Ask yourself this question: “Why is there such a thing as a professional movie weekend gross forecaster?”
I mean, I’ve been watching these guys closely for 18 months and never paid them a dime and that’s true of all 19,000+ players of this game, so why do they do it if they give away the answers for free? As I like to remind everyone every once in awhile, it’s all about theater managers. As in, the people who manage staffing at your local AMC. They use those numbers to help them figure out how many ticket sellers, ticket takers, cleaning staff, and concessionaires they need to give hours to on a Friday night a month from now or possibly change based on a big marketing push the week before. These pro forecasters do what they do to get those eyeballs to their websites.
In other words, they don’t do it for us and they never did.
As such, something foreseeable has finally happened to Fantasy Movie League: The players are now better than the pros. If you think about it, though, it’s not a fair fight. There’s a lot more of us than there are of them, their precision needs are very different than ours, and we have more data at our disposal later in the week than they do.
So, why are you seeing this article earlier in the week than normal and why does it have a different title? Because the time has come to retire the model that has served me so well for the past year and evolve this space to better suit what this community has become.
Jets, Jets; Sharks, Sharks
Last week there was Chatter drama over the so-called “Sharks” and their sharing of information in the SKYNET league separate from the main forum. I’m still completely OK with that but it’s not like all of them have remained silent and even those that said they would still shared information after the fact that we can all learn from.
That’s what I’ve decided to do with this column. Instead of relying on pro forecasts so heavily, I’m going to look at what we can learn from the top players based on what they posted last week and what we can infer by what they have posted (or will post) this week. Throw in a dash of references back to my Analyzer and you have a new column format for the first time in a year.
What Did We Learn From Last Week?
I don’t know if this will become a regular post from him (I sure hope so), but M37 shared his thoughts on the week after the deadline but before any serious returns came in. His thoughts there emphasize something that those of us who have gone through Awards season are painfully aware of: the dates of comps matter.
You can’t compare how a movie will drop after Thanksgiving weekend (or Christmas weekend, or New Year’s Eve weekend, or etc.) to one that is on a “normal” weekend another time of the year. Holiday weekends are inflated so the subsequent weekend is depressed. The weekend after that tends to be slightly inflated again to make up for the depression of the weekend in between, all things being equal.
When you’re comparing dailies this week or weekly drops, keep in mind that this past weekend was a down one to make up for the Thanksgiving holiday and this weekend will likely see small drops by comparison. Take a look at the drops from last year, Week 2 Awards season, there’s a lot of drops in the 20%-30% range (excluding the lone new release from the previous week) for that reason.
How about New Films this week?
With the above lesson in mind, take a look at this custom Long Range Forecast graph:
That includes the lone film that debuted during this same weekend last weekend, “In The Heart of the Sea”, aka Moby Thor. It also includes comedies in the data set on the same weekend going back to 2010. These aren’t perfect comps by any stretch, but notice the pattern: They all did worse than ProBoxOffice expected, which doesn’t bode well for “Office Christmas Party”.
What are the Combos to Watch this week?
You could do a lot worse than starting your analysis each week with CCR’s always excellent Bonus Bar post. I took all his estimates, set them in the Lineup Calculator, and then moved sliders for all his Worst Performer candidates to the far left to eliminate them from anything other than low end filler consideration. That yields this starting point.
“Office Christmas Party” isn’t likely to break $20M based on current data. Thursday preview numbers might change my mind, but even if it got to $21M, there are more attractive choices elsewhere. Multiplier comps are tough to find for an R-rated comedy this time of year, but about the best we can do are the x35-ish Thursday numbers that “Top Five” and “Night at the Museum 3” posted in 2014. That equates to me not getting too excited about “Office Christmas Party” unless it brings in more than $650K or so on Thursday.
“Nocturnal Animals” will expand this week but at the Bonus Bar, it would have to get roughly $2.2M to compete for Best Performer. That translates into a theater count above at least 700, probably a lot more. It’s $5,500 Per Theater Average from last week will fall quite a bit with an expansion that large, making it tough to make the case for playing it.
Both “Moana” and “Arrival” did better than expected this past weekend and a hold in the teens seems unlikely for either. Daily numbers may reveal something else is going on, but even “Frozen” dropped in the high 20% it’s third weekend and “Moana is tracking more closely to “Tangled”, which dropped 38%. Moving “Moana” to 25% drops it from BP contention but leaves it eligible for a high end anchor. Doing the same for “Arrival” seems fair.
Setting CCR’s mid tier films down slightly gives you this set Lineup Calculator settings, which now has the top potential choices (minus “Arrival”) separated from others a bit more. With that as a base, what combinations should you be considering?
“Trolls” is tracking close to “Peanuts“(25% Week 6 drop) and “Fantastic Beasts” to the original “Harry Potter” (37% Week 4 drop), justifying multiple screens of each in different slight variations off of those comps. “Doctor Strange” is reasonably close to “Spectre” (27% Week 6 drop), so same deal there.
That leaves “Almost Christmas”, “Allied” and “Hacksaw Ridge” as the remaining films to consider, none of which have great comps. If you compare all three to CCR’s Bonus Bar of $60K, though, “Almost Christmas” can drop the most (37%) and make that number. If it got closer to a 30% drop, multiple screens of it are in play. “Hacksaw Ridge” would have to have a better than 30% drop to be Best Performer relavent and I’m finding it hard to convince myself that “Allied” could over perform the Bonus Bar given how it failed to reach BP last week. That leaves me with this final set of Lineup Calculator settings and the following combinations to watch this week:
However, while all of these emphasize the top films discussed here, some use less than $950 FML Bux, making them slightly less attractive based on what history tells us about that spending threshold. Check dailies on these well-comp’d films for further guidance and and Phil’s showtime report on Thursday should tell you if theater count drops hurt the ceiling on these key films to watch.