Tuesday Box Office Report

It's time for the Tuesday Box Office Report, and for the first time, we have good news!

Ponyo's overall place remains the same as ever, 9th in total revenue, 5th in per-screen averages. Tuesday earned $566,788 total, and $611 per screen. This number is a 1.3% increase from yesterday's numbers. Alright, it's small potatoes, I know, but we could use any bit of good news we can get.

The decay rate on movies today is somewhat drastic, a steadily decline of 40%-50% each week. Most movies earn the bulk of their money on the opening weekend and the days immediately after. Each weekend cuts those numbers in half, and successful movies will have a slow and steady burn.

I crunched the numbers over a three-week run, and at that rate of decay, Ponyo would fail to reach the $10 million record established by Spirited Away. There's really no hope new waves of moviegoers, inspired by word-of-mouth, emerge. Nearly all of the Miyazaki fans have already seen the picture. We're the first ones in line. Parents still undecided about taking their children to the multiplex will more likely just wait it out for the DVD.

Disney's representatives tried to put a smiling face on this weekend's numbers, but that's just being diplomatic. The bottom line is that hopes and expectations were high that Ponyo would be made a hit. That hasn't happened and it's not going to. Disney promised a hit and they failed miserably.


BionicVapourDude said...

I saw it again today!

Will I see it again tomorrow? My sources say yes!

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

Yaay!! My question, then, BionicVapourDude, is what would have happened if the Magic 8 Ball said no? Best 2 out of 3?

swampy said...

Looks like all the action/comedy movies dropped and romance/family movies saw a bump up. This weekend is going to be tough with more added competition, but I have high hopes for word of mouth to keep Ponyo afloat. Disney dropped the ball on promoting the picture.

Stephanie said...

How is it possible for a movie released in such a limited number of theaters to make the same amount of money as movies released in many more? It seems like it's doomed from the start in that case. I have to wait for the DVD because of where I live :/

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

@swampy: I hope you are right. I don't think Ponyo has any direct competition. The problem is how rarely "word of mouth" affects movies anymore. There was a time when a movie needed time to properly find an audience. Today, the cattle are packed into the theaters on opening weekend, and years of instantly disposable product creates a short-term mindset.

Typically, a movies comes out on Friday, and by the next Friday, it's history. Even the biggest blockbusters are out of the public consciousness within a couple weeks.

Is there still a buzz around Harry Potter or Transformers? I remember the blockbusters of my youth, movies like Star Wars, E.T., the Star Trek movies, Batman, Terminator 2. Those pictures lasted all summer long; they'd open in June, and we'd still be talking about them in August. We'd even sneak into the theater for another show when we needed air conditioning.

Today? Bam, Boom, out the door and hop on the next ride. I have to wrack my brain to even remember what movies were playing a month ago. Stupidity and sensory reign supreme at the cineplex. Meanwhile, real movies, the kind told with skill and purpose, languish in obscurity. It's as though the average American is so conditioned and programmed by endless explosions and cliches that they are afraid of anything that's different.

@stephanie: It does seem like the deck is stacked against us. The per-screen numbers are a far more fair judge of performance. Could Ponyo do better on 3,000 screens? I really don't know that. This community of ours may be far smaller than we were ever willing to admit.

swampy said...


I was really optimistic but you have almost stolen all of the wind from my sails. I did some rough math and figure that the average number of people during any showing might be 24. However, I haven't looked into that same statistic for the top 3 movies. I realize that the days of long movie runs is well over, but they still do happen (Lord of the Rings pops into mind). However, it's all dependent on subject matter.

More theaters would make a big difference. With most theaters offering digital project, I wonder how much a digital print costs the studio to make and distribute. If it's considerably cheaper than a film print, then we have to ask how much money was budgeted to Ponyo for promotion and distribution.

It would be great to compare the budget for Howl's and Spirited Away. Hopefully, we would see a positive trend and could expect Earthsea to have a bigger promotion/distribution budget.

What is the highest grossing foreign film and foreign animated film in US history?

rubi-kun said...

The major drop-offs tend to be for the big blockbusters, though. Small films that get glowing reviews like Ponyo tend to have better legs. We might want to compare its trajectory more toward a movie like (500) Days of Summer rather than a movie like Harry Potter. It might be especially apt since Summer made roughly the same amount of money in its first week as a wide release as Ponyo did in its opening. It dropped only 20% the next week. Using that math, Ponyo will have made around $8.5 million by Monday. At a more conservative estimate of a 33% drop, it's still around $8 million. After that it only has about two weeks to make serious money before animation fans' focus turns to 9, but at the very least the movie will outgross Spirited Away.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

@swampy: Don't feel too bad. My moods on this subject rise and fall. As I'm always saying, the weekend is key.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon remains the highest-grossing foreign film in the US. How that happened, I'll never know. For whatever reason, it connected. Most foreign movies earn next to nothing, only play in major cities and independent theater chains, and remain known only to cinephiles and critics.

Disney has given a far greater push for Ponyo than any other Studio Ghibli movie. Spirited Away was pretty much buried; it was quickly re-released in theatres after its Oscar win, and that's how it earned $10 at the box office. Howl was treated similarly, but was kept on a tiny number of movie screens.

It's sad, but $10 million is a great success for a foreign movie in the US. And 900+ screens is practically unheard of, unless you're dealing with a famous celebrity like Jackie Chan or Jet Li.

Hayao Miyazaki's name may be known to many movie lovers, but enormous barriers to acceptance remain in America. Perhaps we should see Ponyo's performance this way. I'm trying to find acceptance myself, but, as you can see, I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, and I have a habit of tilting after windmills.

Don't feel sad or blue, everybody! Our community is growing every day.

Chris said...

I just noticed something which my own logic should have told me before:

For the heck of it, I was taking a look at my hometown's online newspaper. (I was born and raised in a pretty small town in Ohio.) I haven't looked at that for years. I was scanning through the movie reviews to see what the local critic thought of Ponyo (although Ponyo itself isn't playing in my city: you have to drive 30 minutes to another town to see it). Anyway, I was shocked to see that all they did was reprint Christy Lemire's negative AP review. I realized these kinds of small town local papers probably wouldn't review Ponyo themselves as it's not playing in their cities. I realized since Lemire's review is AP, then EVERY SINGLE newspaper in similar circumstances would do the same: reprint her review because its AP. I'm not saying this is responsible for Ponyo's lackluster grosses, but it can't have helped that out of eight-nine reviews of which only six were bad, one of the worst reviews is the one that's most disseminated!

Chris Sobieniak said...

I managed to be one of the first that Friday when it came out to watch the first screening at my local theater (right after recovering from pneumonia at that), and I felt proud of seeing it anyway. I was hoping for a bigger turnout as well over the weekend.

korman643 said...

you're being worried for nothing. Frontloading (dropping more than 40% from the debut weekend) is a phenomenon typical of teen movies, or movies with terrible word of mouth. Ponyo is neither. I believe it may drop around 20%, but there's still the chance the drop may be even smaller.
"Ponyo"'s biggest problem is that, given its demographics, it may not enjoy a healthy dose of repeated views (which are the base of a lenghty stay in theaters).
Small suggestion when you're analyzing box office results - always keep things firmly in context. For instance - if during weekdays every other movie drop and Ponyo does not, this means an older demographic has kicked in, but this does NOT necessarily mean the core demographic (in this case, families) is stable.

Very nice website, love to see Takahata's movies getting so much space (I'm one of those lucky enough to have seens "Horus" in theatres in 1969 - mindblowing stuff!)

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

@korman643: I do hope you're right. I'll continue to pay close attention to the box-office numbers and do my best to learn.

So you got to see Horus, Prince of the Sun in 1969! Wow! You will definitely have tell us the story about that. What was it like? What kind of people were there? What was their impression? Did it seem shocking, strange, exciting, completely out of left field?

I'd love to hear the impressions of people who were lucky to experience that firsthand. Do tell, do tell.

korman643 said...


the story is quite simple. "Horus" was of course advertised in Italy as "Il Piccolo Principe Valiant" ("Little Prince Valiant") so our father took us to see it in a small theatre near our house under the wrong impression that it was something out of Hal Foster comics (which he loved reading, and had introduced us to). As he still says today, it was a wonderfully timed mistake!

It turned out one of those life changing experiences, both for me (8 years old at the time) and my younger brother (which was 6). Keeop in mind that none of us was exactly so naive in terms of quality animation - beside the usual stuff (Disney, H&B, MGM and WB), the Italian television at the time was showing Jiri Trinka, Norman McLaren and Lev Atamanov week in week out (plus even more esoteric things like Karel Zeman, or animated stuff from Hungaro Film).

But nothing was like "Horus". I remember being absolutely terrified by Grunwald appearence ("Night on Bare Mountain" sequence on Fantasia did scare me too, but not that much!), and falling in love instantly with Hilda. I remember also vaguely understanding it was a Japanese movie (but my brain recorded the setting as "ok, Iron Age Russia"). In any case, we emerged from the theatre in a state of complete shock. And it still has remained very much with us - my brother a couple of decades later, when he decided to get a tattoo, ended up with a giant pike on his shoulder (guess why?)

I'm happy I had a chance to see it back then on a big screen (the Italian dub was excellent as usual), but some detail - particularly the significance of Hilda's songs) were inevitably lost. In any case, it gave me a thirst for more of the same. And living in Italy "more" came in the form of almost every single pre-Ghibli item for both Miyazaki and Takahata: Puss In Booth, Treasure Island, Ali Baba plus of course Heidi (which in Italy had MASSIVE, Titanic-like success), Marco and Conan. Those were the days!!

Chris Sobieniak said...

the story is quite simple. "Horus" was of course advertised in Italy as "Il Piccolo Principe Valiant" ("Little Prince Valiant") so our father took us to see it in a small theatre near our house under the wrong impression that it was something out of Hal Foster comics (which he loved reading, and had introduced us to). As he still says today, it was a wonderfully timed mistake!

At least Italy got this film. Several other countries got to see this film on the big screen, while the best America got was a pan & scan version on TV via American-International Television (dubbed in English of course). I recently picked up a 16mm print of this a while back but still need to get a video copy if I want at least to hear how Fred Ladd handled this one (he and Titan Productions did several dubs for AIP including Puss 'n Boots and Animal Treasure Island).

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

@korman643: That's fantastic! Even if you watched a dubbed version of Horus, the ferocity of the images would still be there. Your experience is what makes the movies so wonderful.

@chris: How did you find a 16mm print of Horus? Is it a Japanese print? How much do these sort of things cost? I would LOVE to see this movie on a big screen. Even if it was sans subtitles, it would be a fantastic experience.

korman643 said...


as I've said,Italy was somehow quite previleged on that respect, as almost all types of animation where getting theatrical releases during the 60's and 70's. I was lucky enough to see in theatres stuff like "Shonen Jajjy to Mayotsukai" (which I believe was distributed in the US on TV as "Jack and the Witch"), "Kyubi no kitsune to Tobimaru" (The Nine Tailed Fox, very very violent) and other rarities. We got also to see plenty of Karel Zeman movies, which are borderline (great) animation.

I've seen the pan and scan version of "Horus", was used as the basis of the Italian VHS release. Quite awful if compared with the original!

Chris Sobieniak said...

@chris: How did you find a 16mm print of Horus? Is it a Japanese print? How much do these sort of things cost? I would LOVE to see this movie on a big screen. Even if it was sans subtitles, it would be a fantastic experience.

I got mine via eBay! It's the English AIP TV print in pan & scan. I paid about $30 for it, and I was glad to get it for that price at all given it's obscure goodness. I really wanted it for the English audio anyway since I know someone out there might want to hear it one day. Here's some screengrabs the guy left on eBay I saved. Funny noticing Takahata's name getting misspelled here...

The color has obviously gone on this one, but again, I still only needed it for the audio alone since I could always sync it to the Japanese DVD anyway (if it's all there). One of these days I may have to look for one of "Jack & The Witch" that may have the missing 8 minutes not heard on the YouTube clips. Saw a print on eBay years back but missed out on getting it.

Thanks for the note korman643, I often feel jealous at what Italy got decades before any of us knew what anime was. If only I was there!