When it comes to the financial performance of a movie, the reasons for success and failure can be boiled down into two factors: How much money a movie makes in it’s opening weekend, and how well it holds that audience over the following weeks. This post will focus on the former, including the Highest and Lowest opening weekends of the year as well as the Highest and Lowest per-theater averages.
While there are a lot of variables thrown in that effect opening weekend grosses like limited releases, gradual theater roll-outs and midnight premiers, the vast majority of films that are released nationwide start out on at least 1,500 screens. Most major releases hover between 3,000-4,000 while nearly anything above 4,000 screens will generally get a midnight screening to boot. Here are the highest the highest screen counts for movies released in 2012.
- The Dark Knight Rises – 4,404
- The Avengers – 4,349
- The Amazing Spider-Man – 4,318
- Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted – 4,258
- Men In Black 3 – 4,248
- Brave – 4,164
- The Hunger Games – 4,137
- The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 – 4,070
- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – 4,045
- Ice Age: Continental Drift – 3,881
As you can see here, the only movies on this list that aren’t sequels are The Hunger Games Brave, but The Hunger Games is based on a widely popular book series and the Pixar brand practically acts like a sequel in the way audiences respond to it. The bottom line is the amount of movies a studio releases a film onto shows how much confidence it has in that film, and the only movies that get anywhere near that sort of confidence any more are sequels to successful films.
With those screen counts in mind, here are the highest opening weekends of 2012
- The Avengers – $207.4 Million
- The Dark Knight Rises – $160.9 Million
- The Hunger Games – $150.5 Million
- The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part II – $141.1 Million
- Skyfall – $88.4 Million
- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – $84.6 Million
- The Lorax – $70.2 Million
- Brave – $63.2 Million
- The Amazing Spider-Man – $62.0 Million
- Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted – $60.3 Million
Of course, the first thing you’ll notice here is how The Avengers didn’t just beat the previous opening weekend record set by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2; it DESTROYED it. Nearly recouping its massive production budget in it’s first three days, it’s unlikely any movie will come even close to unseating The Avengers’ claim to that title (Unless it does so o itself in 2015 with The Avengers 2) Aside from The Avengers though, 2012 was still not to shabby. Four of the top ten Opening weekends of all time were released over the last year; The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hunger Games, and Breaking Dawn – Part 2.
Notice that despite their much higher theater counts, Men In Black 3 and Ice Age: Continental Drift are not on this list. In their places are Skyfall and The Lorax, the latter of which is one of the biggest surprises of the year as other than the Dr. Seuss Brand that has been so widely used over the past decade, it was not a sequel.
Combining these two criteria, we arrive at another metric of a film’s opening weekend success; the per-theater average. For the purposes of this analysis, I’ll only be taking a look at movies which opened on over 1,000 theaters. Here are the top per theater averages of 2012.
- The Avengers – $47,698
- The Hunger Games – $36,871
- The Dark Knight Rises – $36,532
- The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 – $34,660
- Skyfall – $25,211
- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – $20,919
- The Lorax – $18,830
- Ted – $16,800
- Think Like A Man – $16,693
- Brave – $15,928
As you can see from the fact that 9/10 of these films went on to make over $200 million at the domestic box office, per-screen average is arguably the best determinant of how well a movie’s marketing has actually done at getting people to actually want to see a movie. As a quick note, The Lorax, Ted, and Think Like A Man are all the highest grossing entries in their respective genres for 2012, and none of them are sequels. There is yet hope for original content!
Now let’s take a look at the movie in 2012 that bombed hard and bombed fast. As a quick note, I’ve edited my previous Stat-tastic post on Domestic Box Office grosses because I missed two of the worst performing films of the year; Christian/Uber-Patriotic Drama Last Ounce of Courage and the utterly laughable Atlas Shrugged: Part 2. Here are your worst opening weekends from films released on at least 1,000 screens.
- The Oogieloves in the BIG Balloon Adventure – $444,000
- Last Ounce of Courage – $1.59 Million
- Atlas Shrugged: Part 2 – $1.75 Million
- The Cold Light of Day – $1.83 Million
- Chasing Mavericks – $2.27 Million
- Won’t Back Down – $2.60 Million
- Fun Size – $4.10 Million
- Hit and Run – $4.53 Million
- The Words – $4.75 Million
- Monsters Inc. 3D – $4.77 Million
Things to note here, 8/10 movies here are part of the 10 lowest grossing movies of the year, which goes to show that it’s very, VERY difficult for a movie to overcome a bad opening weekend.
Finally, we have the worst per theater averages of 2012, which are as follows.
- The Oogieloves in the BIG Balloon Adventure – $205
- Won’t Back Down – $1,034
- Chasing Mavericks – $1,117
- Last Ounce of Courage – $1,127
- The Cold Light of Day – $1,217
- Fun Size – $1,360
- Hit and Run – $1,577
- The Words – $1,696
- Atlas Shrugged: Part 2 – $1,731
- Monsters Inc. 3D – $1,824
Bottom line, every one of these movies make up the biggest bombs of 2012, but the biggest of them all remains The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure. This $20 million dollar question mark of 2012’s release schedule is the only movie on IMDb to have fewer customer ratings than the amount of theaters it was released in.