Box Office Special - Prom Night

Listener's of the podcast are likely aware of my fetishization of the box office returns. To me, there may be no more accurate or equitable a barometer of America's hopes and desires than the weekly box office returns. That may seem an overstatement to some, but consider that no other cultural medium offers the same open market as the wide-release movie. Going to the theater requires far more investment (in both time and money) than watching a television show, yet most major releases are as readily available across America as any network reality dance competition. So in deciding which films to shell out our hard earned bucks for, we're actually saying a lot about who we are and how we feel as a country.

We spend some time on the podcast each week talking about the box office returns, specifically with regards to the new horror releases. To that end, I'll be discussing the performances of 2008's horror slate in a little more depth each Sunday afternoon in this space. As a jumping off point for this discussion, I've prepared a Google Docs spreadsheet, which can be accessed here.

This week, as we'll talk about tonight (and you'll hear tomorrow) the story is Prom Night. As Eric notes in his review, the film wasn't very good. I don't want to dwell too much on the merits of these films here though, because, bad as Prom Night may be, it obliterated this weekend. Taking a look at our Horrors of 2008 Spreadsheet, here's a couple things that I notice:

  • So far, 2008 has been the year of the PG-13 scare: seven wide releases, only two were rated R.
  • Prom Night, the fifth PG-13 horror release of the year, sits at 2nd in the early going in terms of per theater revenue. In 1st, surprising to no one, is Cloverfield.
  • Even in weaker box office weeks—and weak horror release weeks—the genre's new releases command at least 10% (rounding up) of the top 12 in terms of total revenue.
  • While on first blush, Prom Night looks to be about half as popular with audiences as Cloverfield was, if we go by % of box office, this week's release fares much better.

I'll be updating this spreadsheet with more recent figures as they become available. Year to date domestic totals, budget numbers, and official revenue numbers will change throughout the week, and each Sunday I'll make sure this spreadsheet is as accurate as it can be.

The document is also a living and breathing concept in that I hope to continue tinkering with the columns in an attempt to find the right mix of data points to give the us the most accurate look at what we might glean from each week's box office returns. Let me know what you'd like to see or what you think might be helpful. In the coming weeks, I'll also try to expound on my process, where ever it might not be clear.

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