. Consumers have a reasonable facsimile and as such, the monopoly is gone.

Joel Corcoran: Which is why I think we're seeing more general movies hitting IMAX theaters, David. IMAX pushes theater-going back into being a true event.

David Mumpower: I am in complete agreement. It is also why 3-D is getting a longer look from distributors once more. The dynamic has to be changed to create a unique experience once more. The problem with that is the shortness of iterations these days. As soon as there is something special in theaters, a facsimile of it will be created for home usage.

Joel Corcoran: I think the "off-brand" attraction is true for some people, but I think the threat of piracy is over-hyped. Most pirated movies are just very poor quality, and even if people aren't going to the theaters to see movies, they don't want to sit at home at watch some DVD with crappy image quality.

David Mumpower: Were theatrical releases available on day one for home consumption at the same price, I would definitely consider watching the movies at home. But as you say, I don't want to be encumbered by ridiculous amounts of digital rights management.

Lance Mogul: I had Revenge of the Sith on my hard drive before I'd sat down in the seat at the theater. It doesn't hurt event movies. It might hurt the movies that people are on the cusp about seeing in the theater. Personally I have no problem with paying to download movies. What I worry about is that they are going to put so many restrictions on the download. So, I won't be able to transfer it to another computer I own or burn a disk if I want to make it portable. And until the bill in the House passes, it's still legal in Canada anyway.

Emerging technologies intrigue the gadget fiends at BOP

David Mumpower: I am the same way, Lance. I am wildly curious about the Netflix/TiVo distribution console which should be released in the next couple of months. It eliminates the central problem I have with Netflix, mail service delays.

Joel Corcoran: Comcast On-Demand is a great system, but the technology is sort of kludgy. And until they offer movies in high-definition through On Demand (or similar services), I don't think the DVD market is going to take a hit from such services. Will the Netflix/TiVO service offer the same image quality and resolution as on DVD?

David Mumpower: I don't think anyone outside of the companies knows the answer to that yet, Joel. The issue will be delivery speed over broadband. If they need to cut corners in order to deliver the product much faster, I would imagine that is a necessary cutback. If they can deliver DVD quality at reasonable download speeds, that is the ballgame from my perspective.

Tim Briody: How successful are the new-ish On Demand type services doing? If they were able to offer new or recent movies (rather than being available at around the time they were out on DVD), I could see it being huge.

David Mumpower: The online ones are not successful at all yet as I understand it. On-demand PPV is doing better since it's less involving for the consumer. Neither of them is as scratching the surface of DVD rentals, though.

Joel Corcoran: Ugh ... digital rights management.

Tim Briody: I saw an entire section of movies available on the PSP today. I just can't get into that.

David Mumpower: Portable video is a tricky topic for me, Tim. I understand the appeal of it and like the idea of carrying a catalogue of titles with me wherever I go. It's the viewing of them on a 4" screen where you lose me.

Joel Corcoran: I think there's huge potential there, but Hollywood needs to take a look at the competition from other places, too.

Lance Mogul: I can't see day and date simultaneous DVD/theater releases catching on here. Don't think the chains will stand for it to start with. And let face it. More and more, the theatrical release is being used to pump the sales of DVDs. The interesting thing now with DVDs is that with the amount of product coming out, they are running out of shelf life. If it's not moving, it's being sent back to make room for next weeks batch of releases.

Wherein the new guy is revealed to be a nerd.

Joel Corcoran: I'll bet you could attribute the decline in the box office to the increasing popularity of poker, or the breadth and wealth of massively-multiplayer online computer games, or even the movement away from the traditional "summer of reruns" television schedule.

Tim Briody: I'd consider all of those drops in the bucket, but I suppose there might be just enough drops...

Joel Corcoran: I agree, Tim. But from what I've seen, the studios keep beating the "piracy is killing us" drum without accounting for any other factors. You can bet that I'm not going to go see some crappy, warmed over remake of a movie in a theater when I can have more fun playing a fun little $20 buy-in game with a few friends, or catch "Into the West" on TNT, or even lay waste to a few bad guys in World of Warcraft.



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