How to Know if Something is Going to be a Box Office Hit

Box Office tips from our very own "W".

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Norman Bates
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How to Know if Something is Going to be a Box Office Hit

Post by W »

Hey, it looks like I've finally hit the bigtime! Barca asked me to do a weekly/bi-weekly/monthly column for the Box Office version of this game and I said, "How much does it pay?" No, you can guess what I really said. Anyways, I'm not really going to start with a column per se, but a guide for you to determine for yourself what are good BO picks or not. Its mostly simple, some of it is obvious, and some is elementary but I overlook it sometimes and pick films like Wolverine, Bruno, and Land of the Lost (didn't have it on a slate, but drafted it in the full year).

Some Thoughts to Begin:

-The most important thing to remember about playing Box Office is that a film will not make money if no one wants to see it. Most everything I say from now on will just extrapolate upon this truth.

-Clear your mind of what you like when picking. Since you are not the average theater-goer, it is safe to assume that you will not be able to predict what will/will not be liked by the general population using your personal tastes and prefrences. It is safer to use other people as Guinea Pigs in your Box Office experiments because the more people you can average out the closer you are to average, but I would warn you not to look on film sites like IMDB, BoxOfficeMojo, etc to see that they are looking forward to because they are not the average theater-goer either. A better site (for this purpose ONLY) is Yahoo! Movies and Fandango records. I never use these sites as I rely on people I know more than that. I do use HSX to get a general idea of what people in our situation are thinking and you'll probably see those numbers a lot in future columns.

-Sometimes you have to throw caution to the wind and just go with your gut. It sounds corny, but sometimes things just don't make sense. Like I will never understand how Marley & Me did so well. It didn't look good, I never heard anyone say "I gotta see that," but it did well. Usually, though, its best to follow a few pointers.

-Ok, now that these points are out of the way, the simple way of putting box office is this way: Opening x Legs = Outcome. That's easy enough, but these must be broken down even more, which is what this part of the guide is all about.


How can you tell how high something is going to open? You can estimate this by looking at a few things. Target audience, buzz, marketing, and theater count. Basically, what you're looking for is a large target audience and an very interested target audience. When both of those hit, the sky is the limit, but you can still make out pretty well with a very large audience or a very interested audience as long as the other one isn't extremely small. Some examples:

Twilight: Small(er) audience, massive interest from that audience, $69 M opening.
G.I. Joe: Massive (potential) audience, little interest from that audience, $55 M opening.
The Dark Knight: Massive audience, massive interest from that audience, $158 M opening.

Marketing is really included in the "buzz" catagory, but I'd like to say that if a film has no marketing, don't even think about it because that means that awareness is low. For theater count, the only thing I really look for is how wide it is. If its not wide it won't normally pan out unless its in a November and/or December league, then it may offer enough theaters in January and February to make it worth your while.


For those who are new to the game, the term "legs" refers to how well a film holds its gross from week to week. If it drops 40% or less, then it will probably have good legs throughout. A drop of 50% is about average. A drop of 60% is pretty bad, though sometimes acceptable if your film surpassed expectations already. Anything over that is horrible.

Here's how you can kind of quantify "legs." Legs are determined mostly by how good the film is percieved to be by the target audience. This includes repeat viewings and word of mouth--people that have seen the film telling other people whether it is good or bad. If people tell others its a great film, others will probably go and see it. If a large amount of people see the movie again... Well, that just writes itself.

Also if the film is liked enough by the general population, that helps as well. For instance, wide releases that make the IMDB Top 250 in their first weekend of release tend to have great legs. So far in 2009 there's been The Hangover, Up, Star Trek, and now District 9. You can probably guess how District 9 is going to turn out. If a film is considered by the Oscars, it will have better legs because of it as well.

You can tell that something is going to have great legs ahead of time if a film was reviewed before it comes out and its close to unanimous that its a great film, it will probably have great legs as well.

Lastly, a film can be viewed by a target audience enough that it becomes a fad. This can be the best thing to happen to a film. When your second cousin calls you up and says "You haven't seen ______? What are you, DEAD?" Then you know it has become a fad.

Anyways, that's about it. Remember to look for buzz, a large target audience, and how well the film looks to other people. Above all, think of what other people want to see and grab that.

Anything that you want to add about how you find box office success, please just reply to this topic. I was told that the September pricing would be up next week, so I'll preview September's box office possibilities next week.
Tenet: Criterion Edition. Now with more Backwards Man.

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Peter Gibbons
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Re: How to Know if Something is Going to be a Box Office Hit

Post by Brockster »

How about a Holiday Season BO prediction column W? I'll I've heard from this thread is crickets chirping!

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Re: How to Know if Something is Going to be a Box Office Hit

Post by undeadmonkey »

that's what im doing in my guest column, will be posted sunday-ish, i wanted to release it in november, which is kind of the official start of the holiday BO season