Box Office Power Rankings: December 5-7, 2008

cadillac-records.jpgCadillac Records opened this past weekend with a respectable $5,023 per theater, and got good reviews. It came in second place in this week’s Box Office Power Rankings behind only three-time winner Bolt, the unstoppable force that nobody cares about.

But because it was only in 686 theaters, it couldn’t make a box-office splash, earning $3.4 million overall and landing in ninth place. And because it was in 686 threaters, it was too big to be one of those only-in-major-cities movies that generate buzz and huge per-theater numbers. (Think Milk.)

If you believe (as I do) that perception plays a role in long-term performance, Sony/Columbia has done Cadillac Records a major disservice. It doesn’t smell like a turd, but on the surface it sure looks like one — yet only because of how it was released.

What might have been? Dreamgirls ($103 million in total domestic box office) opened in three theaters. Walk the Line ($120 million) opened in 2,961. Ray ($75 million) didn’t open wide wide (2,006 theaters), but it still managed a $20-million opening weekend.

Box Office Power Rankings: December 5-7, 2008
Box Office RanksCritics’ Ranks
RankMovieLast WeekGrossPer TheaterRotten TomatoesMetacriticTotal
1Bolt18 ($9.8M)7 ($2.8K)10 (84)10 (68)35
2Cadillac Records-2 ($3.4M)9 ($5.0K)7 (64)9 (64)27
3Twilight49 ($13.0M)8 ($3.6K)4 (44)5 (56)26
4Quantum Of Solace36 ($6.8M)5 ($2.0K)8 (65)6 (58)25
5Four Christmases510 ($16.8M)10 ($5.0K)2 (24)2 (41)24
6Australia77 ($7.1M)6 ($2.6K)5 (52)4 (53)22
7Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa55 ($5.1M)2 ($1.5K)6 (62)8 (61)21
8Role Models81 ($2.6M)1 ($1.4K)9 (75)7 (59)18
9Transporter 3104 ($4.7M)4 ($1.8K)3 (36)3 (51)14
10Punisher: War Zone-3 ($4.3M)3 ($1.7K)1 (18)1 (30)8

Methodology

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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