Friday, 21 December 2012

What can I expect when Christmas falls in the late half of the week?


Christmas weekend is one of the most difficult times of the year to predict opening adjusts well, especially for new traders who aren't familiar with box office patterns.  Depending on the day of the week Christmas falls on, the time between opening and adjust can be anything from two days to six.    This means that traders are making their adjust predictions, they have to factor in previous box office and weird adjust multipliers.

This column and its prequel will examine historical box office data from Christmas-time releases by release day going back to 1998 to help you plan for the annual Christmas openers.  This column covers Friday through Sunday and talk generally about Christmas legs, while Monday through Thursday is in the other column.

Friday
The last Christmas to fall on Friday was in 2009, and the one before that in 1998.  On HSX, when Christmas falls on Friday, the weekend adjust works like a normal three day weekend, with the adjust calculated with the usual formula:

(Friday to Sunday box office) * adjust multiplier of 2.7

Also, Christmas 2009 had two expanding releases with an adjust multiplier of 3 - Up In The Air and Nine.

Movie
Release
Date
Release
Day
Fri
Dec 25
($M)
Sat
Dec 26
($M)
Sun
Dec 27
($M)
3-Day
Total
($M)
3-Day
IM
DM
Mighty Joe Young
25/12/1998
Fri
3.1
4.1
3.2
10.4
3.3
3.86
Patch Adams
25/12/1998
Fri
8.1
9.6
7.4
25.1
3.1
3.94
Stepmom
25/12/1998
Fri
5.9
7.3
5.9
19.1
3.2
3.76
Alvin & the Chipmunks 2
25/12/2009
Fri
13.9
19.8
15.1
48.9
3.5
3.47
It's Complicated
25/12/2009
Fri
7.2
8.4
6.5
22.1
3.1
4.08
Nine
25/12/2009
Fri
2.0
1.9
1.5
5.5
2.7
3.35
Sherlock Holmes 1
25/12/2009
Fri
24.6
21.8
15.9
62.3
2.5
2.92
Up in the Air
25/12/2009
Fri
3.6
4.4
3.2
11.3
3.1
4.54

Even though Christmas is a big box office day, all of the movies above - except the blockbuster adventure Sherlock Holmes and the musical Nine - performed between 17% and 43% stronger on December 26 and had consistently strong IMs above 3.  Three of them were movies aimed at children - Mighty Joe Young, Patch Adams and the Chipmunks sequel - and two were aimed at older women - Stepmom and It's Complicated.

None of them delisted below their adjust price, and the kids' movies and the mothers' movies all having solid delist multipliers above 3.5.  Up in the Air - the Oscar-bait movie - had the strongest legs of all.

Saturday

So far, we have had three HSX Christmasses fall on Saturday - in 1999, 2004 and most recently in 2010.  When Christmas falls on a Saturday, studios seem to pick between two release patterns.  They either choose a Wednesday release on December 22, or they wait to release on the actual Christmas Day.

The Wednesday openers are treated like any normal mid-week release, and their opening adjust formula is as follows:

Wednesday + Thursday box office + (Friday to Sunday box office) * adjust multiplier of 2.7

Movie
Release
Date
Release
Day
Wed
Dec 22
($M)
Th
Dec 23
($M)
Fri
Dec 24
($M)
Sat
Dec 25
($M)
Sun
Dec 26
($M)
5-Day
Total
($M)
5-Day
IM
DM
Man on the Moon
22/12/1999
Wed
2.5
2.2
1.3
3.2
3.0
7.5
3.0
3.71
On Any Given Sunday
22/12/1999
Wed
3.6
2.9
2.1
5.7
5.7
13.5
3.7
4.46
Meet the Parents 2
24/12/2004
Wed
12.1
12.3
7.2
19.5
19.4
46.1
3.8
4.55
Meet the Parents 3
24/12/2010
Wed
7.1
7.1
5.0
14.6
11.3
30.8
4.3
3.94
True Grit
24/12/2010
Wed
5.5
5.7
4.8
10.4
9.7
24.8
4.5
4.72


Once again, the box office drops heavily on Christmas Eve.  True Grit had the smallest Christmas Eve drop of 16%, and the others had Christmas Eve drops in the range of 26% to 42%.  But things jump up immediately on Christmas Day.  True Grit's Christmas bump is 118% - and that by far is the lowest of the five movies here.  The Meet the Parents sequels had respective Christmas bumps of 173% and 194%.  Crazy.

The 5-day IMs are all over the place, and no pattern stands out.  True Grit had a higher IM than the "see with the rest of the family" movies.  The delist multipliers are all strong to very strong - as you would expect with Christmas Eve falling on the weekend.

Let's look at the movies that open on Saturday and have a two-day weekend.  Movies released this day get a special multiplier,  and the last time this occurred, in 2010, the adjust formula was:

(Saturday to Sunday box office) * adjust multiplier of 4.8

Also on this list is The King's Speech, which was an expanded release and had an adjust multiplier of 3.

Movie
Release
Date
Release
Day
Sat
Dec 25
($M)
Sun
Dec 26
($M)
2-Day
Total
($M)
2-Day
IM
DM
Galaxy Quest
25/12/1999
Sat
3.4
3.6
7.0
2.1
6.95
Talented Mr. Ripley
25/12/1999
Sat
6.4
6.3
12.7
2.0
4.99
Fat Albert
25/12/2004
Sat
5.6
4.5
10.0
1.8
4.55
Aviator
25/12/2004
Sat
4.2
4.2
8.5
2.0
5.90
Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
25/12/2004
Sat
2.4
2.1
4.5
1.9
4.80
Darkness Falls
25/12/2004
Sat
2.9
1.7
4.6
1.6
4.69
Gulliver's Travels
25/12/2010
Sat
3.4
2.9
6.3
1.8
6.12
King's Speech
25/12/2010
Sat
2.1
2.1
4.2
2.0
9.58

None of them were high-profile releases compared to the big hitters released on Wednesday.  There's a mix of serious Oscar-bait movies - The Talented Mr. Ripley, The King's Speech, The Aviator and I guess The Life Aquatic - and broad comedies like Gulliver's Travels, Galaxy Quest and Fat Albert.  It's a diverse mix, but all of the above movies had IMs of around 2, with the horror Darkness Falls performing worst.

And all of them had what look like high delist multipliers of above 4.5, but remember the adjust multiplier was 4.8 and any DM under that number is a post-adjust short.  Only Darkness Falls and Fat Albert fell under that mark.

Sunday

There have been two HSX Christmas Sundays so far - in 2005 and 2011.  This time, studios have three release patterns to choose from - a mid-week opening, a Friday release and a Sunday release.  Also, because HSX is closed on December 25, the adjust does not take place until Monday.

Last time Christmas fell on Sunday, in 2011, the opening adjust was treated like a 4-day weekend, with the usual multiplier:

Previous box office if applicable + (Friday to Monday box office) * adjust multiplier of 2.2

Here are the movies that opened mid-week or on Friday:

Movie
Release
Date
Release
Day
Wed
Dec 21
($M)
Th
Dec 22
($M)
Fri
Dec 23
($M)
Sat
Dec 24
($M)
Sun
Dec 25
($M)
Mon Dec 26 ($M)
4-or-6-Day
Total
($M)
4-or-6-day
IM
DM
Cheaper by the Dozen 2
21/12/2005
Wed
2.5
2.7
3.9
2.0
3.4
6.0
20.6
8.1
7.45
Fun with Dick and Jane
21/12/2005
Wed
3.8
3.8
5.3
2.5
6.6
7.1
29.1
7.7
6.03
Memoirs of a Geisha
23/12/2005
Friday
-
-
2.7
1.5
2.6
3.4
10.2
3.8
6.55
Ringer
23/12/2005
Friday
-
-
2.4
0.7
2.1
2.5
7.7
3.2
6.19
Mission Impossible 4
21/12/2011
Wed*
8.9
6.4
9.7
6.2
13.7
14.6
59.5
6.7
3.56
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
21/12/2011
Wed
5.1
3.3
4.6
2.5
5.6
6.7
27.9
5.5
4.15
Tintin
21/12/2011
Wed
2.3
2.4
3.5
2.4
3.8
5.4
19.9
8.6
4.27
We Bought A Zoo
23/12/2011
Friday
-
-
3.0
1.9
4.5
5.2
14.6
4.9
4.48

Memoris of a Geisha expanded wide after a limited platform release.  And the fourth Mission: Impossible gets an asterisk, because it had an IMAX release the previous week - though this did not affect its multiplier.

Once again, you can see the box office plummet on Christmas Eve Saturday with a 30% drop (by Tintin) being the most solid performance of the bunch.  Most had Christmas Eve drops in the range of 30-50% with the 2011 releases having smaller drops than the 2005 releases. The Ringer had a staggering 72% drop.  You don't see a 72% drop on Saturday very often.

The box office rebounds again on Sunday.  Tintin had the lowest increase (55%) and The Ringer the highest ($223%).  No obvious pattern jumps out though., but one interesting thing is the 2005 films had far better legs than the class of 2011.  Still, the films from both years were all strong and delisted well above adjust price, thanks in part to the impact of Christmas Eve falling on the weekend.

Now let's move to the Sunday openers that get a two-day weekend.  Obviously they get a special multiplier, and last time this happened the adjust formula was:

(Saturday to Sunday box office) * adjust multiplier of 4.8


Movie
Release
Date
Release
Day
Sun
Dec 25
($M)
Mon Dec 26 ($M)
2-Day
Total
($M)
2-day
IM
DM
Producers
23/12/2005
Sun
1.6
1.7
3.3
2.1
5.27
Rumor Has It
23/12/2005
Sun
3.5
4.0
7.5
2.2
5.33
Wolf Creek
23/12/2005
Sun
2.8
2.1
4.9
1.7
3.23
Darkest Hour
23/12/2011
Sun
3.0
2.1
5.1
1.7
4.09
War Horse
23/12/2011
Sun
7.5
7.0
14.5
1.9
4.65


Similarly to the Christmas Saturday openers that have a 2-day weekend, these have IMs of around 2, with the horror movies - Darkest Hour and Wolf Creek - performing the worst.

And again, the delist multipliers appear very high when compared with other Christmas releases, but you have to remember they had an adjust multiplier of 4.8.  So only two of the three - and none of the 2011 releases - delisted higher than their adjust price.  So that's not good.

Christmas Legs

Now we have been through every day of the week Christmas could possibly fall on, let's see what the average delist multipliers for each scenario look like:


Christmas Day Falls on:
Average Delist Multiplier
Monday
5.9
Tuesday
3.1
Wednesday
3.9
Thursday
3.5
Friday
3.6
Saturday
4.3
Sunday
5.2
Saturday - 2 day weekend
5.6
Sunday - 2 day weekend
4.5
Expansions
5.8


On average, Christmas openers delist above their adjust - with the exception of movies that open on Sunday, December 25.  The period between Christmas and New Year is always a popular time to see movies, so this is not unexpected, and also movies released in the Christmas week will usually delist after the MLK weekend, which means they get an extra day of box office before cashing out.

We can expect that movies opening in years when Christmas Eve falls on Friday, Saturday or Sunday will have a higher delist multiplier than when Christmas Eve falls during the week.  The lowest of the first set of days - Saturday - has an average DM of 4.3.  The highest DM for when Christmas Eve falls during the week is 3.9 - and that's based on a sample size of one movie.

Also, movies that expand over Christmas tend to have extremely good legs regardless of the date, particularly if there is Oscar anticipation and they are family friendly.  The King's Speech, which was heavily favoured for Best Picture and Best actor - had the highest delist multplier of any of the Christmas movies here - while movies that failed to generate any Oscar buzz like Nine did less well.

And remember, you can also check out what happens when Christmas falls earlier in the week at this column.

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