Box Office Power Rankings: November 14-16, 2008

quantum-of-solace.jpgDoes it make sense to get out of the way of a certain blockbuster? Or should studios try to tap into a market being unserved by that which every human is required to see on its opening weekend?

There are certainly examples of effective counter-programming. Mamma Mia! found a $28-million opening-weekend audience despite The Dark Knight’s $158-million debut. It has earned more than $143 million in the United States.

Yet the numbers suggest that studios were wise to avoid putting any wide releases against Quantum of Solace.

In the period between big summer releases and big holiday releases — September through mid-November — in 2007 and 2008, the combined domestic box office of the top 10 movies averaged $84 million, with a median of $80 million. Outside of this past weekend’s $135-million take, only three of those 20 weekends topped $100 million (ranging from $115 million to $123 million).

So it’s a fair assumption that there’s a ceiling for overall box office on a fall weekend, and that an optimistic but marginally reasonable expectation is $115 million.

To figure whether there’s room for a strong opening (say, $20 million) along with a spectacular one (say, $50 million), let’s figure a 50-percent drop-off for the previous weekend’s top eight movies. That gets us $58 million based on the receipts from November 7 to 9.

That leaves us $57 million. So if one predicted a $50-million weekend for James Bond, that would only leave $7 million on the table for the counter-programming. (Quantum actually made $68 million, but hindquarters are 20/20.)

One could point out that release-date decisions are made far in advance, and one could argue that a 50-percent drop of the $84-million fall average that one might use to make such decisions would give us enough room for a $50-million opener and a $20-million-plus opener under our imaginary $115-million ceiling.

I would point out that Quantum of Solace barely squeaked by Role Models in this week’s Box Office Power Rankings.

One might claim that I’m trying to change the subject.

And I would tell one to shut the hell up.

Box Office Power Rankings: November 14-16, 2008
Box Office RanksCritics’ Ranks
RankMovieLast WeekGrossPer TheaterRotten TomatoesMetacriticTotal
1Quantum Of Solace-10 ($67.5M)10 ($19.6K)8 (66)7 (58)35
2Role Models18 ($11.2M)8 ($4.0K)10 (75)8 (59)34
3Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa19 ($35.0M)9 ($8.6K)6 (59)9 (61)33
4High School Musical 3: Senior Year37 ($5.7M)6 ($1.8K)9 (67)6 (57)28
5Changeling46 ($4.3M)7 ($2.2K)4 (56)10 (62)27
6Zack and Miri Make a Porno55 ($3.1M)4 ($1.4K)7 (64)4 (56)20
7The Secret Life of Bees63 ($2.3M)5 ($1.6K)5 (58)6 (57)19
8Soul Men64 ($2.4M)3 ($1.1K)3 (44)3 (49)13
9Beverly Hills Chihuahua-1 ($1.6M)2 ($1.0K)2 (41)2 (41)7
10Saw V92 ($1.8M)1 ($0.9K)1 (12)1 (19)5


Culture Snob’s Box Office Power Rankings balance box office and critical reception to create a better measure of a movie’s overall performance against its peers than gross receipts alone.

The weekly rankings cover the 10 top-grossing movies in the United States for the previous weekend. We assign equal weight to box office and critical opinion, with each having two components. The measures are: box-office gross, per-theater average, Rotten Tomatoes score, and Metacritic score.

Why those four? Box-office gross basically measures the number of people who saw a movie in a given weekend. Per-theater average corrects for blockbuster-wannabes that flood the market with prints, and gives limited-release movies a fighting chance. Rotten Tomatoes measures critical opinion in a binary way. And Metacritic gives a better sense of critics’ enthusiasm (or bile) for a movie.

For each of the four measures, the movies are ranked and assigned points (10 for the best performer, one for the worst). Finally, those points are added up, with a maximum score of 40 and a minimum score of four.

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