Box Office News: Friday the 13th

Perhaps it's my morbid desire to be proven right after the Dark Knight fiasco (here's the precis - it made more money than I imagined and predicted it would. My underestimation of the 'Brandon Lee' factor was due to my failure to factor in that people generally thought of Heath Ledger as a 'good' actor, a trait that Lee sadly did not share) that has left me giddily anticipating the long-term failure of the film Friday the 13th, which I also absolutely loathed.

Luckily for me, this time the numbers are backing my hatred of a film up. I think I can take as read the idea that opening weekend box office is an indicator not of a film's quality, but rather an audience's excitement about a film, and the success of the film's marketing. Judged solely on those criteria, Friday the 13th's opening weekend was a smashing success. Earning 40.1 million dollars in three days establishes this film clearly as one that was well-marketed, and one that audiences were interested in seeing.

Those numbers don't interest me all that much, since what I'm looking for is a judgment not on whether people were excited to see the film, but rather of what they thought of that movie - that's right, I like to know that the public at large recognizes a bad film when they see it as well. No, the numbers that really concern me are the second weekend grosses. That's where you can really judge what the public thinks of a film, because the audience on the second weekend is brought in primarily not by official advertising, but rather by word of mouth. Sure, there's always a flurry of ads announcing that a given film is #1 in America!, but people don't trust television ads the way they trust a friend telling them they really have to see a movie, or if they should wait for the video.

With a wide-release film, a standard drop-off from week 1 to week 2 is around 50%. All you can determine from that drop-off is that everyone who really wanted to see the movie on the opening weekend did, and that their opinions were mixed enough that it won't be remembered as something special. They might tell friends they liked it, but nobody's seeing it twice. Naturally, any lower drop-off percentage means that a significant number of people advised friends to see the film or saw it a second time themselves ("good word of mouth"), while any higher number suggests that people have been actively discouraged from seeing the film based on people's impressions ("bad word of mouth").

So what were Friday the 13th's box-office numbers? Its opening weekend rung up a stunning 40.5 million dollars in the first three days (because the films I'm comparing it to did not open on three-day weekends, I'm only counting Fri-Sun here), beat the Grudge's take by one million, making it the best opening weekend for a horror movie ever!

Apparently word got out, though, because just seven days later the second weekend's grosses would be in. The total? Just under eight million dollars - an audience drop-off of 80%. Which, I believe, is known in the industry as 'cratering'. In addition to its basic underperformance when it comes to gross dollars, it also had the lowest per-screen average for any film in the top ten other than Paul Blart: Mall Cop, a movie that was released a full month before Friday the 13th, and The International, a film that opened in 7th place to Friday the 13th's 1st. Although, to be fair, the International lost just half of its business, so despite the fact that no one was excited about seeing it, at least it had passable word of mouth.

This is a very unusual pattern for a Platinum Dunes horror remake - all of their previous films had hovered around the 50% drop-off rate, with the most popular being the Amityville Horror, which lost only 41% of its audience, and the least popular being Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, which lost 59%. Even though none of those films did Friday the 13th's opening-day business, each was clearly regarded much more positively by the people that watched them.

The film that Friday the 13th knocked out of the top spot for horror opening weekends, The Grudge, had a 44% drop-off, which put its 10-day grosses at a comfortable 70.7 million dollars, compared to Friday the 13th's 55.1 million for the same amount of time. Even the last Jason-related film, 2003's Freddy vs Jason, did better, with a 36.4 million dollar opening weekend, a 64% drop-off and a 10-day gross of 61.1 million dollars.

Tracking this in this direction, Friday the 13th could see itself cut down to 3-digit theatres this weekend, and be out almost entirely by the 13th of March, likely without crossing the 70 million dollar mark domestically.

Of course, with a budget of under 20 million dollars, that's still a success for New Line/Paramount, and I'm sure a sequel has already been greenlit, but what really matters here is that the new Friday the 13th film is not beloved by the public at large, and for once, I'm not a lone crank.

(as always, my figures come from 'the-numbers.com', the only place on the webternet for your historical box office results. Well, obviously not the only place, but it's the one I use.)

1 comment:

Bo said...

I'm surprised by hearing from a number of defenders of this film. Still, the numbers don't lie. This is an inferior film doing exactly what inferior films should do - going away.