Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Big Opening Weekend! Then What?
Films, especially those that ultimately ended up in the Top Ten List of the most popular films of all time, used to have legs. Films used to build, platform from city to city...by word-of-mouth. And, at the end of their first run (remember first runs?) the boxoffice would be tallied and then, and only then, would we know where a film stood. The Godfather, The Sting, The Exorcist, Jaws, even the first Star Wars all had legs. During their runs, audiences were more interested in whether these films were well made, not in how much money they made. This phenomenon of wanting to know boxoffice intake started about 20 years ago. In the wake of blockbusters such as ET, a growing interest in how much money a film made, over whether it was good, started to emerge. Suddenly, in newspapers on Monday or Tuesday, the previous weekend's boxoffice numbers were being published. (Until then, such information was regulated to industry newspapers Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, read by studio executives and industry insiders.) But all of a sudden, the average moviegoer also knew what a film made its opening weekend. They knew where it ranked. They even knew what the drop off percentage was from the previous week. And this affected the marketing of films as well. Now a movie could boast the fact that it was the #1 film in the country that week, or if not that, at least the #1 comedy in the country, or the #1 action film. Ranking and boxoffice intake began to overshadow what critics thought. Hell, if everyone in the country was seeing this film, shouldn't you? It was kinda marketing by peer pressure. Ultimately, this also changed the way the industry began to view a film's success. If a film didn't open BIG, it was deemed a failure. Today, the overwhelming percentage of boxoffice intake the average blockbuster makes is made in its first and second WEEKENDS. Even films like this year's boxoffice leaders, Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith and War of the Worlds opened huge and then fell fast. Still, their openings were SO huge, they were enough to catapult them to the top. Stars Wars opened in May, but by July (just a month and a half later), it felt as if it had opened years ago. It seemed to disappear. Very very different from the first Star Wars (1977) which seemed to be IN theaters for years. There wasn't anywhere you could go in 1977 and not hear about or see Star Wars. But that was nearly 30 years ago. This year's installment blasted into theaters, reaped huge opening weekend dollars and left with warp speed to be further moved along the revenue chain. DVDs, pay-per-view, and cable lay ahead. There's a line from a song that says "It's not where start it's where you finish..." But that doesn't hold true in modern day Hollywood..It IS where you start that counts. Where you finish now DEPENDS on that.