Friday Numbers Analysis

David Mumpower Extrapolates Weekend Estimates
Using Friday's Data

Saturday, December 29, 2001

Okay, numbers crunchers, David Parker and John Hamann are both on vacation for the holiday so I will be doing their usual Saturday and Sunday updates this weekend. Todayís column will be Parkerís Friday numbers extrapolation in addition to a brief continuation on the topics Walid Habboub has been discussing throughout the week in his weekday numbers analysis during the industryís biggest two week period of the year. As you may see, we have a lot to cover so letís get started.

Lord of the Ring: Fellowship of the Ring made $12.11 million on Friday, bringing its nine-day total to $130.22 million. With two more holidays at the start of next week, itís likely that Decemberís behemoth will reach the $180 million plateau by the middle of next week and cross $200 million at some point next weekend. Itís still a bit early to speculate on how well the title will do in January and whether it will be able to pass Harry Potter for the number one film of the year. Having said that, there is still no disputing the fact that this first title in the trilogy is a blockbuster of epic proportions. Last weekend saw the movie make $14.29 million on Friday on its way to a $47.2 million opening frame and a 3.30 internal weekend multiplier. With this Sundayís numbers again inflated by the holiday, itís reasonable to expect similar performance in the multiplier. This would give the film a second consecutive $40 million weekend, one of the rarest feats in cinema today. The only other titles this year to achieve this accomplishment were Shrek, Monsters, Inc. and Harry Potter and the Sorcererís Stone. Monsters, Inc. deserves special note because it was the only one of the films that did not have a holiday-inflated tally its second weekend.

Jimmy Neutron had a phenomenal second Friday performance. It actually saw an increase of 51% from last Friday and is a perfect representation of how much the holiday period enhances the box office appeal of family films. More adult fare such as LOTR, The Majestic and Oceanís 11 all had similar performances to last week but the family titles behaved in dramatically different fashion. Neutron, Harry Potter and Monsters, Inc. all saw significant increases from the previous Friday. Neutronís 51% increase was almost unbelievably the -smallest- of the three with Potter gaining 108% and Monsters, Inc. expanding 126%. How is this possible?

My fellow columnist Reagen Suleski has long been a proponent of the x-factor of time theory. He argues that the key to box office expansion lies in the ability of consumers to get to the theater on a given day. Since seeing a movie is an economically viable and enjoyable experience for most individuals, the only thing preventing them from going to the theater is free time. This is a perfectly logical explanation that has been proven again and again in the marketplace but never as well as weíve seen this week.

The phenomenon of December ďlegsĒ exists for this very reason with the Friday-to-Friday drop-offs accurately reflecting this trend. Consider that last Friday saw the six films mentioned above (LOTR, Jimmy Neutron, Oceanís 11, Harry Potter, Vanilla Sky, Monsters, Inc. and The Majestic) attain box office receipts in the amount of $30.67 million. That same set of six movies would see an expected depreciation of roughly 35% during a generic weekend throughout the year. During the Christmas/New Yearís holiday period, however, people have lots of vacation holidays from work so rather than fall to the expected combined total of $19.9 million, the movies instead increased to a sum of $33.50 million yesterday. Thatís a gain of 9.2% so we shouldnít even really use the term depreciation during this period of the year.

Summarizing the theory along with the data, people are on vacation and therefore have the time to get to the theater so all films in release see an expansion accurately reflected by the overall increase in box office from last Friday to yesterday. This also explains why so many theatrical releases are done during the last two weeks of the year. Studios and exhibitors are aware of this trend and have complete confidence that the market will expand to handle the surplus of movies in release. During this portion of the schedule, the only consideration determining a filmís success is its demand. If there is a desire to see the product, people will be able to do so. These are not words Jim Carrey wants to hear after seeing The Majestic follow more in the footsteps of Man on the Moon rather than How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Now that we better understand the process, the data is relatively easy to extrapolate. The December calendar goes a long way in determining a movieís weekend behavior. 2001 has been much easier than normal since the important days are Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Yearís Eve and New Yearís Day. With the 24th and the 31st coming on Mondays, we may do weekend extrapolation as we would normally do for a four day holiday weekend such as Memorial Day by simply inflating Sunday numbers somewhat to reflect the fact that people do not have work on Monday. This makes them more easily able to get to the theater for Sunday late shows and that is where the oft-discussed Sunday boost kicks in. Had the 31st fallen on this day of the week as happened last year, we would have witnessed a negative impact of epic proportions since people would have been at New Yearís Eve parties rather than the local cineplex. With this not being a concern in 2001, we may safely assume that this weekendís internal multipliers will be similar to last weekendís if a bit lower.

Now that we know the boundaries and rationale, letís get back to discussing the forecast for the top ten. Oceanís 11 is likely to finish third this week after yesterdayís take of $5.42 million. It had an internal multiplier of 3.36 last weekend (14.72 for the weekend divided by 4.38 for Friday, December 21) so we will assume a 3.25 multiplier this time for a weekend tally of $17.6 million.

We have already discussed Jimmy Neutronís Friday total. Since we know it had an internal multiplier of 3.70 (13.83 Fri-Sun / 3.74 Friday), we may safely use a slightly smaller number of 3.55 multiplied by its Friday total of 5.66 to forecast a weekend total of $20.1 million. Using similar logic, we may determine that Harry Potter had a 4.07 multiplier last weekend (7.09 Fri-Sun / 1.74 Friday) and made $3.62 million in receipts yesterday. Using a safe baseline multiplier of 3.7 is a good idea since we are dealing with a much larger actual dollar figure so Potter may be reasonably expected to make $13.4 million this weekend. Monsters, Inc. follows this pattern as well so we should use a slightly smaller expected multiplier than last weekís 4.11 (3.80 Fri-Sun / 0.92 Friday) as we did with Potter. Iíve again chosen 3.7 so multiplying this number by the Friday receipts of $2.09 million gives an extrapolated estimate of $7.7 million.

The rest of the top ten is a bit more problematic. Vanilla Sky had a poor internal multiplier relative to the season last weekend but itís dangerous for us to assume that it will perform any better or worse this weekend so Iím going to take the cowardÖ.err, conservativeís way out and use its internal multiplier last weekend, 2.96 (12.08 Fri-Sun / 4.075 Friday). Multiplying this by yesterdayís take of $3.52 million gives us a forecasted weekend tally of $10.4 million. Iíve been similarly ďconservativeĒ with The Majestic, a hugely disappointing performer that might very well have a larger internal multiplier this weekend due to its low actual number but one that I feel comfortable low-balling due to its lack of demand. The 3.22 internal multiplier last weekend (4.90 Fri-Sun / 1.523 Fri) repeated on yesterdayís business of $1.08 million would lead to weekend box office of $3.5 million. Donít be surprised if this one falls out of the top ten when estimates arrive since a couple of other films are probably going to finish in the $3-$4 million range.

This leaves us with the openers left to discuss. Out of these, the biggest is clearly Ali, which has made $25.0 million since it debuted on Christmas. The inescapable concern for the film is that $10 million of its business came on opening day and now that the early demand has been met, there havenít been that many other folks rushing out to see the story of a legendary champion. This heavy front-loading also creates a difficulty in extrapolating its weekend tally since there exists the possibility that the adult nature of the biopic might lead to a solid internal multiplier. Iíve thought about this a great deal and decided it will probably do slightly better than Vanilla Sky though not quite as well as Oceanís 11 in this regard. For this reason, Iím going to use an estimated multiplier of 3.20 for Ali. Multiplying this number by its Friday take of $4.87 million would give us an expected weekend box office of $15.6 million.

Kate and Leopold is a movie that skews heavily adult with a core female audience that has proven to be one of the greatest internal multiplier demographics so itís reasonable to expect very solid weekend performance from the title. I have used a very generous 3.5 internal multiplier for this reason so that would lead to an expected weekend tally of $11.4 million after its Friday performance of $3.26 million.

Finally, the Oscar contending A Beautiful Mind platformed in theaters this weekend with a limited release in 521 venues. The film performed solidly with a take of $2.31 million and if we get it the same internal multiplier as Oceanís 11, it would make $7.5 million for the weekend with a stellar per screen average of roughly 14.4K.

Check back in tomorrow for the weekend wrap-up which will also explore the Christmas week performances of the major releases.

Friday-to-Friday Drop-Offs
Fri-Fri Depreciation
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Jimmy Neutron
Ocean's 11
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Vanilla Sky
Monsters, Inc.
The Majestic

Extrapolated Estimates for the Top Ten
Estimated Gross ($)
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
Ocean's 11
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Kate and Leopold
Vanilla Sky
Monsters, Inc.
A Beautiful Mind
The Majestic