Box Office Power Rankings: May 1-25, 2009

star-trek.jpgThe conventional wisdom says that among the early entrants in the summer 2009 sweepstakes, Star Trek is a hit (and a winner in its first three weekends in our Box Office Power Rankings), Wolverine is a disappointment, and nobody cares about Angels and Demons. Yet X-Men Origins: Wolverine had the biggest North American opening of the three: $85 million.

These evaluations are muddied by so many variables — buzz, expectations, marketing, screen saturation, critical assessment — that it’s difficult to cut through the crap. This leads to some conventional wisdom that is anything but wise, such as the idea that the 2008 Hulk reboot was, in box-office terms, a triumph over its nearly identically performing 2003 forebear.

But I think we can say with some quantifiable certainty that our first impressions of the 2009 summer movie season are correct.

One simple measure is second-weekend drop-off, generally considered a reliable indicator of a movie’s staying power.

So: Wolverine dropped 69.0 percent from $85 million; Star Trek dropped 42.8 percent from $75 million; and Angels and Demons dropped 53.0 percent (not counting the Monday holiday) from $46 million.

The combination of opening box office and relative performance in the second weekend seems to support the consensus. Solid openings for both Wolverine and Star Trek suggest excitement about the titles, and they diverge from there. Angels and Demons debuted 40 percent lower than The Da Vinci code, confirming apathy.

But you can’t take either factor independent of the other. The Dark Knight’s second-weekend percentage drop (52.5) is rubbing up against Angels and Demons’, but you must consider the height ($158 million) from which it fell.

And these numbers probably work best in one-on-one comparisons. Last summer, both Iron Man and Indiana Jones had three-day opening grosses around $100 million; identifying which dropped 55.3 percent the next weekend and which dropped 48.1 percent would just confirm what you already know in your gut.

Box Office Power Rankings: May 1-3, 2009
Box Office RanksCritics’ Ranks
RankMovieLast WeekGrossPer TheaterRotten TomatoesMetacriticTotal
1Earth14 ($4.3M)6 ($2.4K)9 (85)10 (72)29
2The Soloist25 ($5.7M)7 ($2.8K)6 (55)8 (61)26
2X-Men Origins: Wolverine-10 ($85.1M)10 ($20.8K)3 (36)3 (43)26
4Monsters Vs. Aliens66 ($5.8M)5 ($2.2K)8 (71)6 (56)25
517 Again47 ($6.4M)4 ($2.0K)7 (56)5 (48)23
6Ghosts of Girlfriends Past-9 ($15.4M)9 ($4.9K)2 (28)2 (34)22
6State of Play31 ($3.7M)2 ($1.5K)10 (86)9 (64)22
8Obsessed78 ($12.1M)8 ($4.8K)1 (19)1 (25)18
9Fighting42 ($4.0M)3 ($1.7K)4 (40)8 (61)17
10Hannah Montana: The Movie83 ($4.2M)1 ($1.5K)5 (44)4 (47)13
Box Office Power Rankings: May 8-10, 2009
Box Office RanksCritics’ Ranks
RankMovieLast WeekGrossPer TheaterRotten TomatoesMetacriticTotal
1Star Trek-10 ($75.2M)10 ($19.5K)10 (95)10 (83)40
2X-Men Origins: Wolverine29 ($26.4M)9 ($6.4K)4 (36)3 (43)25
3Earth12 ($2.7M)3 ($1.5K)9 (85)9 (72)23
3The Soloist24 ($3.9M)5 ($1.9K)6 (55)8 (61)23
5Monsters Vs. Aliens43 ($3.3M)4 ($1.5K)8 (71)7 (56)22
617 Again56 ($4.2M)2 ($1.5K)7 (56)6 (48)21
7Ghosts of Girlfriends Past68 ($10.3M)7 ($3.2K)3 (28)2 (34)20
8Next Day Air-5 ($4.1M)8 ($3.6K)2 (19)4 (46)19
9Obsessed87 ($6.6M)6 ($2.5K)2 (19)1 (25)16
10Hannah Montana: The Movie101 ($2.2M)1 ($1.0K)5 (44)5 (47)12
Box Office Power Rankings: May 15-17, 2009
Box Office RanksCritics’ Ranks
RankMovieLast WeekGrossPer TheaterRotten TomatoesMetacriticTotal
1Star Trek19 ($43.0M)9 ($11.1K)10 (95)10 (83)38
2Angels and Demons-10 ($46.2M)10 ($13.1K)5 (37)6 (48)31
3X-Men Origins: Wolverine28 ($14.7M)8 ($3.8K)4 (36)3 (43)23
3Monsters Vs. Aliens54 ($3.2M)4 ($1.6K)8 (71)7 (56)23
517 Again65 ($3.4M)3 ($1.4K)7 (56)6 (48)21
6Earth31 ($1.7M)1 ($1.1K)9 (85)9 (72)20
7Ghosts of Girlfriends Past77 ($6.7M)7 ($2.1K)3 (28)2 (34)19
7The Soloist33 ($2.4M)2 ($1.2K)6 (55)8 (61)19
9Obsessed96 ($4.6M)5 ($1.7K)2 (19)1 (25)14
9Next Day Air82 ($2.2M)6 ($2.0K)2 (19)4 (46)14
Box Office Power Rankings: May 22-25, 2009
Box Office RanksCritics’ Ranks
RankMovieLast WeekGrossPer TheaterRotten TomatoesMetacriticTotal
1Star Trek18 ($29.4M)7 ($7.2K)10 (95)10 (83)35
2Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian-10 ($70.1M)10 ($17.1K)7 (44)5 (43)32
3Terminator Salvation-9 ($51.9M)9 ($14.7K)4 (33)8 (51)30
4Angels and Demons27 ($27.4M)8 ($7.8K)6 (37)7 (48)28
5Monsters Vs. Aliens32 ($2.1M)2 ($1.4K)9 (71)9 (56)22
6X-Men Origins: Wolverine35 ($9.9M)5 ($3.1K)5 (36)5 (43)20
7Dance Flick-6 ($12.6M)6 ($5.2K)3 (28)3 (41)18
817 Again51 ($1.3M)1 ($1.2K)8 (56)7 (48)17
9Ghosts of Girlfriends Past74 ($4.8M)4 ($2.1K)3 (28)2 (34)13
10Obsessed93 ($2.4M)3 ($1.5K)1 (19)1 (25)8


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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