Box Office Power Rankings: August 7-23, 2009

district-9.jpgDistrict 9 rightly got a lot of attention. No stars! $30-million production budget! Good special effects! Great reviews! Strong word of mouth! A $37-million opening weekend!

It’s a compelling story, and God knows the movie business needs constant reminders that funding six District 9s can be far more lucrative than bankrolling one G.I. Joe.

Of course, nobody creates the same movie six times. So let’s imagine that instead of spending $175 million to produce G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, a studio decided to make District 9, Julie and Julia ($40 million), Inglouirious Basterds ($70 million), and some piece of shit that cost $35 million and was never released in theaters.

Through August 26, G.I. Joe grossed $123.5 million, Julie and Julia (released the same day, August 7) $62.5 million, District 9 (August 14) $78.5 million, Basterds (August 21) $50.6 million, and Piece of Shit (N/A) $0.0 million. The total box office to date for our quartet: $191.6 million, or 55 percent more than G.I. Joe. And remember that none of our movies has been out longer than Joe, and that the widest release (Basterds) was in 21 percent fewer theaters than Joe at its peak.

In our Box Office Power Rankings, Julie and Julia won in its debut weekend, while District 9 did the same and then held off Basterds to retain its crown.

Yet even though District 9 is a great success story, one has to give credit to those other two films. They might have bigger budgets, actual stars, and familiar directors, but they are seriously hard sells compared to the alien-ghetto premise of Neill Blomkamp’s sci-fi movie.

Box Office Power Rankings: August 7-9, 2009
Box Office RanksCritics’ Ranks
RankMovieLast WeekGrossPer TheaterRotten TomatoesMetacriticTotal
1Julie and Julia-9 ($20M)9 ($8.5K)8 (75)8 (66)34
2Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince17 ($8.9M)4 ($2.6K)9 (83)10 (78)30
3(500) Days of Summer82 ($3.7M)8 ($4.6K)10 (87)9 (76)29
4G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra-10 ($54.7M)10 ($13.7K)4 (37)2 (32)26
5Funny People16 ($8M)5 ($2.7K)7 (65)6 (60)24
6A Perfect Getaway-4 ($5.9M)6 ($2.8K)6 (58)7 (63)23
7G-Force38 ($9.9M)7 ($2.8K)3 (24)3 (41)21
8Orphan51 ($3.7M)2 ($1.6K)5 (56)5 (42)13
9Aliens in the Attic63 ($4M)1 ($1.3K)2 (22)5 (42)11
10The Ugly Truth85 ($6.8M)3 ($2.3K)1 (15)1 (28)10
Box Office Power Rankings: August 14-16, 2009
Box Office RanksCritics’ Ranks
RankMovieLast WeekGrossPer TheaterRotten TomatoesMetacriticTotal
1District 9-10 ($37.4M)10 ($12.3K)9 (89)9 (81)38
2Julie and Julia17 ($12.1M)7 ($5.1K)7 (75)7 (66)28
2Ponyo-2 ($3.6M)6 ($3.9K)10 (92)10 (86)28
4The Time Traveler’s Wife-8 ($18.6M)9 ($6.2K)4 (36)5 (47)26
5G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra49 ($22.3M)8 ($5.6K)5 (37)2 (32)24
6Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince24 ($5.1M)3 ($1.9K)8 (83)8 (78)23
7The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard-5 ($5.6M)5 ($3.1K)3 (29)3 (40)16
7G-Force76 ($6.9M)4 ($2.3K)2 (24)4 (41)16
9Funny People51 ($3M)1 ($1.2K)6 (65)6 (60)14
10The Ugly Truth103 ($4.4M)2 ($1.6K)1 (15)1 (28)7
Box Office Power Rankings: August 21-23, 2009
Box Office RanksCritics’ Ranks
RankMovieLast WeekGrossPer TheaterRotten TomatoesMetacriticTotal
1District 919 ($18.2M)9 ($6K)10 (89)10 (81)38
2Inglourious Basterds-10 ($38.1M)10 ($12K)9 (88)8 (69)37
3Julie and Julia26 ($8.8M)8 ($3.6K)7 (75)7 (66)28
4Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince63 ($3.5M)4 ($1.8K)8 (83)9 (78)24
5The Time Traveler’s Wife47 ($9.7M)7 ($3.3K)4 (36)5 (47)23
6Shorts-5 ($6.4M)5 ($2.1K)6 (44)6 (53)22
7G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra58 ($12.2M)6 ($3.1K)5 (37)2 (32)21
8G-Force74 ($4.1M)3 ($1.6K)2 (24)4 (41)13
9The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard71 ($2.7M)2 ($1.5K)3 (29)3 (40)9
10The Ugly Truth102 ($2.8M)1 ($1.4K)1 (15)1 (28)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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