Box Office Mojo has published the hard numbers for the weekend's box office. Let's take a closer look at how Ponyo performed:
1 - District 9 - $37,354,308 (total) - $12,251 (per screen avg) - 3049 (screens)
2 - GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra - $22,324,341 - $5,571 - 4007
3 - The Time Traveller's Wife - $18,623,171 - $6,233 - 2988
4 - Julie and Julia - $12,055,918 - $5,121 - 2354
5 - G-Force - $6,915,642 - $2256 - 3056
6 - The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard - $5,642,137 - $3070 - 1838
7 - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - $5,141,072 - $1855 - 2771
8 - The Ugly Truth - $4,448,232 - $1628 - 2733
9 - Ponyo - $3,585,852 - $3868 - 927
10 - Funny People - $3,010,755 - $1165 - 2584
Okay, these are what the estimates would be, so there's no surprise. There's no getting around it - we're in a distant ninth and it hurts. The competition turned out to be far more stiff than I would have expected even a couple weeks ago. Julie and Julia is probably the one surprise on the list, but it's also pretty much the only movie for educated grown-ups. Everything else from Hollywood is formula, formula, formula.
Now for the good news, and I'm sure you already spotted it. The per-screen averages put Ponyo in a much stronger light. If we rank accordingly, we're suddenly #5. That places our movie behind District 9 (Peter Jackson sci-fi), GI Joe (explosions!!1!), The Time Traveller's Wife (chickflick) and Julie and Julia (movie for grownups).
That top four is a very tough nut to crack. It depresses the hell out of me to realize that, but such is the nature of today's moviegoing public. Two questions: what difference would a larger theater count have made, and how effective was Disney's marketing? Would a stronger push have made the difference?
Let's look at the day-to-day tallies:
$1,174,539 - $1267 per screen
$1,320,192 - $1424
$1,091,121 - $1177
The numbers aren't good, but they aren't bad. The daily averages were pretty solid for a foreign anime movie. The big question now is what happens this next week. As a children's movie, Ponyo's strongest performance is on the weekends. The weekdays would be a good time for those elusive anime fans to show up. The next weekend is absolutely critical. This will reveal whether word-of-mouth has had any effect, or if audiences have already moved on. The decline from week to week is very steep, so this is really the make-or-break time for Ponyo.
Right now, I'd say the goal is to top Spirited Away's $10 million. Disney must absolutely break that barrier; if they fail to do so, after all of their efforts, then Ponyo's rollout will be judged a disaster. I'm glad Howl's numbers will be surpassed, but that movie was buried alive. I fear a similar fate will befall Ponyo.
The wildcard, as always, is Disney. Do they continue to promote the movie? Do they keep the number of movie screens, or start dropping them? Do they cut their losses and quit?
So, Ghibli Freaks, what is the verdict? What should happen now? And what should have been done to get those numbers higher? Is there any way to fill these seats, or are we just kidding ourselves? Is there no room for Miyazaki in America???