SUNDAY CENTS: ‘Darkness’ falls

Posted by · 12:54 pm · January 31st, 2010

Edge of Darkness*All historical figures cited are adjusted to today’s dollars.

The self-proclaimed King of the World wiped the floor with the self-proclaimed King of Malibu as “Avatar” spent a seventh consecutive week at the top of the box office. A cool $30 million represents a drop of only 14% from last week and again sits only behind “Titanic” as the biggest seventh weekend tally ever.

The running total is now $594.5 million and it should pass the $600 million mark by Wednesday, joining “E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial,” “Titanic,” “Return of the Jedi,” “Jurassic Park” and “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” as the only films of the modern era to do so. The success of this film has become so monotonous that I can’t even muster any energy to be snarky about it anymore.

Mel Gibson’s return to the silver screen proved to be no “Taken.” It proved to not even be a “Legion” as it debuted with a soft $17.1 million. That’s the lowest debut for a Gibson joint since the $17 million start for “Braveheart” in 1995 on 1,000 less screens. Blame it on fading star power, bad accents, generic advertising and a lack of 3D smurf-like things riding dragons.

“When in Rome” started in third place with $12.4 million and that is way too high for any movie starring Dax Shepherd and Napoleon Dynamite. It is, however, not nearly enough for a movie starring Danny DeVito. Come on CAA, get DeVito in better films!

“Legion” dropped an atrocious and expected 61% while “Tooth Fairy” stayed rooted in fourth with a slimmer 29% dip. “Extraordinary Measures” took a giant leap out of the top 10 with a 57% fall. People invested millions of dollars and years of their lives into these movies and they are gone in a flash. That said, anyone want to invest in my next movie? E-mail me!

On the other side of the spectrum, 2009 can welcome “It’s Complicated” and “The Princess and the Frog” into the $100 million club, joining 30 other titles. That’s the most for any year since the record-breaking 36 of 2003 and with “Up in the Air” the only legitimate possibility for joining the club, it’s up to 2010 to take that record down.

That’s the news this week. I haven’t gotten a chance to get to the theater yet but hopefully later today. What did you guys see?  Here are the weekend’s top domestic grossers, courtesy of Exhibitor Relations:

Weekend of Friday, January 29, 2010

→ 32 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Box Office · Sunday Cents

32 responses so far

  • 1 1-31-2010 at 1:01 pm

    Matthew Starr said...

    I’m confused? None of those movies you listed made 600 million? Only Titanic.

  • 2 1-31-2010 at 1:14 pm

    James D. said...

    I saw Up in the Air, and was very pleasantly surprised. Your suggestion of Yeast almost worked, as well.

  • 3 1-31-2010 at 1:16 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Matthew: See the first line of the article.

  • 4 1-31-2010 at 1:23 pm

    Joel said...

    I just saw “Edge of Darkness,” which was really entertaining. Kind of a weak finale that I think “Taken” did better, but it’s a great comeback for Mel Gibson.

  • 5 1-31-2010 at 1:24 pm

    Matthew Starr said...

    Shouldn’t there be more movies on that list then? When Chad says modern era what does he mean? When did the modern era begin?

  • 6 1-31-2010 at 1:25 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    I’ll leave that to Chad.

  • 7 1-31-2010 at 1:29 pm

    Al said...

    Avatar has only made 450 million, filtering out the 3 dollars extra for 3D that 3/4s paid domestically. To save myself potential future arguments, 3D glasses have nothing to do with ticket sale profits, thats why Im taking them out of the equation.

  • 8 1-31-2010 at 1:35 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    1982 is when modern box office tracking began

  • 9 1-31-2010 at 1:50 pm

    tony rock said...

    Not really sure why you guys adjust for inflation…as far as I’m concerned 2009 has the record for most 100 mil films, and Avatar is only the second film to reach 600 mil domestically.

  • 10 1-31-2010 at 2:00 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    Every week people bring this up but I’m not sure what else we can do. Every week there’s a big headline at the top that says the numbers are adjusted and you can click it to read why.

  • 11 1-31-2010 at 2:08 pm

    Craig said...

    Why the hell wouldn’t you adjust for inflation? Otherwise you’re comparing things that absolutely cannot be compared, which is obviously idiotic.

  • 12 1-31-2010 at 2:33 pm

    Loyal said...

    “The success of this film has become so monotonous that I can’t even muster any energy to be snarky about it anymore”


    “Blame it on fading star power, bad accents, generic advertising and a lack of 3D smurf-like things riding dragons.”


    I think it’s final gross will flirt with 800 Million and about 3 Billion worldwide.

    Not too shabby.

  • 13 1-31-2010 at 2:56 pm

    Speaking English said...

    ***Why the hell wouldn’t you adjust for inflation? Otherwise you’re comparing things that absolutely cannot be compared, which is obviously idiotic.***

    No, adjusting for inflation is comparing things that cannot be compared. If “Gone with the Wind” came out today it would NOT, no chance, make as much money as it did back then. Times are different, things have changed, and you have to look at how well the movie did AT the time of its release. Manipulating those numbers to what we perceive would happen today is what’s screwy.

  • 14 1-31-2010 at 3:05 pm

    Maxim said...

    Speaking English, it’s there for the perspective. It’s comparing things that SHOULD BE compared to offer historical perspective of what a movie success is. Despite some slight inacuracies you can’t well claim that taking GWTW as is is BETTER. Sure it should be taken with an asterisk but bo adjusting is a science and should be taken seriously.

  • 15 1-31-2010 at 3:16 pm

    Fei said...

    Al: The price premium is not for the glasses. It’s for the exhibition format. You might as well think of the glasses as free. You don’t have to accept the ones that theater offers you; just bring your own or not use them at all. Try watching a 3D movie without the glasses. Is it the same thing? Who paid for the cost of upgrading the projection equipment to 3D? And how do you know exactly what the 3D factor is on the gross? I don’t see how you got the 3/4 multiplier. That seems like a totally arbitrary number. The actual figure might be much more or much less.

    Speaking English: But we’re not comparing Gone with the Wind to Avatar. Adjusting for inflation is useful even for comparing movies of the last ten years. In 1999, The Sixth Sense made almost $300M. It sold way more tickets than any $300M movie today. If that movie were released for the first time today, and Shyalaman were still an unknown director without all of the other movies to his name, then would it sell the same number of tickets? Who knows? How much have things changed in the last ten years?

  • 16 1-31-2010 at 3:22 pm

    Fei said...

    To the “anti-adjusters” out there: Wait 50 years, until a quarter of all releases every year make $300M+, then try your argument again. What meaning do box office records have, again?

  • 17 1-31-2010 at 3:57 pm

    Fei said...

    BTW, Avatar is guaranteed $700M, if it declines as much as 25% every weekend, starting from next weekend. If you think of the sum of all remaining weekends as a geometric series, then first term of the series would be $22.5M, if the decline were 25% next weekend. There should be at least nine more weekends left. According to an online geometric series calculator, Avatar would have $83M more by that point, but that’s just in weekends. The weekday numbers should easily cover the rest.

    You can also use the weekly numbers to calculate the series. Avatar declined 28% last week and made almost $48M. So you can predict 30% drops. This week, it’ll make $33M, the first term of the series. Calculator says that after nine weeks, Avatar should have $105.6M, or just enough to reach $700M.

  • 18 1-31-2010 at 4:00 pm

    Charlie said...

    Fei, do you have a link for this Calculator?

  • 19 1-31-2010 at 4:00 pm

    Al said...

    15: Admission prices for a TICKET is generally what pays for all the extra emanates. That means the seats, the building, the employees, and, yes, the projectors. Of course a 3D projector is different, and one would assume thats where the 3 dollars extra comes into play, but its not. The 3 dollars extra is specifically cited as for the glasses (hence when you show up with your own, they don’t charge extra.)

    In regards to how I got my numbers, it is, as a matter of fact, not arbitrary. Granted its subjected to change but its based on all national averages for ticket prices, and glasses prices. I’ll spell it out for you if you’d like:

    Take the 600 million its made (its actually abit less, but this over estimate helps, not hurts) Now only a quarter of this is actual 2D (150 million)so we sideline it for now, for it has no need to be adjusted( dont worry, it gets added back later) and we are left with 450 million (which is how much it made in 3D showings total) Divide that 450 by 12 (12 being how much money it costs on national average to buy both a ticket and 3D glasses.) After that we get 37.5 million (number of patrons who saw the film in 3D) multiple this by 8 (the average cost of just an admission ticket) and we get 300 million (what those 3D showings are with just ticket gross.) Add that 300 million, with the 150 million that are already solely focused on ticket prices (sense thats all the had to go by) and we have 450 million in ticket prices.

  • 20 1-31-2010 at 4:16 pm

    Fei said...

    Charlie: I just Googled geometric series calculator and used the top result.

    Al: Your math is still wrong. According to Box Office Mojo, the average ticket price for 2009-2010 is $7.46. If you add $3 for 3D, then it would be $10.46 (although not all theaters’ 3D surcharges are $3; some are $2). You seemed to have pulled the $12 number out of nowhere. So ($450M/$10.46)*7.46=~$321M. Once the remaining $150M-worth of 2D shows is added, the total would be $471M. But that also doesn’t factor the additional premium for IMAX. So in fact, your $450M total might be closer to the truth, but the asterisk for IMAX would have to apply other mega-blockbusters of the last couple of years, including The Dark Knight, Transformers, and Harry Potter 6. With all of these asterisks, why bother? Why not just go with the raw numbers?

    I’d love to know what theaters DON’T charge you extra if you bring your own glasses.

  • 21 1-31-2010 at 5:52 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    If “Gone with the Wind” came out today it would NOT, no chance, make as much money as it did back then.

    The crux of adjusting isn’t pretending movies came out at different times than they did. It’s putting the time it came out in in context for today. Adjusting the figures properly tells you that no movie will ever be as popular at the movies as Gone With the Wind was. Period. If it came out today, would it make that much? Who cares? It didn’t. It came out then and everyone in America saw it.

  • 22 1-31-2010 at 6:24 pm

    Al said...

    20: So my math was off by 21 million, I’m not going to pretend that it isn’t a big mistake, it certainly is a lot of money, but its still considerably less than the 600 million figure thats in question. As for IMAX I don’t adjust that, for the $16 is ticket price related, and thats what I care about. Those extra $3 for 3D is not included in ticket price, and thus a separate charge. You can argue all you want as to whether this is a glasses charge or not, but its certainly not a ticket charge, which is what gets judged when tracking box office gross.

  • 23 1-31-2010 at 9:57 pm

    Glenn said...

    But then Chad, your “Who cares? it didn’t” argument can be turned around and twisted as an argument against adjusting for inflation. Avatar HAS made that much. It has. So why is it being penalised? It’s not like Fox are fudging the numbers and claiming its making more than it actually has. It has made that much money and should be touted accordingly.

    Al, that’s stupid. Not all cinemas are costing $3 extra for “Avatar”. You have no idea how much Avatar is making in 2D and… well, there’s so many flaws in that logic that I can’t list them all.

  • 24 1-31-2010 at 10:34 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    I report how much money it HAS made. And then I say it’s in league with the other films that were equally successful in their time and place. Can we all just agree that there are pros and cons to both sides? This particular site uses adjusted numbers. Hundreds of others don’t. No big deal. Let’s just enjoy the Oscar nominations.

  • 25 2-01-2010 at 3:59 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Yeah, this weekly argument about adjusted numbers is getting really boring. Surely readers should have grasped by now that this is the way we do things.

  • 26 2-01-2010 at 4:10 am

    Finwë said...

    I think the people who INSIST on adjusting for inflation should just go by ticket sales, and those should be the numbers being reported every week if you’re looking for comparative scale.
    If I’m not mistaken adjusting for inflation doesn’t factor in re-releases, of which GWTW had many (and Snow White had more, and its numbers aren’t adjusted for kids’ ticket prices – Disney says on the BR commentary kids’ tickets were 5 cents compared to 20 or 25 for adults in the late 30s and it made $66 mil off of mostly kids’ tickets which would add up to WAY more sales than GWTW or any other movie, but I digress).
    And saying that GWTW’s 140mil tickets made it more popular than Avatar is probably inaccurate. Sure more people saw it, but no one could really talk about it the way Avatar is being. It wasn’t being shoved down everyone’s throats. The internet didn’t exist in 1939.

  • 27 2-01-2010 at 10:43 am

    Fei said...

    Al: My God, do you even comprehend what you’re saying? Can you step outside of yourself for a moment and realize what sort of mental contortions you’re doing here?

    You said, ” Those extra $3 for 3D is not included in ticket price, and thus a separate charge. You can argue all you want as to whether this is a glasses charge or not, but its certainly not a ticket charge, which is what gets judged when tracking box office gross.”

    How is it a separate charge? Ticket price is how much you pay for your ticket, how much the box office charges for the ticket, is it not? In other words, is it not the price of admission? If you don’t pay the premium for a ticket to a 3D show, then you don’t get into the 3D show. Many theaters showing Avatar have separate 2D shows. So you don’t pay the regular ticket price and then ask to be upgraded to 3D by paying extra.

    By your logic, we should disregard the $2 price premium per ticket for evening shows as well, since that $2 is “separate” and added on top of the matinee price. Want to see a movie but don’t want to pay extra for the “privilege” of seeing it at night? That’s OK, just find a show during the day at the same theater. Want to see a movie but don’t want to pay extra for the “privilege” of seeing it in 3D? That’s OK, just find a regular 2D show at the same theater.

    The only way to prove that the 3D surcharge is truly separate and optional is to demonstrate that theaters typically allow you to pay only the regular ticket price if you bring your own glasses. If you can’t do that, then the 3D surcharge is indeed part of the ticket price, just like the evening show “surcharge.” Do you even know what exactly a surcharge is? Please tell me: Since when have surcharges ever been optional?

    So what point are you trying to make here? By your own admission, you’re not trying to scale the gross by the number of tickets sold, since you refuse to adjust for IMAX. That renders your point, well, pointless.

  • 28 2-01-2010 at 10:57 am

    Fei said...

    Finwe: We must also not forget that there was a huge change in movie-going habits after the popular embrace of TV. In the days before TV, the vast majority of Americans went to the movies every weekend. There was no “wait for DVD” and no piracy (Internet or otherwise). Cinema was the only non-live audio-visual mass medium available. It pretty much only had to compete with sports and theater. And there were no multiplexes, which significantly limited movie choices.

    So much has changed that even adjusted grosses don’t mean very much. Thus, one could indeed make the case that Titanic’s $600M is just as impressive as GWTW’s $200M, or that Avatar’s eventual $700M is just as impressive as Titanic’s (soon-to-be-former) record.

  • 29 2-01-2010 at 11:12 am

    Fei said...

    Al: One last thing. I just reread your math and found that it’s even more wrong than had I first thought. OK, let’s go through it one more time.

    From $600M, you set aside $150M, leaving you with $450M as the approximate total for 3D sales. Then you divided that by $12, the price that you claimed to be the average for 3D admissions. So that would make for 37.5M tickets sold. And finally, you multiplied by $8. Now wait a minute. In your own words, you were trying to adjust sales for the $3 price premium for 3D. But your math shows that you’re actually claiming that the premium is $12-$8=$4. So where did you get your numbers again?

  • 30 2-01-2010 at 12:25 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    Finwe- adjusting does take re-releases into consideration. But again, I never mention Gone With the Wind in the articles because that’s ridiculous. I only ever compare to films since 1982 since that is when reporting became accurate (or at least as accurate as it is now).

  • 31 2-01-2010 at 2:25 pm

    Al said...

    Fei: Its an extra 3 dollars because once I pay for my ticket the employee behind the counter asks if I’d like to buy 3D GLASSES, then I either say yes id like to buy 3D GLASSES, or no thank you, I won’t buy 3D GLASSES. The point is, this is what you are purchasing. As for the different matinee prices thats a whole different matter, all this math is doing is factoring out the average $3 dollars for the 3D showings. If your theater does things different from the rest of the world, I’m sorry they are charging you blindly.

  • 32 2-02-2010 at 12:33 am

    Glenn said...

    Um, what cinema are you going to? That stuff is backwards.