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“Coraline” is doing just fine at the box office, thanks (or – How I learned to stop worrying about opening box office, because it’s kind of useless)


If you haven’t guessed from my impromptu “theme” portrait change last week, I really, really, liked Henry Selick’s “Coraline”… which is interesting, because I was decidedly lukewarm on Neil Gaimans novel (admittedly I’m probably not the target audience, but that hasn’t stopped me from raving about other work even less demographically aligned).

I was somewhat surprised to read today at over at Occasional Superheroine (a regular comic blog haunt) that Valerie thinks that it’s troubling that Coraline’s opening was “lower” than “Friday the 13th”. Well what she exactly said was:

“Eyebrows [are] raised at how huge the opening was for “Friday 13th,” and how low “Coraline’s” was in comparison.”

Really? I’d like to see whose eyebrows, so I can tell them how they’re very, very, wrong. Coraline’s opening would suggest it will be a much more profitable film than the newest “Friday” by a large margin.

Let’s put this into context. “Nightmare Before Christmas” the most successful stop-motion animation of all time – had an opening weekend of $8.1 Million dollars. (It actually had an opening weekend of $175k but that was a limited release). It went on to gross over $1 billion, on its surprising longevity, and the fact that it just kept playing theatres for an absurdly long time.

“Coraline” made over twice that it’s opening weekend ($16.8M), and (depending on which numbers you use) only dropped a tiny amount last weekend (to $15M) or (with the adjusted grosses I’ve seen) possibly *increased* to $19M.

In the theatrical distribution biz – anything better than a 20% dropoff has to be considered a big success. Now then, horror movies, on the other hand are *notorious* for very quick, sharp, dropoffs (as they have a devoted, but small, audience). That’s why budgets are generally so low on films which (seemingly) cover their whole production budget in one weekend. Just at random I pulled the data for the last “Saw”, which opened at $30M – very similar to “Jason”. In it’s second week it dropped to $9M – a 66% dropoff. Third weekend? $4M. You get the gist.

So – imagine “Saw V” and “Nightmare before Christmas” opened the same weekend. Would you assume that “Saw”s $30M meant it was going to destroy “Nightmare”‘s $8M? Because “Nightmare”‘s grand total (still growing) $1 Billion is a lot better than Saw’s worldwide lifetime BO of $57M.

Now lets take this even further, and add in the wrinkle that in the “modern era” box-office doesn’t necessarily correlate with the financial success of a film (although it’s, undoubtedly, an indicator). It’s not uncommon for the majority (if not all) of a films theatrical revenue to just be reinvested into marketing the DVD, VOD, and television licenses… and even then so we really don’t know what films are successful or not, ever – unless we happen to be studio accountants. One good example is the, hilariously incomprehensible, “Mortal Kombat II” – which made a profit before it was ever released (thanks to some lucrative tie-in deals and a bizarre location incentive). MK2 is, seriously, incoherent – but its anaemic $16M opening weekend was just icing on an already existent cake.

The important thing is “Coraline” is currently at over $42M worldwide so it will have no problem recouping it’s $35M budget – which is fantastic for such an ambitious film (that the Laika team could find anyone willing to put money into traditional craft animation in this age of CGI is laudable alone).

It’s also great, great, fun – and one of the few films where I completely advocate spending the $5 premium to see it in 3D if you can… it’s (mostly) subtly implemented 3D, which adds a tremendous amount of texture to the story.

… I liked the film a lot, if you haven’t gathered.

What I didn’t like however was the fershinlugger 3D glasses… but that’s food for another post when I get a mysterious package in the mail in a few days. FORESHADOWING!