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Media

July 30, 2007

Grading the Box Office

Of the goofy things that many media outlets regularly report on, Hollywood box-office numbers are perhaps the silliest. There's little connection between these numbers and the quality of the films (duh) or even how much profit the films will end up making. (As Slate's David Edelstein points out, the high cost of advertising means that most films lose money at the box office.) Even if we're to give some sort of merit to these numbers, the fact that these receipts are measured only in non-adjusted dollar amounts means that we today's numbers have a major built-in advantage to those of previous years.

(One reason that many of the top-grossing films of all time on IMDB's list come from recent years is that, for some unknown reason, the people who measure these things refuse to take into account inflation and rising ticket prices.)

Nonetheless, every Monday morning we are told who the champ of the weekend box office is, as if this horse race were important news. For many newspaper readers, this weekly ritual means taking in an extremely formulaic story by Associated Press writer David Germain, who tells us the "winners" and "losers" and then gets a quote about the state of the box office from Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers. For some reason, Dergarabedian seems to take extreme pride when heavily-promoted films bring in tons of cash. ("The good news is we've got another big one right around the corner with Harry Potter," Dergarabedian told Germain after Transformers had a big opening weekend. "We should be looking at a strong midsummer boost that'll hopefully carry through to the end of summer.") He's also crushed when films bomb or there's a slow weekend at the box office overall.

Every once in a while, though, Germain lets Dergarabedian spice up the oh-so-boring recaps. Here are a few of Gelf's favorites from the last couple of years.

The Simpsons Movie opens with $70 million
"Homer's odyssey paid off," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers.

Knocked Up nets $29.3 million
"It looks like a lot of people wanted to get knocked up this weekend," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers.

Spider Man 3 opens with $148 million
"That's why they call him the amazing Spider-Man," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers.

300 opens with $70 million
"On a Spartan-by-Spartan basis, that's a lot of money," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers.

Happy Feet opens with $43.6 million, barely edging out Casino Royale
"'Happy Feet' is just ahead by a flipper," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

The Breakup leads with $38.1 million and An Inconvenient Truth has the highest revenue per theater
"It's breakups and global warming that I think really are interesting people now," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.







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