Following weekend movie box-office tallies has become as much of a spectator sport on Monday morning as catching up on the football scores. Yet the interest in these numbers has the studios wondering what they have wrought.
Following weekend movie box-office tallies has become as much of a
spectator sport on Monday morning as catching up on the football scores.
Yet the interest in these numbers has the studios wondering what they
Universal recently had to shuffle out of a rather embarrassing episode
involving weekend receipts when the studio over-reported the opening
weekend gross for the Bruce Willis-Michelle Pfeiffer film The Story of
Us by dollars 700,000.
After the figures were adjusted, the film ended up with dollars 9.7
million in receipts, placing it third in the standings.
On the other hand, 20th Century Fox under-reported the gross for Fight
Club by dollars 700,000. Following the official tally on Monday, the
Brad Pitt film ended up with dollars 11 million, vaulting ahead of
Paramount’s Double Jeopardy and Story to claim the October 15 weekend
While the figures given out on Sundays to news outlets are estimates,
it’s rare for studios to be this far off the mark. And since these
numbers are more widely disseminated than the adjusted sums, corrections
rarely follow when mistakes are made.
The difference between Universal’s Story estimate and the actual haul
caused many to question the studio’s intentions. But rather than admit
to dining heavily on fudge, Universal went on the defensive.
Universal and 20th Century Fox led the charge of studios ordering the
National Research Group, an LA-based research firm that polls audience’s
opinions of pre-released films, to cease distributing estimates of how
films are expected to perform. While these numbers are proprietary, they
are often leaked to the press by the studios and used in stories
predicting the outcome of upcoming weekend competition. Universal
executives are right to be sensitive to the leaking of NRG figures -
which estimated that Story would gross between dollars 16 and dollars 20
But while Universal may wish NRG’s estimates be more closely guarded,
it’s unfair - not to mention ironic - to blame a research firm for
heightening expectations of films that don’t deliver the goods.
Moreover, studios blame the press for using box-office stats to cover
the industry, but it’s hard to take the complaints seriously when you
see two-page ads flaunting The Mummy’s ascension to the rarified ranks
of dollars 100-million earners.
The importance of box-office rankings has become almost farcical, even
leading to some fun-poking at the process. Last summer, New Line Cinemas
ran an ad for Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me which screamed, ’See
the no. 1 comedy ... that’s a sequel by a Canadian who’s left-handed.’