Thursday, August 17, 2006

Snakes On A Who Gives A Shit

I guess I should say something about Snakes On A Plane as well, everyone else has, why the fuck shouldn’t I? Here’s my thing about this movie: I want to see it because it looks hilarious. Not like Animal House hilarious but like, Red Planet hilarious or Lost in Space hilarious. I get a huge movie boner for really bad movies. Really I do. Unlawful Entry, love it. Eight Legged Freaks, fantastic. Reign of Fire, one of my favorite movies ever. So yea, I’m going to see Snakes On A Plane because I know it’s going to be terrible.

That being said, I think that’s also the reason why EVERYONE AND THEIR GRANDMOTHER is going to see it and that pisses me off. I feel like what dudes with mullets felt like when Metallica cut their hair: betrayed, angry, hurt, but still giving them money. I’ve loved shitty movies from the get go and now everyone is jumping on the shitty movie bandwagon. I hate to sound like the kid who liked Korn before they got popular, but I owned their first two records long before the quarterback of my high school football team used Freak On A Leash to pump himself up.

So fuck you to all you shitty movie bandwagon jumpers-on (proper grammar bitches.) I’m a really shitty movie enthusiast, do you even know how many times I’ve seen Jingle All The Way? Or Demolition Man? Or Captain Ron? I couldn’t even tell you, their as familiar to me as the layout of his living room is to Matt Murdock. It’s like I know it’s there but it’s just reflex so I kind of don’t know that it’s there. You dig? It’s not even that I like these movies in a slutty-girl-wearing-an-angel-t-shirt irony kind of way either, I really do like these movies and I’ll defend the shit out of them any day of the week.

We need to know what’s bad to know what’s good right? A movie like Pee Wee’s Big Top is like The Joker and a movie like say, Schindler’s List is Batman. How would we know who Batman was if we didn’t have the Joker there to keep him in check? Shitty movies keep good movies in check, otherwise we might get a Chancellor Palpatine style guerilla attack from over-blown, shit slathered “good movies” (notice how Hollywood will copy the hell out of shitty movies, but theres only one Brokeback Mountain?)

So now that I have the whiny bitch part of the argument taken care of, I’d like to take care of something else. Chuck Klosterman wrote a great article for Esquire about Snakes On A Plane where he bitches out Hollywood for turning “the blogosphere” into a virtual focus group, even going so far as reshooting scenes to fit what bloggers wanted. To an extent, he’s right. You can’t manufacture bad, bad just happens. Much like how you can’t manufacture good either. But if you try to manufacture good, then it turns out bad, but if you try to manufacture bad then it becomes down right embarrassing. Right now Snakes On A Plane is on thin ice, it can either be genuinely terrible (and if it is, it will be a treat, it’ll be like double reverse bad, some high level quantum physics electric boogloo style awful) or it will be fake bad, in which case it can be funny like Eight Legged Freaks (which worked because it took it’s self seriously) or it can be bad like Spy Hard (a spoof in an age where regular movies already do enough spoofing of themselves to render that piece of shit irrelevant.)

Anyways, what I ultimately have to say to Chuck Klosterman and the general public is: Who gives a shit? Hollywood has been slowly choking themselves to death for years and Snakes On A Plane will be another nail in the coffin. Let’s face, its like Titanic, we can either run around screaming our heads off and maybe come away with our lives or we can bust out the violin and rock this boat straight into the water. All I know is that come August 18th, I’m gonna be kickin like Yo Yo Ma.

(thanks to Robyn for the link to Esquire Article)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Gross Misconduct: The Success Quotient and You

For as long as I’ve been nuts about movies, I’ve been made even more nuts by what exactly makes a movie a “success”, specifically when they talk about “all time highest grosses” or “record breaking opening weekends”. I think it’s pretty shady to talk about a movies “success” in terms of dollars.

Let me give you an example. Lets say now-a-days a movie ticket costs $10 (I know what you’re saying, “Where does he get his movie tickets for so cheap?”) and the record breaking weekend gross for the current hot movie is $150 million. About ten years ago, a movie ticket would have cost around $5. Let say ten years ago the then current hot movie’s record-breaking weekend gross was only $80 million. Now which one was more successful?

You might say that the movie from now was more successful because it made nearly twice the money that the movie from ten years ago made. This is fundamentally what Hollywood tells us. But do grosses really measure the success of a movie? Can the amount of money people pay for a ticket be the sole indicator for a movies success?

This is where I call shenanigans on Hollywood. I know Hollywood is all about making themselves look good. Whether it’s cosmetically or financially, they’re all jag-offs who for one reason or another can’t afford to not be “successful” (when referencing Hollywood style “success”, I like to use quotation marks. In a city where a man shoving his own fingers into his anus and affecting a funny voice can be granted a cartoon and a sequel with a bigger budget, the term “success” should be a lot more relative than it is.)

Think about this: If 20 people pay 10 dollars to see a movie, this movie made 200 dollars. What if 40 people paid 5 dollars to see a movie, this movie would also make 200 dollars. Let me ask you again, which movie is more successful? I’ve long been more interested in how many people saw your movie, not how much money they paid to see it.

Let me put this in a historical context. In 2005, the average movie ticket cost $6.41. The top domestic grosser for that year was Revenge of The Sith which made $380.263 million in that year. So how do we find out how many tickets were sold for Revenge of The Sith? (Let’s assume that 1 ticket = 1 person, even though there are nutballs, me included, who see a movie at the theatres more than once) It’s simple, divide the domestic gross by the average ticket price and you get: 59,323,400.94 tickets sold. That’s a lot of tickets. That’s almost 1 quarter of the population of the United States.

Now lets go back 15 years. The top domestic grosser for 1990 was Home Alone, it made $285.761 million that year. Almost $100 million less than Revenge of The Sith. The average ticket price was $4.22. So how many tickets were sold? 67,715,876.78 tickets. That’s 8,392,475.84 more tickets than Revenge of The Sith. So which was more successful? Even though Home Alone grossed significantly less than Revenge of The Sith, it’s quite obvious that many more people saw it.

Now I’m not na├»ve enough to think that how many tickets sold should be the sole decider of a movies success. Unlike one-sighted Hollywood, I realize that there are quite a few other things to consider, but if they want to make this about money, lets make it about money:

One of the top grossers of 2005 was Chronicles of Narnia, it made $291.710 million. It made $65.556 million its opening weekend, it premiered on 3,616 screens. That’s an average of $18,130 per screen. So how many people saw it per screen. Lets divide the per screen gross by the average ticket price ($6.41): 2828.39 tickets sold per screen. Sounds like a lot, no?
Now let’s look at the total gross of Chronicles of Narnia, $291.710 million. The movie had a budget of $200 million (not including marketing). So the movie only made $91.710 million domestically. In Hollywood, a movie is considered a “success” simply because it made more than it’s budget back, in this case, they’re right. Chronicles of Narnia was definitely a financial success.

So how can we scientifically measure how successful a movie was? Obviously a movie with a high budget will be seen on more screens than a movie with a lower budget. This is also true for ticket sales, high budget (for the most part) means more tickets. If we want to get down and dirty mathematical about it, this is how I propose one would measure a movie’s success:

NOTE: We’re going to stick with domestic success. Ticket prices and screen counts overseas are too varied and that information isn’t as widely available as the information concerning the domestic box office.

Now lets calculate what I call the Success Quotient:
First we have to determine how much money a movie made, in other words, the profit made off of a movie. Take the Total Domestic Gross of the movie (DG) minus the budget of the movie (B, marketing budget won’t be included, some marketing costs are covered by other companies, there’s no way to figure out how much was spent by the studio, unless you worked for the studio). Now you’ll only be working with profit. Then take the average number of screens it was on per week. (Add each weekly screen count, divide by number of weeks in theatres to get AS). Now take DG-B and divide that total by AS, you’ll get how much money the movie made per screen it was showed during its entire run. Then divide that number by average ticket price for the year the movie premiered in (ATP) and you’ll get an idea of how many people saw your movie per screen. Let me display this mathematically:


Sound good? Let use some real numbers. We’ll use Revenge of The Sith, a movie that’s been called “successful” and successful.

Domestic Gross: $380,263,000
Budget: $115,000,000
Screens By Week: (3661, 3663, 3650, 3322, 2923, 2371, 1759, 1355, 988, 667,
429, 359, 300, 307, 268, 213, 166, 99, 49, 38, 27)
Weeks: 22
Average Screens: 1267.33
Average Ticket Price: $6.41

(380,263,000 – 115,000,000)/1267.33

So why do all these numbers matter? Domestic gross is how much money was made off of a movie. Budget is how much the studio spent to make the movie. You need to subtract the budget from the domestic gross to find out how profitable the movie was. The more money a studio spends on a movie, the more money the movie will make (for the most part). So by using only the profit made from a movie we can get a look at how financially successful a movie is. Higher profit = more people saw your movie. If a movie grosses under budget then that can hardly be considered a success.
You need the average number of screens a movie was shown on because movies with higher budgets will be shown on more screens. We need to divide the profit of a movie by the average number of screens to determine how much money was made per screen. A big budget Hollywood movie will be on more screens and be in theatres longer than a small independent movie. Since more screens means more money, a per screen average is the simplest way to compare the financial successes of movies.
Dividing the per screen average by the average price of a ticket sold during the year of the movies release will get rid of the “financial success” angle that Hollywood loves to use. Like I mentioned earlier, the more money you charge for a ticket, the more money you’ll make. It’s not about how much, it’s about how many.
So what was the Success Quotient of Revenge of The Sith? 32,653.44.
That means that nearly 33,000 tickets were sold per screen. That’s about 41,382,684.12 tickets sold against the profit of the movie. That’s $265,263,005.18 of profit.
I understand that a lot more goes into how successful a movie will end up being. There’s international box office, DVD Sales, Rental Sales, TV Sales and all other kinds of revenues. But, for the most part, a movies theatrical success domestically is fairly indicative of its success in other arenas. If a movie does well here in theatres, chances are it will do well overseas and on DVD (once again, for the most part).
This also doesn’t say anything about the quality of the content of the movie, i.e. is it a good movie? This merely measures how many people saw the movie, not how many people liked it.

I’m going to start compiling a list of the Success Quotient of as many movies as I can, of varied “success”. I’d like to include plenty of big budget movies, but I also can’t wait to start calculating the success quotient of smaller films.
There’s all kinds of information out there regarding everything I’ve discussed, but not every movie ever made has this kind of information associated with it, so if you have a suggestion, keep it recent.

All information for this article was gathered from 3 sources:

Budget and Gross information from:
The Internet Movie Database