Biggest possible opening weekend?

The Avengers just broke the record set by Harry Potter, by pulling in $220M this weekend. I want to know what the maximum number is (i.e. - every seat in every showing at every theater being filled).

I doubt you will find a firm answer to that one. Movie theaters go out of business, other ones open, some have multiple screens showing the same film, some only show a particular film on one screen, etc.

Start with something small: The same number of people go to the theaters, but they all see the same film. I’m not sure what the finally tally as % of ticket sales Avengers did this weekend. At least 80%, maybe 85%. So add another $40M if theaters showed only that film and people bought tickets for that instead of other films.

Now let’s get serious.

Filling each showing is much harder to figure. I just checked it’s per-screen average: $16,975 ($46,057 is per-theater)! Holy flurking snert. You get films in limited early release that do $20K. E.g., The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel did $27,778 on 27 screens and that’s really good. Doing over $12K/screen in wide release is notable.

Box Office Mojo’s totals list 45K screens, so Avengers had about 1/4 of the total screens tracked.

If you had 45K screens doing 30K per screen, that’s well over $1B. Umm, that’s really not feasible.

Other factors (fake) IMAX, 3D, etc. More of those could add ~20%.

That just leaves running screens 24 hours a day. Who knows.

To get really, really high numbers requires people seeing a movie multiple times. But to get $500M requires extreme fan devotion.

Going over $400M is somewhat unrealistic. $300M seems in reach. Avengers was “hurt” by Friday midnight shows on a school night. If Friday wasn’t a school night or Monday was a holiday like Memorial Day, it could have done another $20+M.

That’s a good analysis - thanks.

A couple of other things to consider…

Limited releases benefit from being limited. There are only one or two screens per market so they really pack them in for each show. With five or six prints at a location for Avengers, you don’t have that problem, also, art houses frequently charge above average ticket price.

Of course, what type of audience is attracted to the film can affect it because something that will draw a lot of children, at a cheaper price, will cut down your average.

Then there is running time. A 3 hour movie gets fewer shows than a 90 minute film. The impact this has be lessened by the addition of multiple prints at a location.

Just for notation

Theater = one location that may have any number of screens.
Screen = an single screen showing the movie.

Splitting the screen means when they show two, or more, films on a single screen with separate admissions. They may show a G rated film in the afternoon and something else in the evening. This practice is not usually allowed on the opening weekend. There are, of course, exceptions.