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Is Third the NEW #1?

April 11th, 2010 No comments

The conclusion of ” My Favorite Year” will be posted soon… In the meantime:

 

Well, the weekend box office numbers are in, and they’re a perfect example of what I call the ‘liar’s poker’ potential of film distribution. Every weekend movie theaters report box office estimates on a daily basis starting on Friday, to the studios (or their distribution companies) whose films they are exhibiting. As a result of these ‘numbers,’ as they’re called, the studio/distributor comes up with an estimated total of what the film did overall each day and total for the weekend, which is considered Friday to Sunday. By early Sunday morning, the “numbers are in…” and the studios/distributors announce how their films ‘did’ at the box office. Industry insiders, media and other cinema pundits get the numbers first and attempt to make sense of them, generating buzzworthy articles about record openings – or utter bombs. (Think: “Clash of the Titans” for the former, “Pluto Nash” for the latter.)

But there’s a problem. Because the reporting of ‘numbers’ are left in the hands of mere mortals like you and me (no ‘Titans’ to be found in Distribution, alas…), ‘mistakes’ can be made. And by mistakes I mean exagerations, errors of scale, mathmatical miscalculations, providing for inflation, unconscious prevarication and/or out-and-out lying. There have been times when the ‘number one’ and ‘number two’ pictures for the weekend have been reversed in order after the ‘final numbers’ come in on Tuesday, but to the distributors and studios, it’s the sizzle, NOT the steak they’re selling. More often, the second, third and fourth pictures jockey for reality, but occasionally it’s clumps of pictures fighting it out for position. And that’s precisely what this weekend’s numbers suggest.

The number one film of the weekend (according to “Daily Variety”), was 20th Century Fox’s comedy “Date Night,” with $27.1 million. Directly behind was the aforementioned “Clash of the Titans,” which reported a total of $26.9 million (and which was called ‘cheeseball’ recently by Jeffrey Katzenberg in a ‘Variety’ interview when he disparaged the film’s post-engineered 3-D process as a way simply to cash in on a craze). The films’ two hundred thousand dollar difference is small enough to be ‘corrected’ after Tuesday’s final numbers, but it does imply that one film triumphed over the other at the weekend box office.

BUT WAIT – There’s more…. The #3 picture for the weekend was Dreamworks’ “How to Train Your Dragon,” with a reported estimated total of $25.4 million. Doing the math, that means that there is less than $1.7 million separating the #1 picture from the #3 picture. That is certainly enough for someone playing ‘liar’s poker’ with box-office receipt numbers to manipulate the order of finish. AND – to complicate things, the next tier of films ALSO ended up in a close finish. “Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married, Too?” ended up with a reported $11 million,  but the Miley Cyrus-starrer “The Last Song” finished only 10% behind, with $10 Million. Who’s bluffing – and who’s holding the cards?…

The films rounding out the remaining four films also clump up, suggesting studio distribution guys were working overtime with their calculators massaging totals for a ‘Hollywood’ happy ending. The #6 and #7 films, respectively, were “Alice in Wonderland” with $5.6 Million and “Hot Tub Time Machine” with $5.4 million. Bringing up the rear was a virtual tie between Sony’s “The Bounty Hunter” and Fox’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” with $4.3 and $4.1 million each, respectively. Again, we’ll just have to wait until the REAL numbers come out on Tuesday…

But who knows? Maybe everybody told the complete truth this weekend and there was no ‘liar’s poker’ at the box office. Stranger things have happened. If it happened in Hollywood, there was probably someone nearby to spin it into publicity gold!