Box Office Guy

Patrick Reardon

There's only one new wide release this weekend. Is that because all the other studios are afraid to open up against Sony's Gina Rodriguez action thriller "Miss Bala?" No, it's merely because studios are still nervous about opening new movies on Super Bowl weekend.

For years movie studios treated Super Bowl weekend like a sacred cow that they didn't dare challenge. Throughout the 80s and 90s some of the cinematic classics that opened up on Super Bowl weekend include "Children of the Corn II," "Car 54, Where Are You?," "Highlander 3," "Big Bully" and the Spice Girls' magnum opus "Spice World." But starting in 2008 Hollywood came to the realization that maybe the Super Bowl wasn't something that had to be avoided at all costs:

2008 - "Hannah Montana" ($31.1m opening)
2009 - "Taken" ($24.7m opening)
2010 - "Dear John" ($30.5m opening)
2012 - "The Woman in Black" ($20.9m opening)
2012 - "Chronicle" ($22m opening)
2014 - "Warm Bodies" ($20.4m opening)

Look, empiric proof that counter-programming and targeting young audiences (who aren't as enamored of the NFL compared to older generations) can work on Super Bowl weekend! And "Taken" even proved that a studio could open a male skewing action film and achieve success. But over the last five years Hollywood has gone back to their old ways (over the past five years no films have opened north of $13m). Why? You were making such progress. Let's dispel a couple myths about Super Bowl weekend.

Myth 1: Movies Will Get Killed Head-to-Head Against the Super Bowl

This would be true if movies truly went "head-to-head" with the Super Bowl. But they don't. The Super Bowl kicks off at 6:30 pm (eastern). The vast majority of film going in the United States takes place on Friday night and all day Saturday (especially for family films which are heavy on matinees). Roughly 75% of the country lives in the eastern and central times zones so at worst the Super Bowl affects Sunday night showings in those two regions (which aren't all that busy to begin with). And the 3:30 pm kickoff time doesn't kill Sunday movie-going on the west coast. Trust me, I've spent several Super Bowl Sundays where I've gone to a late morning or mid-day movie and still saw the game in its entirety (and I definitely wasn't alone in those movie theaters).

Myth 2: EVERYBODY Watches The Super Bowl

If you're a big football fan (or related to one) or you live in a genuine football town it may seem like everybody watches the Super Bowl. But let's so some quick math. According to recent figure there are approximately 326 million people living in the United States. Per Nielsen ratings, roughly 103.4 million people watched all or some of the Philadelphia Eagles victory over the New England Patriots in last years Super Bowl. That means that last year while Nick Foles was lighting up the Pats roughly 68% of the country's population was doing something else. They might have been working, napping or….going to the movies. My point is that if there was a hotly anticipated movie coming out this weekend there are plenty of people who would opt to go to the cinema rather than watching the Rams battle the Pats. It's a genuine missed opportunity and Hollywood definitely left a lot of money on the table this weekend.

So with the big studios essentially sitting this weekend out I expect that box office receipts will be low. When factoring in the frigid weather throughout large swaths of the country and the lack of interest in "Miss Bala" this could be one of the weakest box office weekends we've seen in a while, so I plan to stack my lineup with "Glass" and some Oscar hopefuls as fillers.

Last but not least, Super Bowl predictions:

Winner: Patriots 31-27 (I hope I'm wrong)
MVP: Tom Brady
Number of Times Tony Romo Says ‘Gee Willikers' (or the equivalent): 233
Best Movie Commercial: "Hobbs & Shaw"
Will Netflix Drop a Big Surprise After The Game?: Yes
Will It Be Worse Than "The Cloverfield Paradox?": Not Possible

Weekend Picks

My picks for this weekend's top 5 in total box office (this week's cost in FML Bux in parentheses):

  1. Glass (FB$215)
  2. The Upside (FB$203)
  3. Miss Bala (FB$158)
  4. Green Book (FB$102)
  5. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (FB$99)

Bonus Pick of the Week: "Bohemian Rhapsody" (FB$38) It's tough to pick a bonus movie this week without accurate theater counts (unavailable at the time I was writing this column). On such a sleepy box office weekend I expect the bonus will come from one of the four available Oscar flicks ("Bohemian Rhapsody," The "Favourite," "Vice," and "Green Book"). Watch the theater counts carefully. If the theater counts for these films all remain flat then I think the resilient Queen biopic will provide the best value at FB$38.

Coming Attractions

With the Super Bowl in the collective rearview mirror there is a full slate of new releases planned for next weekend. "The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part" should be the big winner next weekend while another trio of rookies ("Cold Pursuit," "The Prodigy," and "What Men Want") will try to carve out some legit business of their own.

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