Though Box Office Mojo’s Brandon Gray links to a number of stories he considers to be acts of media spin surrounding the box office numbers attached to “The Undefeated’s” impressive opening weekend (yes, I stand by that), my analysis from last week is also included. Which is rather strange when you consider that I used Box Office Mojo’s own numbers to cut through the MSM’s dishonest “flop” spin with a contextual apples-to-apples comparison to other films in the same genre.
Essentially, Gray accuses me and others of going into sub-sub genres in order to make our case. Well, that was the whole point of my piece and I made no secret of the fact that I was doing just that. When you’re analyzing box office, you don’t compare Hugh Grant romcoms to James Cameron blockbusters and you don’t compare the biography of a political figure to “Madonna: Truth or Dare.” If comparing genres to genres is a dishonest way to judge a film’s box office performance, why does Gray’s own web site, uhm, compare genres to genres?
What’s interesting, however, is that after complaining about those of us who he all but accuses of rooting around for numbers until we find ones we like, Gray then doubles down in this same vein, extrapolating the numbers he needs to make an alternate case … starting with this:
Within the minor political documentary sub-genre, The Undefeated‘s $6,532 opening weekend per-theater average ranked 33rd out of the 91 limited openings tracked over the past 30 years, normalized for ticket price inflation. Among all documentaries, it was in the middle of the pack. Hardly worthy of hyperbole.
Well, now I’m really confused. If “normalizing for ticket price inflation” is important for box office analysis, why doesn’t a box office analysis site like, say, Box Office Mojo normalize for inflation? Moreover, comparing a specialty genre like a political documentary to “all documentaries” — which presumably includes films such as “March of the Penguins” — is bringing oranges to an apple party — comparing “Two Weeks Notice” to “Avatar.” And again, if those distinctions don’t matter, why does Gray’s own box-office analysis site break sports films, for example, down into 16 different sub-genres — including two for football.
Seems like an awful waste of energy over numbers that ultimately have no meaning.
Gray then goes even further down this rabbit hole:
To put these numbers into further perspective: The Undefeated‘s ten theaters on opening weekend yielded 159 showings. Using the current average ticket price of $7.86, that means the movie played to an estimated 52 people per average showing or at about one-fifth to one-quarter capacity. In the movie’s second weekend, which had 211 showings, the per-showing average attendance dropped to 15.
Okay. Fair enough. But where’s the context? How does this mind-bogglingly precise act of seat counting compare to to other films in the same genre?
It’s important to note that Gray isn’t disputing anyone’s numbers, including mine. How can he. They came from his own site. Instead, Gray’ss simply coming up with some of his own numbers — and digging much, much deeper than his own box office analysis/reference site does — in order to come up with a particular outcome.
This, however, is the most interesting point Gray makes:
Normally, a movie with such poor box office would not receive story coverage on Box Office Mojo, but the furor over The Undefeated calls for an injection of truth.
I’ve been an observer of the business of Hollywood all of my adult life and have covered it professionally for going on five years now. “Furor” over box office results is nothing new, nor is spin in ways both good and bad between warring camps — political and otherwise. Box office is the lifeblood of a business where a weekend take that differs by as little as ten dollars is of no consequence when that ten dollars means the difference between a number one or two position.
Careers, reputations, and social standing are at stake most every single weekend when these numbers come out.
I won’t speculate as to why Gray chose this particular film and “furor” to single out and hyper-analyze into the ground, but to pretend that a “furor” over box office results is something unique or abnormal is wholly absurd.
In the end, though, it doesn’t really matter what I or Brandon Gray or anyone else thinks. Someone with a lot more to lose than a inter-web spat has enough faith in the public’s demand for “The Undefeated” to ship 250,000 DVDs, make it available in 75 million homes for pay-per-view and VOD, and put up the money to advertise all of this.
Obviously, the second weekend numbers for “The Undefeated” weren’t as impressive as the first. But I don’t know of anyone filmmaker who wouldn’t be thrilled with that opening weekend or the home video distribution deal described above (and in detail, here). Especially — if you’ll forgive my bringing up them apples again — when you’re talking about a political documentary.