Box Office Power Rankings: December 12-14, 2008

delgo.jpgIf you’ve heard of the animated Delgo, it’s most likely for its infamy. Opening this past weekend in 2,160 theaters, it barely grossed $500,000. Its per-theater revenue was $237, meaning that with an average ticket price of $7 and five screenings per day, a little more than two people showed up each time the movie was exhibited.

Needless to say, Delgo does not show up in this week’s Box Office Power Rankings, won once again by Bolt, which is feasting on weak competition such as The Day the Earth Stood Still, a bomb that looks like The Dark Knight compared to Delgo.

Box Office Mojo notes that Delgo had the worst wide opening since at least 1982. The chart indicates that if you open in 2,000 or or more theaters, $2 million in ticket sales are pretty much guaranteed. (See: The Adventures of Pluto Nash [$2.2 million] and this summer’s The Rocker [2.6 million].)

So something went horribly wrong with Delgo.

At the movie’s Internet Movie Database trivia page, one learns that the independent production spanned six years and that the dailies were shown on the movie’s official Web site:

“Fathom Studios made a highly progressive move by opening themselves up to scrutiny from the outside. They posted their progress online over a number of years, and not in the form of sanitized press releases or occasional images. They were actually using their site to post dailies, rough footage, fragments of animation as they were being scrutinized, polished, and reworked. This was a first for any active studio production.”

Another nugget:

“Fathom Studios signed only recognizable, bankable actors for principle [sic] parts as part for [sic] their production master plan. They then rolled out their cast announcements gradually, thus maximizing the PR impact and addressing potential distribution concerns of the companies they needed to get the film into theaters.”

Here we note the distinction between getting a movie into theaters and getting paying customers into those theaters.


“The movie was scripted as the first film of a potential trilogy.”

There are at least two people excited about the possibility: Freddie Prinze Jr. and Chris Kattan.

Box Office Power Rankings: December 12-14, 2008
Box Office RanksCritics’ Ranks
RankMovieLast WeekGrossPer TheaterRotten TomatoesMetacriticTotal
1Bolt17 ($7.5M)7 ($2.4K)9 (85)9 (68)32
2Milk-2 ($2.6M)9 ($7.9K)10 (93)10 (84)31
3Twilight38 ($8.0M)6 ($2.2K)4 (45)6 (56)24
4Quantum Of Solace45 ($3.7M)3 ($1.4K)8 (65)7 (58)23
5The Day the Earth Stood Still-10 ($30.5M)10 ($8.6K)1 (20)1 (39)22
6Four Christmases59 ($13.1M)8 ($3.7K)2 (24)2 (41)21
6Australia66 ($4.2M)4 ($1.5K)6 (53)5 (53)21
8Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa73 ($3.2M)2 ($1.1K)7 (63)8 (61)20
9Nothing Like the Holidays-4 ($3.5M)5 ($2.1K)5 (47)4 (51)18
10Transporter 391 ($2.4M)1 ($0.9K)3 (36)4 (51)9


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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I hadn’t heard anything about “Delgo” up until a few days ago, and the very notion of the film struck me as thus: it seemed like a poor attempt to cash in on the popularity of animated films (seeming to forget the idea that a good script is vital for such a project), and to cash in on the popularity of the kids/pre-teen science fiction/fantasy genre. It’s as if the producers thought that they’d have an immediate box office heavyweight on their hands.

But it was six years in the making. What was it trying to cash in on — Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie?

My guess is that they worked very hard to produce the movie and shafted the marketing budget. Seriously: You release a move in 2,000 theaters, your automatic base is $2 million.

Just found your blog through Ebert’s “Answer Man” mention. Solid stuff; I’m especially impressed with your Top 100 list, which is one of the best I’ve ever seen. (Not that I don’t still worship Rosenbaum’s Top 1000.) Especially thrilled to see Hana-Bi, American Movie, Fast, Cheap and Out of Control and Primer on there.

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