These numbers are based on actual Friday and Saturday ticket sales and then compared to what similar movies grossed on past Sundays.
These estimates can be surprisingly close to actual figures which are released by Monday afternoon, but don’t garner the attention of those initial weekend estimates.
Nothing amuses me more though than the news break during CBS 60 MINUTES Sundays, which usually consists of three headlines.
Those capsules can be as random as plane crash kills three in San Francisco; wildfires near Colorado Springs engulf 30 homes and THE LONE RANGER opens to $47.5 million.
Why are we so fascinated with movie box office figures?
Are they real or, as some people have questioned or manipulated? Whatever they are you, you don’t hear updates of weekly Ford car sales or Walmart sales. Which I imagine are much larger than movie revenues.
I guess the movie grosses are just sexier.
They also give the studios additional marketing muscle—like proclaiming “The No. 1 movie in America.”
But what really ticks me off is when the talking heads tell us that a particular film HAS MADE so many million dollars over the weekend.
Because it did NOT!
What the movie DID was sell so many million dollars worth of tickets at the box office. But only about 53% to 63% of those ticket sales are returned to the studio that released the picture.
The rest stays with the owners of the theaters playing it.
So back to the example of THE LONE RANGER and its $47.5 million opening.
Disney may see just $27 to $28 million of that.
A common formula in the industry today is that the all-in theatrical gross is usually around three times that of its opening weekend.
So applying this non-scientific formula to THE LONE RANGER would indicate an eventual total north American gross of $142.5 million of which maybe $90 million will flow back to Disney..
That’s bad business especially since the Mouse House reportedly has about $250 million in the production—plus marketing expenses.
And foreign box office performance is not expected to give the man with the white hat (and Tonto) a big lift.
Because unlike other big action pictures (which could produce 60% in foreign play compared to 40% from the domestic box office) Westerns just don’t do as well in the world market.
Back to the example.
Say THE LONE RANGER ends up with $142.5 million and another $100 million from foreign playoffs, its total gross of $242.5 million would only return an estimated $138 million in film rentals.
Sure there are the On Demand, Red Box, DVD and Netflix markets to follow. But you can see just how much of a gamble some of these non-sequel, high dollar tentpoles can be for Hollywood.
So it’s no surprise that the trade press is already reporting an anticipated write-off by Disney of $190 million for THE LONE RANGER.
Not a pretty picture.