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June 27, 2013

A couple of weeks ago, “This is the End” opened against “Man of Steel”, in what seemed to be a kamikaze mission. In the right corner – a square-jawed giant with a $225M budget. In the left corner – a bunch of stoners with a skinny $32M budget, a lot of heart and admirable determination.

And then a great thing happened. No – “End” didn’t beat Superman, but it did pretty well, grossing $32.4M. And so did Superman, with $156.7M. Everyone wins.

Wait, what do you mean everyone wins? How can everyone win?

Well, if you truly embrace who you are on the spectrum of film sizes and correctly position your expectations according to the three tiers of movie budgets (over $70M, $20M-$70M and under $20M) – you quickly realize that films in other tiers aren’t your enemy.

Let’s take a look at the relationship between the weekly grosses of the movie in 1st place vs. the weekly grosses of the movies in 2nd place, for movies that had a weekly gross of up to $200M (which excludes The Dark Knight Rises and Iron Man 3, because they are both in a world of their own), during the last year (=50 weeks) (all data from

Weekly 1st Place vs 2nd Place Grosses

Another way to look at it is through average per-theater weekly grosses of 1st vs. 2nd places (all numbers are from

Weekly 1st Place vs Second Place Per Theater Grosses

In both charts there is a positive relationship. It’s not incredibly strong (r-squared = 0.3-0.4), but it’s definitely not negative: the big guys aren’t gobbling up the little guys. When the big guys do better, so do the little guys. They exist in a different, parallel, box office universe, but there is a connection between the two universes – a connection of positive support – not cannibalism.

Now, we all know that correlation is not causation. This relationship might not be a direct one: perhaps holiday weekends mean a bigger pie for everyone, or perhaps there is a “leakage” effect – where the lines for a blockbuster are so long that some people just end up going to a different movie. Or maybe some people go to see the non-blockbuster so that they can say they’re special. I don’t know.

The exact reason should be further investigated, but my point is that I’m not saying  you should necessarily take on Jerry Bruckheimer. Rather, I’m telling you not to write off that idea as quickly as intuitively recommended. He doesn’t want to take your toys – he doesn’t care about them. In fact, it is likely that the more toys he has, the more you will get to keep for yourself.

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  1. 26. INTERVALS OF HORROR | The Hollywood Quantifier

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