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Hollywood’s ‘drop’ phenomenon

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MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: We’ve all seen it before. A film has a huge opening at the box office, then seems to disappear the following week. In the biz they call it a “drop,” meaning a film drops in revenue after it opens. Mike Speier is Managing Editor for Daily Variety. “Pirates of the Caribbean” cleaned house when it opened. I asked what he thinks it will do this weekend….

MIKE SPEIER: It’s gonna have another huge weekend, there’s no doubt about that. It obviously will have a drop. It remains to be seen whether it’s going to be a big drop, which is about 65-70 percent, or if it’s just going to maintain, which in blockbuster terms is about a 50 percent drop. That’s on average.

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: What are some of the factors that contribute to a drop?

MIKE SPEIER: The biggest factor that contributes to a drop in the summer is what’s coming up the next weekend. Because in the summertime, that’s when all the kids are out, so every week has another major, major release. So, Superman got released over the July 4 week. It had a whole week to itself but it had to get all of its revenue pretty much that week because here comes Pirates and now Pirates is out but here comes “Me, You and Dupree” and here comes “Monster House.”

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Some drops are obviously more seriously than others. If “Pirates of the Caribbean” which had such a huge opening falls off some as you said it won’t matter much. Not like “Miami Vice”

MIKE SPEIER: Right some of these mid-level movies, which obviously no one can predict how they’re going to do, but let’s just assume they come in the $60-70 million range, that’s when you don’t want a big drop. A perfect example is Poseidon. This is a movie that was a big blockbuster in terms of expense and marketing, but the first weekend was bad, the second weekend it dropped very much. It dropped 65 percent. That’s when you have to wonder about those big drops and that’s what studios hate.

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: When did opening weekends become such a big deal? Twenty years ago no moviegoer could tell you what the opening take was for “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

MIKE SPEIER: Exactly. And, look, blockbusters started really in effect with “Jaws.” When drops became such a huge part of the industry? You probably could say about 10 years ago when people started saying let’s spend all the money now and get as much revenue as we can on the first weekend because what happens afterwards is kind of out of our control.

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: OK let’s contrast two recent movies: Superman and “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Both were expected to have monster revenues. Pirates has lived up to that. What happened to Superman?

MIKE SPEIER: A lot of factors go into why a movie doesn’t hit the hype that’s it’s supposed to. The biggest one is the managing of expectations. I mean Superman and Warner Bros, it had a big opening. It had $100 million. The problem is $100 million is great, it’s wonderful but if something cost $250, it’s like any other business. You can’t shell out X amount of dollars if you only get Y amount of dollars and the Y is less than the X. It just doesn’t make sense even though it sounds great, and the general population thinks $100 million how can that be terrible? Well it’s not terrible, but it’s not as good as let’s say “The Devil Wears Prada” which is a small movie, cost very little to make and people are talking about it. And this movie’s going to “have legs” as they say throughout the summer. And while it’s not “Superman” in terms of hype, it’s certainly going to live up to expectations and it’s all about the managing of expectations.”

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Mike Speier is Managing Editor for Daily Variety. And in Los Angeles, I’m Mark Austin Thomas. Enjoy your weekend.

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