Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Global Box Office

This weekend the new Harry Potter movie will clearly dominate most of the global box office ticket sales. There are more than 4000 theaters booked across North America to show The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and some theaters have a staggering number of shows per day. For example, in Calgary there are a record number of showtimes in most of the multiplexes:

1) Scotiabank Chinook theater has 19 shows per day through the weekend with 15 in the regular theatres and 4 in the IMAX screen. And Chinook also has 4 midnight shows tonight. Previously, a Hollywood film only had one midnight show on Thursday night but anticipating the crowds, Chinook has booked 4 slots.

2) Empire theatre on Country hills has 17 shows per day from Friday through Sunday. After Sunday, they drop down to the low number of 14 per day.

3) Sunridge Spectrum has 15 per day.

4) Empire 10 in the South has 14 shows per day on the weekend and drops down to 11 after the weekend.

5) Westhills has 12 per day.

6) Crowfoot Crossing has 12 per day.

7) Eau Claire only has 2 per day.

So that means on Friday there are a total of 91 shows of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 throughout the city. That number goes up if one includes the nearby towns which are within 30 minutes driving distance from Calgary. These high number of shows are not only specific to Calgary but can be found in other Canadian cities. Multiplexes from Halifax, Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver have more than 10+ shows of Harry Potter a day, although two theaters in Greater Toronto standout. The AMC Courtney Park 16 in Mississauga has a jaw dropping 24 shows per day from Friday-Sunday, with 19 in the regular theaters and 5 IMAX shows. But AMC 24 in Whitby goes even further by having 27 shows in a single day (22 regular + 5 IMAX). Whitby's population is only 112,000 but its close proximity to Toronto means that there will be some out of town people driving down to see the film. Also, in Toronto the theaters are starting their shows at 9:30 am but in Calgary we only have shows starting at 11:30 am.

A sampling of some cities across the United States show the same high number of bookings per day, with AMC River East 21 in Chicago showing 27 shows per day and many others from L.A to New York having 10+ shows per day. A theater with a single screen is only able to show 4-5 shows per day due to the film's running time of 2.5 hours. On the other hand, the more the number of screens in a multiplex, the larger the number of shows that multiplex will have.

The film series have a huge following around the world so safe to say, the new film will be deployed on a large scale across the Globe. Also, this is just Part I of the movie. The second part would probably follow a similar booking model and thereby generate more revenue. In this sense, it makes sense for Part I of film to be released in mid-November, before the Christmas season films start getting released so that as many screens can be dedicated to just this one film. At this rate, I am certain that Hollywood and the multiplex theater owners probably never want this franchise to end.

Recent Global Box Office

A quick look at some countries & regional box offices show the reach of Hollywood. As per, the same few Hollywood titles show up in multiple countries and in some countries/regions, Hollywood easily dominates the top 5. It will be interesting to revisit these charts in a few weeks when a common title will dominate almost all the regions.

note: besides the film title, the number of screens the film showed in is also listed.

1 Paranormal Activity 2, 57
2 Saw 3D, 57
3 Due Date, 47
4 The Switch, 36
5 Jackass 3-D, 47

1 Jackass 3-D, 198
2 The Social Network, 291
3 Skyline, 181
4 Red, 244
5 Life as We Know It, 242

1 Unstoppable, 1
2 The Social Network, 1
3 Eat Pray Love, 1
4 Takers, 1
5 Marmaduke, 1

1 Paranormal Activity 2, 7
2 Due Date, 7
3 Furry Vengeance, 5
4 Garfield's Pet Force, 3
5 Eat Pray Love, 7

1 Tropa de Elite 2, 597
2 Red, 207
3 Muita Calma Nessa Hora, 184
4 Saw 3D, 253
5 Due Date, 188

Two Brazilian films show up in the top 5 with Elite Squad 2 managing to show in 597 screens, double the number of screens for the Hollywood films on the list.

1 Unstoppable
2 Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole
3 Wind Blast
4 Ai chu se (Color Me Love)
5 My Sassy Girl 2

After the top 2 spots are a Hong Kong, Chinese and a Korean-Chinese co-production (My Sassy Girl 2).

East Africa
1 Unstoppable, 8
2 Despicable Me, 3
3 The Social Network, 3
4 Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, 3
5 Charlie St. Cloud, 2

1 Potiche, 440
2 Les petits mouchoirs, 629
3 Due Date, 385
4 Saw 3D, 181
5 Unstoppable, 430

It is not surprizing to see French films in the top 2 spots but Hollywood is certainly making up some ground in France.

The Indian box office, obtained from
1 Golmaal 3
2 Action Replayy
3 Endhiran - The Robot
4 Due Date
5 Jhootha Hi Sahi

The two Diwali releases Golmaal 3 and Action Replayy still dominate the charts but Due Date has managed to make the top 5. In Northern India, Bollywood films regularly dominate the box-office and despite its best efforts, Hollywood has not been able to make much dent.

1 SP: The motion picture yabô hen, 394
2 Ghost: In Your Arms Again, 305
3 Despicable Me, 229
4 Eiga Hâto kyacchi Purikyua! Hana no miyako de fasshon shô... desuka!? 163
5 The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, 264

A Japanese film is at #1 and there are only 2 Hollywood films in the top 5. Interestingly, the #2 film Ghost: In Your Arms Again is a Korean-Japanese co-production remake of the American film Ghost.

South Korea
1 Boodang Guhrae (Conflict of Interest) 523
2 Red, 331
3 Bad Couple, 366
4 Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, 240
5 Devil, 188

Along with India and Japan, South Korea is another country where the local cinema manages to hold off Hollywood on a regular basis. Although this week, 2 Hollywood films and the American/Australian co-production Legend of the Guardians are in the top 5.

1 Red, 8
2 Megamind, 8
3 Saw 3D, 5
4 Unstoppable, 7
5 Due Date, 7

1 Unstoppable, 85
2 Skyline, 85
3 Megamind, 82
4 The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec, 50
5 Takers, 52

The only non-Hollywood film is Luc Besson's French film The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec at #4 which is playing in 50 screens.

1 Unstoppable, 3
2 Takers, 8
3 Machete, 6
4 Golmaal 3, 1
5 Despicable Me, 4

The absence of Nigerian films is not surprizing as the local Nollywood films are sold only as DVDs (pirated and legal). Also, Bollywood films are pretty popular in Nigeria so that explains why Golmaal 3 is at #4.

1 Paranormal Activity 2, 40
2 Hachiko: A Dog's Story, 22
3 Avatar: Special Edition, 7
4 Jackass 3-D, 10
5 Life as We Know It, 26

1 Skyline, 891
2 Megamind, 711
3 Due Date, 543
4 Easy A, 272
5 Brestskaya krepost, 542

The Russian war drama Brestskaya krepost is in its second week and still hanging in the top 5. Also, it is showing on 542 screens, just one screen short of Due Date. But Skyline and Megamind clearly have the upper hand on the number of screens in Russia. The end of the cold war is proving to be a good thing for Hollywood.

1 Megamind, 57
2 Unstoppable, 29
3 Red, 25
4 Due Date, 27
5 The Social Network, 20

It is not surprizing to see Hollywood rule here as well because the array of shopping malls around Singapore also contain shiny multiplexes.

1 Skyline, 171
2 Nam Phee Nong Sayong Kwan, 66
3 Sammy's Adventures: The Secret Passage, 25
4 Due Date, 45
5 Fan Mai, 55

While Skyline dominates the screens, it is nice to see two Thai films in the top 5. The biggest surprize is to see Sammy's Adventure, a Belgian animated film at #3. This film won't probably open in UK and the US until early 2011.

Supply/Demand & the Hollywood/Multiplex model

There is a large demand for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, going by the advance tickets sold already. In Calgary, almost all the Thursday midnight shows are already sold out and most of the Friday evening shows are gone too. So if there are millions of people who want to see this film around the world, then the theaters are merely catering to the masses.

On the other hand, only large Hollywood studios have the deep pockets to create enough prints for the large number of multiplex screens around the world. In the last decade, a huge number of multiplexes have opened up around the world, including North America. These multiplexes need films to pack the people in and large Hollywood studios are able to provide the necessary product. Plus, since a studio can distribute multiple prints, it makes it easier for a theater owner to deal with a single representative from a large studio and co-ordinate the mass deployment of a film.

In India, Bollywood replaces Hollywood as that large studio entity. Key Bollywood films flood the multiplex screens throughout the year. The two recent Diwali films being an example and back in Feburary, it was My Name is Khan that dominated the multiplex. There were hourly shows of My Name is Khan at almost every multiplex in New Delhi and it was a struggle to see anything but Karan Johar's new film. For example, I wanted to see Ishqiya but there was only a single show of the film in two multiplexes in South Delhi -- one show was at 10:25 am and the other show at 9:40 pm. The mass flooding of the multiplex market allowed My Name is Khan to be deemed a success after the opening weekend but one could find empty theaters around New Delhi just a few days after the film opened. In a sense, it was a waste to have the same movie playing everywhere when there wasn't a demand.

In some cases, the demand for a film may exist but in other cases, the big studios try to manufacture demand by having multiple shows of their films. The studios believe if there are few options given to the public, then there is a good chance that people will walk into one of their movies. But I do believe that at the end of the day, multiplex theater owners will show whatever they believe will make them the most money. For example, in December 2008 only one multiplex (Eau Claire) in Calgary showed Slumdog Millionaire. The film put up amazing attendance numbers and as the film continued to gather awards, other multiplexes in the city started showing the film. By the end of January 2009, all the 7 multiplexes in the city where showing the film.

While majority of the multiplexes in North America follow the herd by booking whatever Hollywood dishes out, there are some examples of multiplexes that take the initiative and show atleast 1-2 different titles away from the regular Hollywood pack. The Eau Claire Cineplex in Calgary being such a multiplex. It regularly reserves one screen for an indie/documentary/alternate title on most weeks. Currently, it is showing Inside Job on a single screen, the same as the new Harry Potter film. Last year, Eau Claire was the only multiplex in the city to show both parts of Steven Soderbergh's Che. Also, for the last few years the Calgary International Film Festival has been able to use two of the theater's six screens for the entire 10 day festival duration.

Pop = want now, Art = wait forever

Popular films by its nature have to be seen right away. So if people don't get to see the advance screening or midnight show of the newest studio film, they will try to watch it on the first day or the first weekend. Everyone wants to see the film right now.

On the other hand, cinephiles are used to waiting a few years to see foreign/indie films. The difference in the distribution model clearly makes the wait seem painful. But foreign/indie films have to follow the festival circuit first to gather some attention before the theatres will come calling. Slumdog Millionaire is such an example. If the film had not won the audience award at The Toronto International Film Festival, then I don't think it would have gotten the momentum that it did. That award and word of mouth suddenly made it a must see film, just like a regular Hollywood film.

I know about the popular vs cinephile difference quite well because more than a decade ago I belonged to the popular cinema crowd. I used to line up every friday evening to see the newest Hollywood or Bollywood film. But I eventually crossed over to the cinephile line. I still visit the popular lines every now and then, but not as regularly as I used to. I would really like the "want now" model to be applied to some foreign films but as it turns out, there aren't enough cinephiles standing in my city's lines to warrant the local theaters to book those foreign films. Thankfully, the three art house theaters in the city have not given up and are still doing their best to carry on. The Uptown is showing the fully restored Metropolis tonight and The Plaza has a new Spanish Cinema Film Festival running from tonight until Monday. Also, Fair Game finally opens in the city, naturally in Eau Claire along with at Chinook. So there are some diverse cinematic options this weekend as opposed to only Harry.. but don’t tell that to Hollywood otherwise they might eliminate the limited non-studio options left to people.

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