The Two Towers Makes $26 Million

By David Mumpower

December 19, 2002

Ooh, scary scary!

Welcome to BOP's daily numbers analysis for the holiday season. Since this is the time of year when cineplexes are most active, we will be taking a daily look at how films in release are doing starting with Wednesday (December 18) numbers. We will continue this column through New Year's Day. Today is the big boy for the obvious reason that the most anticipated film of December, The Two Towers, was released into theaters starting with midnight sneaks. We will be focusing only on it today since that's really all anyone cares about.

The second film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy made $26.0 million yesterday from 3,622 locations for a staggering single day per-venue average of $7,178 (the equivalent of a 21.5k per-venue weekend). This total comes on the heels of industry reports confirming record-shattering online ticket purchases which exceeded even those of current number one film of 2002 Spider-Man. The three hour opus has an average of two fewer showings per venue, so the feat is all the more impressive. In addition, this is the 15th largest single day box office total of all-time and second largest Wednesday performance ever. Finally, this total is nearly equal to the $27.9 million Wednesday/Thursday total of Fellowship.

Estimating five days of box office performance from a single day total is nigh-impossible, so we'll simply give you some landmarks to help you put the performance of The Two Towers in perspective with that of The Fellowship of the Ring. The first film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy made $18.2 million on its first Wednesday of release. The sequel has exceeded it by 43% in a year where ticket price inflation is generally regarded as 2% or less. The record for a Wednesday opening belongs to Star Wars Episode One, which made $28.5 million on May 19, 1999.

The box office behavior of Wednesday opening films is relatively predictable so we can loosely model The Two Towers with The Fellowship of the Ring and The Phantom Menace. The Fellowship of the Ring had the following weekday totals: $18.2 million Wednesday, $9.7 million Thursday, $14.2 million Friday, $17.5 million Saturday and $14.5 million Sunday. Episode One had the following weekday totals: $28.5 million Wednesday, $12.3 million Thursday, $18.5 million Friday, $24.4 million Saturday and $21.9 million Sunday.

As we can clearly see, it's natural box office behavior for a film to drop a significant amount on day two of a Wednesday release. The reasons are fairly obvious. You don't ever hear someone say they want to go see a movie the day after opening day. The other is that people who aren't inclined to see the film on Wednesday are just as likely to wait until the weekend when they have more spare time. This means we can reasonably expect to see a much smaller total for Thursday.

The reason that it's difficult to determine an expected Thursday number is that we don't know exactly how much of the business The Two Towers did yesterday is inflated by Tuesday midnight sneaks. In the case of Episode One, we know that there was $7 million of pre-noon box office for it, leaving its actual Wednesday total at roughly $21 million. That means that while it technically depreciated 57% on day two, the reality was that it fell approximately 40% day-to-day if we take out the enhanced totals.

Fellowship of the Ring held up even better on day two, as it was reported to make roughly $3 million in Tuesday night sneaks. If we remove those from the $18.2 Wednesday total, its depreciation is not the oft-reported total of 47% but is instead a more impressive 36%. Since New Line has not reported sneak info as of yet, we're flying blind on this aspect of The Two Towers extrapolation. What we do know for certain is that it should fall roughly 50% tomorrow from Wednesday's total, meaning an expected performance of $13 million or so is in the cards. This $39 million total for Wednesday/Thursday would almost equal the first film's full opening weekend total of $47.2 million. Clearly, demand for the sequel is much more front-ended than existed last time out for the kind people at New Line.

Since Episode One spiked 50% and Fellowship jumped 46%, we may reasonably expect a 45-50% boost in performance from Thursday to Friday. That would indicate a Friday total of $19-20 million and a weekend performance in the neighborhood of $60 million. That would also bring the blockbuster sequel near the $100 million total after only five days in theaters. Again, there is a wild amount of variation from film to film so this is speculation rather than our usual extrapolation. But if it behaves similar to its predecessor and the other famous Wednesday blockbuster opening, this would be its five-day performance. Check back in tomorrow as my sitemate, David Parker, checks in with further analysis of The Two Towers along with analysis of the rest of the top ten.