Box Office Mojo - Ponyo's Weekend Numbers

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:

Friday 8/14
$1,174,539 - $1267 per screen

Saturday 8/15
$1,320,192 - $1424

Sunday 8/16
$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???


Tosh said...

I'll be going again with some friends hopefully this coming weekend. So I'll try to boost those numbers a little :)

Anonymous said...

As much as I would love to support it in theaters I just can't stomach the dubs, not to mention the new terrible music.
I know the majority of anime fans feel the same way.
If they were to release it in Japanese with English subs I would definitely see it in theaters (despite that I've had the Japanese DVD for a while)

I think more anime fans would go see it also, but what can you do? for the North Americans that would mean teaching their kids how to read and that's not going to happen.

asuka said...

there could well be a word-of-mouth element that will kick in if the cinemas keep showing it.
the american poster gave noone much of a clue why they would want to see the film in my opinion, and other have commented on the lack or uninviting nature of the advertising for the film in general.
everyone seems to agree that the little children in the cinemas really responded to it, so maybe parents will tell other parents, and so on.
and with little children i can imagine that even after reading an exciting review, it might take a little time to organize the family trip to the cinema.
i can see reasons to tell oneself that it might build - if given a chance.

(btw, off topic - does anyone know why the film is being released so late in the u.k.? - next year as far as i can see... but maybe i've misunderstood this.)

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

@Tosh - Great work! Thanks! Bring along as many people as you can. Make a party of it! Be creative, have fun.

A Studio Ghibli film in theaters is a major event. It should be treated as such. Besides, any excuse to throw a party is a great one. Everybody goes to see Ponyo, then crash back at the house party. Good luck!

@Anonymous - How many anime fans have you spoken to about this? How many of them have stayed home? I'm very curious to know this, but there isn't much of an anime community in minneapolis, and the university is still out for the summer.

Oh, and great work on protesting the Super Adventure Club.

@Asuka - I hope there's a word-of-mouth buildup. Perhaps we will have to do it ourselves. Every one of us will go to the movies this weekend, and take a couple others with us. Do whatever it takes to reel them in, even if you have to bribe them or buy their own damn tickets!

Of course, if you're going to buy their tickets, catch the early shows so you pay the lower price.

Bottom line: it's up to us. I think we can do this. Even the anime otaku. Especially you guys. It's not about Disney. It's about this anime film, and the next, and the next. We need more than a toehold in this country.

asuka said...

i don't understand how anyone could pass up the chance to see the images on the big screen.
block your ears - the existence of the dub doesn't obliterate the original. no need to be offended by the dub's existence.

petorma said...

I would argue that, besides Julie & Julia, District Nine was quite a good film that isn't terrible formulaic, novel in some ways, and somewhat thematically complex.

As for Ponyo, there's not much that can be done--it's an anime, which carries stigma among American viewers; it's free of CGI which has come to define American animation and so may turn off American viewers are too retroactive (I suppose we'll see if that's a valid argument when The Princess and the Frog is released); and then there was and will be heavy competition (next week sees the release of Inglorious Bastards, which surely will fulfill the escapist needs of the American moviegoer, and will probably be brilliant).

Ponyo will only be able to survive on its own merits. That is to say, a movie such as Ponyo, which is so disadvantaged due to fierce competition and, perhaps, unfair cultural stigmas, will need to inspire enough people to create great word of mouth buzz, as The Hurt Locker has this summer. I've personally done my part while trying my best not to sound like a Miyazaki fanboy, lowering my credibility to accurately judge the movie. I'm certain others are doing the same.

Someone also suggested that more people would see the film if it wasn't dubbed. Seriously? Methinks someone overestimates the size of certain niche audiences. Realistically, while not always perfect, the dubs Disney has given to the Ghibli films that were part of the deal have been superb. To reach a wider audience, the majority of which come to the movies to escape, even to tune out and immerse oneself in the moving pictures and strange situations, a smart studio would not release a dub. That would just add another stigma to the film, no matter much more accurate or pure it would be.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

@Petorma - I think you're correct on the hurdles Ghibli still faces in America. It's trying to overcome those hurdles that remains a problem. I have to admit that I'm stumped. The only way to convert new Ghibli Freaks is to do it one at a time, dragged kicking and screaming to the theater.

I've heard nothing but good things about District 9. I hope it does well. Usually the only movies I see during the summer are independents that play in a handful of theaters and earn no money. I have sat alone for many movies, and it's deeply frustrating and saddening. But there were always fewer Lisa Simpsons than Homers in the world.

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