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October 01 2005

Overnight data shows Serenity takes 3.9m at the box office on Friday coming in 2nd for the day, after Jodi Foster's "Flightplan". It beats "The Corpse Bride", "A History of Violence" and "Into The Blue". This is excellent news, as it puts the predictions on target. It also has the 2nd highest person count after "A History of Violence". It is important people go to see the movie tonight and Sunday. Update: New figures show Serenity took $4.2m. Update 2: Box Office Mojo show $3.9m again.

Good, good. Though, weren't people expecting, like, WAY more?
This is JUST for Friday - not the entire weekend. It is on target for $15m.
Grr...beat Flightplan, Browncoats...

To quote O-Ren Ishii:

"TEAR THE [female dog] APART!"
Not really that much on target - Saturday is the biggest day but Friday is the second biggest day, Sunday is the least of the 3. Which looks like Serenity will be lucky to hit 12 million and come in second for the week - which is not good news. Cause this will be the only weekend it will be able to capture that.
If it does $12m, personally I'd say it's done fine.

Basically, what this says is that it didn't bomb. I mean, it got the 2nd highest return per screen - that is hugely good news!

With the amount of screens Serenity was opening with, it would have struggled to make the kind of money some people were predicting. At a maximum it could be $30m, but more likely in the $12-15m range.

[ edited by gossi on 2005-10-01 17:38 ]
There's really not much chance of it reaching $15 million now (not that it had to). My guess would be around $5.5 million on Saturday and $2.5 for Sunday giving it a weekend take of around $12 million as a few people have already said. I honestly expected it to do better.
I didn't. However, I'm hoping the drop off isn't bad. As jay wee has said before, the best form of advertising for the movie is the movie itself, to crossing fingers and toes it'll have legs.
-sigh- I was kinda expecting this. Love Serenity/Firefly, but this is the only weekend it's going to do really big business, and it's only probably going to get like 12-15 million. It'll be lucky to get 15 though.

Then after this weekend, unless word of mouth performs a miracle...it'll drop off the charts fastttt. Good to hear it's beating the craphole that is probably Into the Blue though.
So first night, Serenity hits #1 for movies that opened this weekend?
There's no hope for a sequel now. -sigh-
No, BurkleFreak: if it gets $11m+, it is doing fine.

Remember, you have international box office to add to this.

[ edited by gossi on 2005-10-01 18:07 ]
MySerenity: Yes, it was the highest grossing among the new openers this weekend. Which is nice, but beating Flightplan would have been much nicer.
Oh, yes, sorry - MySerenity, I understand what you mean now. Yes, if trends continue it'll be the #1 opener for the weekend (same as in Oz)
I don't think the race is over quite yet.
Geez, what a bunch of pessemists! Movies like Deuce Bigalow got sequels and it didn't do well at the theater at all. But did do well in DVD sales. 15 million would've been extremely well for it's opening weekend, with a movie with no big stars in it. I've thought all along that this will be a word of mouth film and I'm not giving up on it yet. I'm not surprised that Flight Plan came in first - it does have a big name star in it and is getting great reviews. The big news is that it beat "Into the Blue" which was getting a lot of attention because of Jessica Alba. Let's all have a little patience and see how the entire weekend goes before we start planning Serenity's funeral.
Typically there is a 40% drop off from a films opening weekend and it's 2nd weekend. To keeps the film upfront for people to want to see it - it needs to be topsw at the box office it's opening weekend, if it doesn't hit the mark - that typically increase the drop off of the second weekend to around 50%. The only potential to stop that would be if Universal increased the number of theatres it is in. Funny thing I noticed is the "Into the Blue" was slated for opening in 2700+ theatres but according to this site it only opened on 1625 screens, wonder if the bad reviews had something to do with that.

MySerenity: Yes but it also seems now to be in the most theatres by at least 500 more screens. So it being the biggest this weekend for new openings should be a given.

[ edited by RavenU on 2005-10-01 18:16 ]
I thought that Into the blue had more screenings than Serenity. But the link reads ITB 1,625 and Serenity 2,188.
Okay, I have a plan. I'm going to bring 5 friends to see it tonight. And again, tomorrow. I'm going to milk this baby for all it's worth. If we beat out Into The Blue, there is hope! Joss Whedon triumphed over Paul Walker & Jessica Alba. That's a huge accomplishment in my book. :)
Yes, I am wondering about that RavenU and Katy ("Into The Blue"). I suspect the appauling reviews may have caused a drop in the number of screens, I suppose. Or the figures are rubbish.
Bad data is always a possibility.

What I thought was interesting was the gross per screen. Serenity was higher than Flight Plan on that, but a bit lower than A History of Violence.
Yeah... If those figures are close to accurate, Serenity did very well in gross per screen terms (which makes me think it should have opened at more screens..)
It would be interesting if we had opening Friday night figures for other movies and how they related to the overall first weekend take.
Last Fridays take:

http://www.boxofficemojo.com/daily/chart/?sortdate=2005-09-23&p=.htm

Needs registration, account free.

[ edited by gossi on 2005-10-01 18:33 ]
I took four people to see it last night. I'm leaving to see it again right now. Next weekend, I have at least two other folks going with me.
Also Flightplan has an advantage over Serenity by being on 1,200+ more screens than Serenity. Coming off it's #1 win at the box office last weekend, gives it a real advantage over Serenity. Maybe Joss should have said Jodie's plane crashes rather than Jessica is wearing a parka. :P
After a brief analysis of those Box Office Mojo figures I'm going to guess an overall take of $11.5 million. Serenity has done remarkably well with the number of screens it has been released in.

But could it have done better on more screens? And with this I'd like to welcome new Serenity fans to the world of the Buffyverse and Firefly. There's always been a huge issue in the fandoms regarding the lack of promotion of Joss' work. If the WB had promoted Angel better and put it on a better timeslot would it have cancelled? And of course we could substitute Fox for the WB and Firefly for Angel and say exactly the same.

Regardless of whether Serenity gets a sequel or not, I bet my bottom dollar that during the next few weeks and months that we will see a general theme of "Universal should have gone for more screenings" on various message boards and forums.
We've had very good reviews and I think we might (knock on wood) be in more theaters next week than we are this week. I know my local theater has the 'Serenity' poster up but the movie didn't open here, we're hoping it'll be here next week (and in the mean time we're driving out-of-town to see the BDM). Basically our numbers are very good (notice that we're bringing in more money per screen than anyone else?).
I feel that we can build an audience, based on great reviews and continued excitement from the fans. I'm still hoping we'll make $15 million this weekend, but I want us to make $20 million NEXT weekend!
Most likely, Simon.

One fact is clear: those saying there were 5 million hardcore Firefly fans were wrong. In the US at least. Those numbers suggest about a million people turned up opening night I believe, and thats include familys and friends of fans.

I think it should be clear Universal DID spend a lot of money on adverts - I mean, season premieres of Lost, House, The Simpsons. Without those adverts, I suspect these numbers would have been much smaller.

I don't think this news should be seen as a bad thing at all. Serenity was never going to be Star Wars from the get go. It needs time.
Let's face it, we're all pretty much amateurs about this (unless there's an industry insider ready to chime in.) And, we all have a tremendous personal investment in this film's success, so our mood swings of a sort can be intense!

Maybe this will help: A great ad in today's NY Times, about 2/3 of a page, with killer pull quotes, beginning with "Two Thumbs Up" from Ebert and Roeper, followed by Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, New York Magazine, Washington Post, New York Times, Village Voice, Orange County Register, San Francisco Chronicle, and Detroit News.

Flight Plan has a smaller ad, and the only movie with a full page ad is the Cameron Diaz/Shirley McClain chick flick sneak preview.

Universal is pulling its weight.

Saw it yesterday, going again today, have shoved several dozen people into the theater this weekend already. A friend who lives in central western Virginia says it won't open in his area till next week...so maybe we can really have legs. Let's keep our optimism high, folks!
I wonder when all the monies from the pre-screenings get added? Personally, I think that's an excellent start to the weekend. I went to see it last night in Chambersburg, Pa. I counted 42 people there at 7pm (they showed it again at 9:40pm). It was listed on-line but the marquee didn't have it up! Folks coming into the mall had no idea it was being showed unless they called the theater or checked on-line! Chambersburg is a small market so the numbers weren't bad. The audience seemed to really enjoy it...many clapped at the end. There were old folks like me there and some twenty-somethings, no younger that I could see. Lets see how it does today, I'm taking my wife tonight. Will probably take clients from my center during the week. It's up to us, folks...go see the movie, again and again and again...
One fact is clear: those saying there were 5 million hardcore Firefly fans were wrong. In the US at least. Those numbers suggest about a million people turned up opening night I believe, and thats include familys and friends of fans.


This is kinda like an election result night. And in case anyone thinks I'm being very grumpy and cynical, I will always be eternally grateful for Universal giving the go ahead for Serenity to be made.
Serenity was an awesome awesome movie... and it was made for a relatively modest budget. Remember, on top of box office returns there is international, but as has been reported time and time again, DVD is the new box office and this movie will kill on DVD.

I would be suprised though if there was a huge second week drop-off, I talked to 6 people who had never seen firefly, and all of them loved it. Heck even someone who hated Firefly loved it.

Worst case scenario, we don't get a sequel, but yknow, this would work for me as a big finale, even if I want it to continue.

[ edited by rabid on 2005-10-01 19:21 ]
I've added this link

http://www.the-numbers.com/charts/today.html

which indicate that Serenity took $4.2m.
I'm hopeful that word of mouth and people going to see it again will keep this ship flying for some time. When you think about it, us Browncoats are definitely going to be going multiple times, and there will certainly be people who hadn't seen Firefly who really enjoyed Serenity who will go again, and maybe bring friends too.

Also, Serenity was only open at 63% of the screens that Flight Plan was on, so it's gross was obviously going to be more limited than that.
Rabid makes a really good point. Serenity only cost 50 million to make. Thats a very low number compared to most films out there. So if a 50 million dollar film grosses even 10 million in the first weekend, there is bound to be a sequel. Add in all the international business and the DVD sales and you easily have a film that generates 75-100 million in overall sales. Thats means a huge profit for a low budget, no name film. I'd say the Browncoats finally got their victory.

I don't know the budget for the Jodie Foster film but I bet she personally made 12-15 million. What did Nathan Fillian and the rest of the BDH's pull down? $300-400K each?

On the other hand, if they don't let Joss make another Firefly movie, maybe we'll get a Buffy movie instead (how cool would that be? Personally, I'd rather see a Buffy 1 versus a Serenity 2)
Buffy movie? Take the road less traveled..

(And then get canceled, obviously).

[ edited by gossi on 2005-10-01 19:44 ]
I think it will do fine; I agree it will be a slow-burn. With a name like Serenity and even the poster kind of looks "serene" if you don't look at it close, many people won't even realize it's a sci-fi film. Word of mouth is what we need in spades and I think we'll get it. Here's to the finger crossing, and back off to the movies.
I wouldn't be surprised if the weekend take was higher than the Friday BO suggests. For many people, this may not have been their "first choice" movie for the weekend, for lots of reasons. I can see, for example, bargaining going on between couples as to whether to see a sci fi movie or a more mainstream type movie first. But with the great reviews, ads, and word of mouth, it might very well be the biggest second- or third-choice movie, which won't be reflected until the end of this weekend or even next weekend.

(Then again, I always have faith that the mainstream will see the Joss light.)
gossi: "Serenity was never going to be Star Wars from the get go."

Uhm, I hope it will be exactly like Star Wars which opened first weekend in 43 theaters and made 1,554,475 and then the next weekend went on 757 screens and grossed $6,806,951.

Source.

Also of interest.

[ edited by PowerToThePeople on 2005-10-01 20:13 ]

[ edited by PowerToThePeople on 2005-10-01 20:31 ]
Good news.

I think the very positive reviews helped the movie and will give it legs.

At dailykos, the political blog where I post, I mentioned I was going to see Serenity and several people replied they were, too. And then on Friday kos himself posted in a thread title he was planning on seeing it, so I think word-of-mouth at all sorts of different websites will really help the movie.
PowerToThePeople: I meant Star Wars sequels ;)
I think Universal marketed this film as brilliantly as they could have and I don't think more screens would have made that much of a difference. DVD sales have become so important and Firefly fans have proven they will put out the $$$ to own the movie. Expect special editions, director's cuts and everything else to help the movie make as much as possible. If this movie grosses anywhere above 45-50 million (and it looks like it will), it wouldn't be good business not to make a sequel.
I will be disappointed if people get mad at Universal's marketing or distribution. I think they have basically done the best possible job. As Joss says, they know it is a slow burn, word of mouth type movie, and that's why the small theater count works in its favor. Fewer screens means a) Uni has more money for marketing post-release, b) each theater will be fuller than it would with more screens, and fuller theaters makes for better viewing experiences, and therefore better word of mouth. As rockchalkwatcher says, even if the film opens with 12-13 million, and is number 2 for the weekend, it could gross 50 million or more if it has strong legs. Combined with overseas grosses and dvd sales, and it's looking good for a sequel. Or, at the very least, it's looking good for Joss' career...he didn't embarass himself. And I know Universal's looking for money first and foremost, but they also gotta love a man who can bring the studio the respect of good reviews. Between Serenity and Land of the Dead, Universal is quickly becoming the home for that rarity: the critically acclaimed genre film. Keep in mind, too, that Firefly was one of the least watched shows on television when it aired. For a movie version of the show to open at number 2 (or possibly number 1) in the country, over movies with bigger starpower and/or budgets, is pretty darn impressive.
@rockchalkwatcher and bonzob: If it does take around $12 million this weekend, I don't see $45-$50 million, let alone over $50 million as a potential final take for the US box office. $40 million would be the optimistic end of expectations really. I do still think sequels would be possible with those figures though. It'll certainly do well enough to be profitable.
According to one group of filmgoers leaving the noon showing in my town today (Saturday), "...oh, there will definitely be a sequel!" And at least the name "Whedon" is generating buzz. Another group last night was all abuzz about 'Josh Whedon'. One member of that group wrote the sequel as he walked out of the theater. It was all about an Operative, Shepherd Book. :) I have zero fears about the impending sequels. I didn't hear one complaint walking out, and in the past I've been known to walk out of theaters mumbling, Jeez, how sucky! People clapped at the end of every showing I attended. We'll get our sequels.
I agree that in general, a 12 million opening equals 25-40 million nowadays, impossible. I was taking into account the fact that I think Serenity will have strong word of mouth, and won't drop off as much as most films do. You are right that it would have to have VERY strong holds to make it to 50 million...either way, the moment of truth will be at the end of the second weekend.
I've added the Box Office Mojo predictions - again, $3.8m. The figures again show Into The Blue tanked very badly.
(I just realized I should have put this comment here instead of where I did put it.)

gossi said elsewhere: "they are estimates from a selection of theatres, scaled up to all the screens I believe"

FWIW, I ask this next question not because I think there's some sort of fault in the data, but because I'm trying to understand how this works: Do we know how they select the theaters they use for the sample? What's the mix of markets, etc?
YOU NEED TO ALL REMEMBER SOMETHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Serenity is Different, it is all about the word spreading, holding strong, and not dropping off.
I believe we wont have the usual 40% drop in the second week, this is what its all about, not predictions and numbers, if that was the case Serenity wouldnt exist in the 1st place.
This came from a Cancelled TV Show, its already a miracle that we got a movie made, now lets continue to spread the word and maintain a steady intake.
There have movies that never had the drop off, or not as much of one. Remember My Big Fat Greek Wedding?

I'd be happy to see a modest box office per week as long as it stays in theaters til Christmas...
tully - whilst that's nice in theory, the reality is a 40%-50% drop for Sci-Fi nearly always happens. Hopefully Serenity can break that mold - but if you think because it's a canceled TV series that means it can break the drop off model...

The fact it is generally an excellent movie in my opinion, combined with the excellent reviews, should hopefully lead to a lower than average drop off.

Chris - mate, I'd love that, but I think realistically Serenity will disappear within a month or so.

[ edited by gossi on 2005-10-02 00:04 ]
I say the Browncoats decide on about 20 theaters and keep going every weekend, en masse. Let's keep this thing in the theaters!
Remember Galaxy Quest. It debuted with a weak $7,012,630 and then rose +38.4% in it's second weekend. It's final tally was $71,583,916. So a good word of mouth can do wonders. I'm far too stubborn to throw in the towel yet.
Definitely don't throw the towel in yet, anybody. These are *good* results, make no mistake. This is certainly no disaster!

Here's an interesting thing: it's very likely this will disappear from theatres long before it makes it to DVD. So you'll all have a several month gap between seeing it again. Serenity crack no more!
Careful with those exclamation marks tullyano7, you may run out.
gossi, I imagine it could be showed at the discount theater after a run in the mainstream. There is one in my town where many not-first run movies continue to show for $1.50. A better question might be, does anyone profit from those? Word-of-mouth good movies play there for a couple months sometimes.
Actually, I think the numbers site may be the most accurate number because I think they include the money made from the early screenings. I know the numbers gets their numbers from a site that gets the numbers from the studios directly, I'm not sure where boxofficemojo or showbizdata is getting their figures from.
Yes, bargain theaters do help with the gross. Usually, a movie will be way out of the top 25 by the time it hits these theaters...but it gets a boost from all the people who missed in its inital run who are checking out for cheap, and often leaps back into the top 25. Depending on the size of the film, bargain theaters can add anywhere from 1-4 million to the gross.
I suspect the Flightplan "controversy" is completely contrived. Flight attendants complaining about how they are depicted in the film?! C'mon!! Get real. This has studio written all over it. The "controversy" is designed to counteract all of the bad reviews the film received (before week 1 audiences had a chance to read them) and to minimize the film's inevitable week 1 to week 2 attendance drop once word of mouth gets around about how bad this film is. Kudos to the PR person who came up with it. It seems to be working. Film-goers apparently want to see what the fuss is about. I've even heard the phrase "9/11" worked into the articles re: the "controversy" and we all know how well that manipulative BS works for GWB when he needs it to.

I watched Flightplan at a free screening a few days before it debuted. It is an awful film. Nice set. Great acting by Foster. Lame plot, bad script, and tepid performances by the rest of the cast. You want to talk about a film being too "TV-like"? Flightplan is a made-for-tv movie with delusions of standing. Had Foster not signed on to it... movie of the week on F/X at best.

So, Browncoats... our duty is to stop the signal. Flightplan's fake "controversy" signal, that is. Convince our movie-loving non-Browncoat friends and family members to stay AWAY from Flightplan and instead spend their hard-earned money on the BDM movie!

They will thank you profusely!!

[ edited by Hjermsted on 2005-10-02 01:29 ]
gossi, I can appreciate your caution... but your negativity is a downer. Who's to say that Serenity won't pull a Napoleon Dynamite and pleasantly shock the hell out of all of us with its legs?

You may, ultimately, be right about this, but until we at least get first and second weekend numbers, I prefer to remain positive.

Let's hope for a sweet surprise. Stranger things have happened.
Hee, I'm *not* trying to be negative - trust me, I'm in the worst possible position to be negative - but I am trying to throw some realism in. Realistically, sci-fi drops off massively second week.

Reality, we need to wait to see the figures. And we need to get people into the cinema, also.

So far, as I said, I think Serenity has had a great start. It's not gone as well as some people 'in the know' had hoped, we've got to be honest about that. But, you know, I'm still confident about things working out as well. I truly think Serenity has legs, it just needs to have chance to find them.
It really helps that the film is a complete crowd-pleaser lol, I really think that positive word of mouth will help it, at the very least giving it some legs for the next 2 weeks or so.
It's all about the 2nd week, IMO. A lot of people who will like this movie are not going to immediately go in the first weekend simply based off the marketing... there are people who are jaded by recent sci-fi but remember and love the fun and magic of 'Star Wars' who I think will be intrigued by positive word-of-mouth. And remember, too, that Universal has set aside money for a 2nd marketing push. I think that TV ads running the quotes about this being a "thrilling ride", the "best sci-fi action film in years", etc., etc., will make people look up from their dinners.

Here's hoping!

[ edited by Ronald_SF on 2005-10-02 02:37 ]
It's all about the 2nd week, IMO.

Agreed. "The Numbers" suggest Serenity had the highest per screen average - the other two sites suggest it missed out slightly to "A History of Violence" (which was on 800 less screens).

Anyone who thinks Serenity should have opened on more screens is mad. More screens means more prints which means more money Universal would have had to spend before the movie was even released. Better that it be more cautious. Reality is, if the film somehow tears up the B.O. on the first weekend it can be put on more screens after that. Not likely but a possibility.

UIP Australia suggests that a high per screen average means the film has legs - ie. it'll stay in cinemas longer because it's making more from less screens.

What will be most satisfying is if in the second weekend there is very little drop off. Anything very big opening in the U.S. next week?

A bad first weekend doesn't mean no sequel, though. Given Whedon's higher profile and reasonable big screen business and large DVD sales mean Serenity 2 will always be a possibility.

It hasn't tanked. Happily it looks like "Into the Blue" has - a History of Violence made more money (in total) than it on half as many screens; Corpse Bride made more money than it in its third weekend!

Take *that*, Jessica Alba's boobies!
Keith G; Next week the following movies are being released
Biggest threat
Start in limited release on Wed, opens wider release on Friday - Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

The rest of the line-up for competition.
2 For the Money by Universal starring Matthew McConaughey & Al Pacino
In Her Shoes - 20th Century Fox - Cameron Diaz & Shirley MacLaine
Just saw the movie (couldn't get to it last night). I'll post my reviews after the hysteria dies down (let's just say I made a fool of myself in the theatre).
RavenU - so nothing that is a direct threat, then. People looking for action/adventure/thriller they are either going to see "Serenity" or "Flightplan". I agree that "Wallace & Gromit" is the biggest threat of the three, but can't imagine it'll do that much damage... or that much business actually.
I agree that "Wallace & Gromit" is the biggest threat of the three, but can't imagine it'll do that much damage... or that much business actually.


I disagree -- Chicken Run made $17 million on opening weekend, and ended up grossing over $100 million (and the production budget was only $42 million). Furthermore, Wallace & Gromit has a 'G' rating which will draw a ton more movie-goers than Serenity. Every single person in my office has kids under the age of ten. Almost every single one of them is planning to see Wallace & Gromit with their kids next week. Only one of them has stated they will see Serenity this weekend or next.

Believe me, I have evangelized the hell out of these people, and they all want to see Serenity -- just not in the first two weeks.
exactly, just think Galaxy Quest and the Matrix.

And i dont think the advance screenings totals have been added anywhere (to the aussie or US totals) yet.
Sci-Fi has a stigma anyway. Sci-Fi is not your typical date movie. I don't even think of it as Sci-Fi because so far I haven't liked anything in that genre. It's a Joss movie genre which means it's good. (I hope, because I'm seeing it tomorrow)

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