Why do you care about box office grosses?

Ok, let me say this straight off the bat. I’m not looking down on you if you obsess over box office stats.

But really, most of you guys have no dog in this fight. Unless you hold stock in the production or distribution companies, it really doesn’t matter. Also the movies themselves do not battle for box office. They really don’t fight each other. They are trying to cover their own budgets, and for the most part, domestic gross is smaller and smaller % of what a film needs to ‘successful’. The post theatrical and international revenue steams are by far more important today than in the '80s. Why do I bring that up? Because in the '80s Entertainment tonight started every Monday with the weekend box office report. Before then only the people in the industry cared about the numbers. Most people don’t realize what the numbers mean.

Now, a lot people are looking at the weekend gross and predicting the total gross and % of falloff like people talk about baseball stats. Movies are not a competition like baseball. It’s quite possible for a film to make 10 million dollars and it be THRILLING that it made that much.

I remember when Titanic opened on the same day as a James Bond film and everyone wondered who would “win” the box office. Most people thought Bond would win but Titanic did a little better. Guess what? They still make Bond movies!

There are so many screens out there that you can have several “hits” running at the same time. A big movie opening doesn’t squeeze everyone else out. Movies are able to be in theaters making money for as long as they can.

I used to own a movie theater. Believe me, I cared about box office in a way most of you can’t understand. I’ve also seen first hand that there is no correlation between movie quality and movie gross. A good baseball team will have good stats and a player or team with good stats is a good player.

Unless you are looking at them as an investment or you own a movie theater, movie grosses are pretty meaningless.

So why do you like them? Tell me.

I became interested when Titanic came out. It made $28 million in its opening weekend, ended up with $658 million domestic and over $2 billion worldwide. I thought that was pretty cool. Most of my favorite movies don’t make much so it’s generally not too important to me though I’m still mildly interested.

However, when a thread is started predicting box office failure for a movie with everything going for it to become at least a modest hit, I’m very interested because I want that Subject Line to become laughably, hilariously, ridiculously wrong.

I’ve made the same observation. Movie reviews should be in the entertainment section, movie box-office reports should be in the financial section.

That they’re not doesn’t mean that people care. An industry group compiles the information and releases it to the press because it’s in their interest to get free publicity for movies. Entertainment Tonight (and its ilk) go along with it because the story is completely fed to them and they can fill time (or column inches) without having to do any real work.

TIL I’m only supposed to care about things I have a monetary interest in.

If a movie by a director or actor or genre I enjoy does really well, it interests me because it means I have a better chance of seeing more of what I enjoy in the future.

You can interest. Like sports stats, people like those. Some people might be huge fans or a certain star or a director and want to see them succeed.

But I see many people saying Movie A did this and Movie B did that. And 99.99% of the time it is isn’t a valid comparison.

I just want to know why.

That’s pretty much the case with me. Also, if a movie I’m interested in opens with unspectacular grosses, that means I better hurry and see it because it probably won’t be in the theaters too much longer.

Because if it is a movie that is based in something I really enjoye (X-men, Godzilla, cool ancient war a la Underworld) and it performs really well at the box office, it will probably garner a sequel, which I will also be interested in.

Does that count?

Well, that might be your answer - it’s probably somewhat similar to fantasy sports. The fun is in the predicting - seeing if you got it right or not. It’s not just making a certain amount overall, but making more than expected, or bombing horribly, etc - all part of the prediction game.

Me, I only personally care like Sir T-Cups if it’s a franchise I really enjoy, and doing well means it’ll garner another one. Still kinda disappointed that Dredd didn’t scrape enough together for a sequel, apparently.

Listing the box-office gross is basically a way for free publicity for the studios for the top movies at the time, plus a sort of crowdsourced measurement of the movies’ popularity and/or effectiveness of their marketing.

I don’t think anyone really cares except if they own stock in the studios, but it’s a good rule of thumb as to which movie is the most popular for a particular movie season.

I don’t really, other than as a problem for data modeling in terms of using past experience to predict future experience.

But by itself, it generally isn’t a number that means anything. Not even whether a sequel will get made. A $40MM comedy that does $100MM may get a sequel while a $200MM action movie that does $150MM won’t. And in terms of just understanding how much money a movie made, the reported number is even less meaningful since it excludes foreign box offices (which was fine in the '80s, not so much now, especially for summer fare).

But I suspect it really is more just that it is a number that became easily available at the same time the structure of movie releases changed (now success means a lot of bang in the first few weekends instead of lots of decent weekends). That was what was amazing about Titanic, not so much how much money it made but for how long it was making that money. It was the #1 movie 15 weekends in a row.

I agree with this. It’s especially the case if the film is based on a book series I’m interested in. If the first film flops, they’re not going to continue with the series.

I remember that in the 1990s either Talk Soup or The Daily Show reported the weekend box office gross of the top movies in Italian lira to make the point that the actual numbers shouldn’t matter to the average moviegoer.

With movie making being a business and all, the ultimate industry evaluation of a film is its financial success or failure. I am free to judge by artistic or entertainment measures. Sometimes the two correspond and sometimes theey don’t. I certainly don’t obsess over receipt numbers, but they are publicized and talked about. What’s “in it for me” is that movies that make bank spawn more movies like them, and good movies that taank take down similar future films with them. Thus, a look at the money lists gives you a rough preview of the next few years of theater offerings.

I don’t. And it annoys me that they are regularly reported.

Couldn’t you push the question even further and ask why anyone should be interested in best-seller lists of any kind? The answer is because people like to root for the winner and seeing their favorite movie/book/CD/game/etc at the top of the list is fun.

Oh, another thing. Box office receipts also tell you rougly how many people watched the movie. This says how likely I am to get into a discussion about it. And if a movie I think is worth being seen, the money it makes validates my opinion and it means people watched a story that deserves its haul of money.

It was “The Daily Show” and I thought the reason it was in lira (and reported in Italian) was because the segment was sponsored by Olive Garden.

Higher gross = more people saw it
More people saw it = a good movie
A good movie = let’s go see it tonight.

The flaw in this reasoning is obvious.

A while back we started up a movie fantasy league (where we draft movies, etc.), which is what first got me looking at them. But I also do financial modeling for a living, so that actually got me into wanting to understand the underlying mechanics…not because I have a dog in the hunt, but because I’m curious about it. Numbers are inherently cool.

I do also poke around into international box office, so it’s not just domestic.

Yeah, who cares what other people think about anything? Knowing the most successful movies (books, TV shows, video games…) tells us something about our culture and people’s tastes.