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October 17 2005

Serenity drops to 6th place for its second British weekend. The movie took just over 490,000 pounds with a drop off of 40% from the first weekend. In total, the movie has now taken 1.86 million pounds in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In Australia, the movie finished in 9th place for the past weekend.

AU - 1,960,114
UK - 3,264,297
Other - 89,855
US - 22,144,000

Total Gross - 27,458,266

Converted to USD.

If we can make another 3 million by the end of the month world wide we might have a movie they will eventually term a sleeper hit. The hard part now is to keep going to the cinemas and bring people with you. We need to at least keep the number of patrons up at the large multiplex this will give us the best chance of keeping it there in order to bring in those casual movie goers whose curiousity might be peaked enough if the movie stays on a bit longer. Plus take your friends and while waiting in line for popcorn or to have your ticket taken, talk about Serenity in a voice that is just loud enough to be overheard by others, cause nothing will make people more curious about a film than accidentall overhearing a lively conversation about it, also while talking about it drop some lines that made you laugh. Doing this on a Friday or Saturday night is a good place to plant the seed of curiousity and remember to mention the name of the film often.
The numbers aren't in yet for the weekend according to boxofficemojo, where do you have those totals from, RavenU?
According to estimates, the totals are only 25 million :-(
WTB - I'm pretty sure RavenU's figures are correct.

RavenU - in terms of US, remember it'll likely disappear from most US theatres on Friday.
The dvd was always gonna turn the film into a bigger profit then the cinemas.

And it's sales to sci fi network I believe. The marketing for the film just hasn't been to the general public, at least there were not big marketing costs to cover hey!

[ edited by SeanValen on 2005-10-17 18:31 ]
They came from BOM for the US and other - then the AU report (from the oz site) and the UK report (from UK can't stop) and the money was converted to US currency, since it was reported in the currency of the GBP (ER=1.7548) and AUD (ER=0.7499).

Actually gossi - it may drop out of another 700 theatres but I believe they will still keep it in the top 2 tiers of US markets for at least another 2 weeks. There seems to be very few major new releases and if Sereinty can stay in the top 15 this week it may be able to hold on to at least 1000 screens if not more.

[ edited by RavenU on 2005-10-17 18:31 ]
SeanValen - the marketing costs of this were huge. The UK costs were around $1.7m, and the US TV adverts alone were at least $10m, probably edging into $20m in total on TV.

RavenU - I'm not as convinced - the fact it had the lowest per screen average of the top 12 this weekend, I think, will lead to a lot of droppages. With Doom in the same sci-fi action genre, I suspect a lot of theatres will opt to drop it for that.

That said, I hope I'm wrong!
Sean don't count on that to heavily, this year movies dvd sales have dropped off by over 25% for the year. Rental companies have dropped the number of copies they carry by 50%, from non number #1 movies and about 25% from #1 releases. These numbers hurt movie dvd profit, also the distribution of the movie dvd is done by another division that typically is concidered a different company which takes another piece of the profit from any money it makes on DVD. Plus you have to take into the fact that movie DVD are 50% less if not more than the tvshow on dvd sets. Therefore the DVD movies has to sell double the TV on DVD set did plus another 1-2x more to cover the cost of what the movie lost in marketing, not mentioning trying to make back any shortfall that may still be there from the cost of the film.

gossi - actually it mostly that works in reverse, typically if a sci-fi film comes out while another sci-fi film is in the theatre, they are more likely to keep the other sci-fi for fall over - especailly if they are expecting a big turn out for the newer release. Since they get more of the profit if they keep it on the screen longer, they may reduce the number of showings per screen but they know if the new release fills their screens but they may go to see the other film. So it may boost Serenity attendence by being an alternate option to Doom. It may be the reason Universal is releasing Doom so soon after Serenity. It's a piggy-back effect.

[ edited by RavenU on 2005-10-17 18:50 ]
A bunch of us went to see it again this past weekend and the theatre was 3/4 s full. Some theatres had dropped it and others had just picked it up, so I expect the new theatres will keep it for more than just one weekend. I hope.
There is no way this film will ever be considered a sleeper hit. If it was going to be a sleeper would be labled so already. The term sleeper hit is reserved for smaller films not expected to do that well. Not films with a 39 million dollar budget that is expected to do well.

No matter how we want to slice it, this film will be considered so so at best. The studio will probably consider it a box office failure if it fails to make back the $39 million or just break even.

Really the stuido will look at DVD sales as the means to make back the expense of making the movie plus marketing. So after DVD sales they might not consider the movie a failure. However, in terms of the BOX office the studio will.

I just think it's a travesty that such a good film didn't get the backing it needed from Universal. The irony is that in the end Universal might consider this a failure yet in my book they are the most responsible for the under the rader marketing campaign.

This movie has a great script, cast and is critical sucess. Had this movie gotten Star Wars type marketing I guarantee this movie would have done boat loads at the box office and started a movie franchise.

[ edited by DarenG on 2005-10-17 19:50 ]
Typically DarenG a sleeper hit is not considered that title until it has been out for a month and has recouped or almost recouped it's cost, also it will never hit number #1. But it is popular enough to stay at the cinemas. Does Serenity have apotential to do this, yes, although it's a small one. This usually applied to critically eclaimed movies that do not bring in bankable box office it's first 2 weekends but stays on screens for more than 4 weeks.
Although, the series DVDs are now at #4 on Amazon's list. I wish Universal got some of that money.
So if you go to BOM and check similar movies you'll see about a year ago Sky Captain pulled in $57.8 million worldwide. With a $37m/$20m domestic/overseas breakdown. If Serenity can make $45m-$50m worldwide I think it would be great. Maybe something like $30m/$17m domestic/overseas. Doesn't seem impossible.
Wikipedia's Definition of a Sleeper Hit

Not to be a downer, but there is no way Serenity fits those criteria.

There was most definitely a marketing blitz, what with advertisements shown during popular tv shows and big money opportunities. While it opened at #2, rather than #1, Serenity's rankings at the BO have consistently gone downwards with an accompanying downward turn of the per-screen averages. A sleeper would go up with great word of mouth, which would spur even more marketing and television/radio/print advertising.

Serenity, with all its positives, will not garner any Academy award nominations beyond any technical awards, which it will undoubtedly not win... not when facing, say, Star Wars: Episode III which is really nothing more than a tech demo.

The only chance it has to become a "sleeper" would be to have an uncommonly successful DVD sales AND rental record. And while I think that would be nice, I seriously doubt it will happen. The one thing Firefly had to garner that sort of attention was its uniqueness as a television series, which came from a fleshing out of the world that goes hand in hand with being a (cut-short) long-term series. As fun as Serenity is, it really doesn't "break the mold," so-to-speak, as the series did, which makes a wildy successful home video campaign fairly unlikely.

Maybe I'm just a pessimist, but it was a heck of a trip... but the ship has sailed.
Totally agree. Sleeper hits are not defined by longevity or the ability to recoup costs. Sleeper hits are simply movies that were not expected to do much at the box office but become a hit. Hence "sleeper". Obviously the EXPECTATIONS for Serenity alone preclude it from ever being labled a sleeper no matter how the movie does long term.

Now the only way this could be deemed a sleeper hit would be on DVD sales. For instance if the movie completely blew away all DVD sales expectations.

[ edited by DarenG on 2005-10-17 21:50 ]
I was just reading the complete article on weekend box office over at boxofficemojo...I came across this upsetting yet apparently accurate statement: "Despite a supposedly dedicated fan base, the $39 million space western has performed like a below average genre picture". As much as I want to do so, I can't disagree!
I think the fanbase was smaller than people originally thought.
"Despite a supposedly dedicated fan base, the $39 million space western has performed like a below average genre picture". As much as I want to do so, I can't disagree!

The problem here is that the box office failure of Serenity is not attributable to the fan base. This is just Box Office Mojo jumping on the anti-fan bandwagon.
Having said that, I don't think Universal made the movie with the sole purpose of depending on the existing fan base. They were hoping that a larger audience could be built upon and that the movie would have a wider appeal. I think the Firefly fan base was just where the studio thought it was. It's just that fan base didn't expand the way they thought it would.

Then again, they shouldn't be that surprised because they depended too much on the browncoates to advertise the movie versus putting some real marketing dollars behind a Star Wars. Universal has themselves to blame.

[ edited by DarenG on 2005-10-17 22:00 ]
The other factor is that, increasingly, TV advertising is meaningless to a lot of people who have DVRs.

I know of people who are really into movies who had no awareness of Serenity. The marketing campaign is definitely cut-rate -- quite possibly that was built into Joss's original deal.

The fact of the matter is that the entire entertainment and media industry is growing increasingly fractured and niche-oriented. It's changing so fast I don't think the suits and their bean counters have the slightest handle on things (assuming they ever really did.)

And while "sleeper hit" may have a specific definition, there certainly examples from history of movies that have been, for lack of a better word, were resurrected, or found new life. Two examples that come to mind are "Bonnie and Clyde" and "Office Space" (which took a couple of years to build up from abject failure to "cult hit" status to a movie that just about everyone of a certain age has seen).

In any case, it's been my experience that whenever a movie is seen by over, say, a couple of hundred thousand people, and it's enjoyed by a majority of them and many people are passionate about it, that movie doesn't just go away.

Also, as I've said elsewhere, there's another X-factor and it's that Joss and the BDHs aren't going anywhere. If Joss or Nathan in particular score a monster hit, that will ignite interest in other work they've done and give them far greater "juice" than they currently possess. I think if that happens, a sequel or two is a very real possibility.

[ edited by bobster on 2005-10-17 22:37 ]
All i can think of is Xander's line in "Fear, Itself."

"Big overture, little show."
Yes but I think you are looking at Serenity through a tunnel vision point of view, because you are so close to the tree you see the forest. For the most part Serenity received no real media blitz unless you were paying attention. While at the premiere, I heard from some of the press that this was a pretty small turn out compared to other releases. If you look at other releases you will see that the Serenity release was marketed to the fans directly (via sci-fi showing of Firefly) and the advertising meant for everyone else was only out perhaps a week to week and a half before it's release and it was not in some of the most highest rated shows for that week. So it still has a chance to become a sleeper hit, even though we think it had a lot of marketing in reality Universal put more money in putting together the DVD than they did to market the release of the actual film. They expect word of mouth and critcal reviews to make money for this movie. The fact that it is still getting reviews may be a good sign that the movie will stay around. I don't think Universal thought the movie had any appeal outside of the loyal fanbase, barring Mary Pagent at Universal who by the time the movie was released was no longer in her position at Universal. Thus I do not believe they had the faith in it, that they have in Doom since funny enough I have seen the Rock on more talk shows and ads for the movie, than I ever saw of the entire crew of Serenity do interviews and I was looking for them.
I saw my Dad today and he told me he's been watching Firefly on Sci-Fi. He likes it. He hasn't seen all the episodes, I think he missed the first part of the season. I'd like to get him the DVDs for Christmas. Does anyone know where I can get the best deal?

I asked him if he wants to go see Serenity with my brother and me. He said yes. My father a Browncoat? That gives me giggle fits.
The total lack of TV interviews seems very strange to me. I know the BDHs aren't superstars, but I still think Joss or Nathan could have pulled in SOMETHING. In theory, this is free publicity, though nothing is really free, of course -- I wonder how much their non-appearance was a function of the lower marketing budget or whether they were simply rejected by all the TV producers.
I'll try to post Spanish numbers the next week (release date Oct 21).
Firefly here is an unknown, even for some Buffy fans, but the tv ads say "from Buffy and Angel creator", so I think at least that will lead people to the theater.
Or maybe no-fans will go anyway.
Appears amazon or walmart with prices at $30.00 would be your best bet, esg, unless someone knows a store where they're having a special.

Joss did say that the movie would have to make 80M total for Universal to consider it a success. I'm thinking the BO sales will top out around 35M. Though I believe the DVD sales will be excellent, I doubt they'll make 45M profit for Universal. Because that's a heap load of DVD sales forks. And I'll be the first to cheer if I'm proven wrong. At least we got our BDM, that in itself is quite a statement.
To be absolutely honest, I think this will struggle internationally now. I won't go into why here as I don't think mud slinging will help at this point.

The DVD set will have to do really, really exceptionally well for this to break even for the studio now. I'm sure after TV rights, licensing, DVDs etc etc, after a few years, this will break even... But I really can't think of a vastly positive way to spin it from a studio point of view.

From a fan point of view, the movie got made, it got made well, and again: I really like it.

I do agree with Simon, I think the fan base size was overstated slightly (I'm not sure it was millions at all - when you look at the figures they just don't show that) and the marketing campaign just wasn't mainstream enough. It got the sci-fi cliques, yes, but not the average jo, at least in the US. In the UK it has got average jo into the cinemas, just not enough of them (but that's gotta be largely down to our 15 certificate).

The way I've come to look at this today is this: the figures were bad. Not enough people saw it for franchise material, at least not yet. Many people tried. Many people failed. But I still got my movie, and it's beautiful, and many people other than me love it also.
People are saying it would be extremely difficult to pull in $45 million in DVD sales. Can anyone give me an idea of how much most movies make on DVD, and how much very popular movies make? Is it completely unrealistic that Serenity would make $45 million? Pretty unlikely? Or is it quite possible that it would make that amount?
Vampire dan - From humting around the web it looks as though movies make between 50% and 150% of the box office from DVD sales.

Here are some figures for Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. You can find figures for a lot of other movies on this site.

There is a report entitled "Filmspace: Behind the Scenes, ABN Amro, Sept. 12, 2000" which is quoted on several web sites like this one (look about half way down the page). It estimates that box office receipts typically generate 26% of a film’s revenue, dvd/vhs sales and rentals (46%) and television (28%) accounts for the remaining proceeds.

As with any figures from the web treat these with great caution. I don't think we are where we want to be at the moment but we are not out of the game either.
Well, if those figures are right, it looks like there's still a fair bit of hope for Serenity, especially given that it's likely to do particularly well on DVD. I won't be too optimistic, but let's not give up on a sequel yet, even if the movie was a great achievement in itself!
The total gross over on BOM now is:

Country Release
Total Gross / As Of 10/16
Australia $1,981,994
Portugal $152,687
Russia $711,201
United Kingdom $3,313,792
US $22,306,230

Total Gross: $28,465,904

They must have gotten the actual figures in after RavenU posted, this is a million dollars more so that's nice!

Russia looks good, doesn't it? just three days and already $711 thousand. I have no idea though, what russian normal figures for opening weekend grosses are.

Still living in denial land here. Wake me up when the sequel is coming the the cinemas..... ;)
Did some research, appears that 50-60% of the price of a DVD is profit for the studio that produces it. Lets take the low side and call it 50% which will be $10.00 per DVD. Five million DVD sales should net 50M. Bear in mind this is just a average estimate, the numbers for 'Serenity' may be different.
Bear in mind this is just a average estimate, the numbers for 'Serenity' may be different.

Especially because we can assume there's gonna be a Serenity DVD campaign.
Yeah, but still, 5 million, that's a WHOLE lot of DVDs. How many units of the Firefly boxed set were sold?

And also, I have to agree with Gossi, the international box office is going to suck, since it seems that UIP has completely given up on the movie. Last news I heard was that the movie was being pushed back in Belgium to be released together with the new Harry Potter, after already having been pushed back in Holland with a screencount of only twelve. Which means it probably won't get any good screens in Belgium either and not make much profit - if at all, really.

The international boxoffice results will most likely be depressing, apart from the UK and Australia.
Yeah, but still, 5 million, that's a WHOLE lot of DVDs. How many units of the Firefly boxed set were sold?

About 1/10th of that - 500,000. So figure 5 million to the studio for DVD sales.

And 80million worldwide is looking like a very, very long way off.
Ayone else see it Monday night?

Went to my sixth screening in Toronto at Paramount downtown. What a surprise -- 50 to 70 people in the audience for an 8 o'clock showing. The hearty laughter revealed these were not repeat viewers, but authentic newbies who got word somehow that they should see Serenity. It was a great crowd, especially for a Monday night.

At one point, about 15 minutes into the film, a couple came in. Then about 10 mins later, they left. Then five minutes later they came back with hands full of popcorn and drinks. Must have been looking for film to watch and liked what they saw.

ETA: just adding more accounts of happy viewers. One family, two separate couples and several others saw it on the weekend and loved it. See, once you see it, it takes hold. I suppose it's too late to hope for an upswell in attendance since Serenity will appear in fewer cinemas this weekend. Dammit!

[ edited by Drifter on 2005-10-18 10:04 ]
My daughter dragged her boyfriend along to see it yesterday. He adored it and is now demanding a loan of "Firefly". Not too many others in the cinema, they said, but it was a 12 o'clock showing on a Monday, not even half term.
Drifter - this is the problem in the US. If people see it, they likely love it. But nobody wants to see it there.

Internationally, if the UK or Oz campaign was recreated, this could make a lot of money. However, it needs a LOT of effort, and lets be honest: the signs point to this not happening (France, for example, which launches this weekend with no advertising).
Nah, I don't think we are seing this RavenU with tunnel vision at all. I am simply looking at it like like any other movie. For instance Ace Venture Pet Detective was considered a sleeper hit. Why? Because the budget was low, had no marketing (way less then Serenity) and there were zero expectations.

I think we all agree the marketing wasn't very good for Serenity but still way more then a typical low budget movie. Serenity still opened in alot more theaters then most of the movies that ended up as "sleeper" hits. Plus anytime you spend 39 million on a movie and release it in a good number of theaters...the expectations are much higher. You can't consider Serenity a sleeper movie because it doesn't fit the category and Universal had high expectations to begin with.

I have high hopes though on DVD. I think expectations are going to be much lower for DVD sales now that the movie is just doing so so. I for one hope the DVD sales go through the roof and it becomes an unexpected hit. Also towards your earlier point, I hope the movie finds a new audience on movie rentals. I think then people will understand they missed out on a good movie.

Who knows maybe the DVD rentals/sales will convince Universal to give it one more try and put some real marketing muscle behind the next installment.
Harpy - Russia's opening should put it 2nd, with the #1 new opener for the weekend... I've not seen the final totals yet, but that's my estimate. It's actually done pretty well in Russia - almost twice as much as "The 40 Year Old Virgin" got there, for example.
I really don't think Universal is to blame for the low box office turn-out. In fact, I believe they did a remarkable job in promoting our movie. Nearly 100 prescreenings, showing Firefly on SciFi, and sending the cast over the world to promote the movie. I think Universal did a fine job and they liked the fan support and the positive reviews they were seeing. That wasn't the problem.

As others have mentioned here, they overrated the fanbased numbers and, more importantly, the word of mouth those fans would draw others to give this movie a watch. Second, the average Joe American isn't as internet savvy when it comes to picking an entertaining film to watch over the week-end. They check out the posters at the theathers or take a peek at their newspapers. Be honest, if you never heard of Joss Whedon or cared only for a star's name that you recognized, what would you think upon looking at the 'Serenity' poster? You wouldn't, you would wander to the next poster.

The bottom line, the movie just didn't draw the mainstream audience. It's unfair because it's a great movie. Could've, should've, didn't. I do hope the strong DVD sales will change this situation and get the word out. Time will tell.
I don't think it deserves a front page post but What Went Wrong looks at the marketing behind Serenity.
zz9, interesting. I did a 'blame game' blog entry about something similar.
zz9 and gossi, I think those articles touch upon the problem correctly. Thanks for sharing them with us.
Madhatter - the serenity campaign was anything but "remarkable". Pre-screenings are nothing more then a cheap attempt to get people to go see the movie and do word of mouth advertising. I can't remember another film that did so many prescreenings. Some would argue that it was innovative to try and get the word out that way. Others would argue it was the cheap way to get the word out without a multimillion dollar ad campaign a la Star Wars.

Universal did nothing out of the ordinary in terms of sending out cast memebers to promote the film either. Almost all big films do the same thing. How many cast members of the film appeared on shows like Jay Leno?? Just compare marketing campaigns for even Doom compared to Serenity. I don't think that film is going to be any good yet it's marketing is bigger. I bet a subpar movie like Doom will have a better opening. Why? Marketing.

Universal didn't want to spend the marketing dollars on what they deemed was a risky film. Univeral's marketing team knows exactly what the estimated fan base is. There marketing company does this for a living. If you wanted to argue that they depended too much on the fan base and thought they could do a better job spreading the word then I would agree.

Bottom line is that Universal pinned it's hopes on word of mouth advertising and it failed. Don't get me wrong I am very grateful to Universal for giving Joss Whedon an avenue to continue the Firefly franchise. However, Universal is sqaurly to blame for not reaching a wider audience. After all if every studio depended on the fans to do the advertising for them none would reach a main stream audience.
DarenG, you make some very interesting points. I had some qualms about the merits of having so many pre-screenings, something I mentioned in a message I posted quite some time back. However, I'm not sure I would agree that "Universal is squarely to blame for not reaching a wider audience."

To be perfectly honest, I think the film failed to reach this wider audience because they were not interested, as simple as that (which I do not intend in any way to be a criticism of the film).

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