TK's MORNING BUZZ: Remember When Big Openings Used to Mean Something?25 Jun, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold
Back in old days, before the video rental market began mimicking the theatrical model by adopting revenue-sharing, home video executives would crack open the champagne if a new rental release scored a big "opening" week, with, say, $10 million or more in estimated rental revenue. This was surely a sign of continued good things to come, because in those days, videos had legs.
Cast Away just set a new record, generating an estimated $17.92 million in rental revenue its first five days in stores, according to Video Store Magazine market research. But without meaning to diminish this feat, let me point out that four of the top 10 rental debutantes of all time were released this year, and that the prevoius record holder, The Green Mile, came out almost exactly a year ago.
Because there are so many cassettes flooding the market due to revenue-sharing and the various studio copy-depth initiatives, a big opening no longer has the significance it once did.
The same thing is happening on the theatrical side, where there are so many screens that a new film that opens wide has an easy crack at a big opening if there's any kind of advance buzz. Studio executives also know full well that a film doesn't live or die by its opening box office score. Look at Pearl Harbor -- its $75.1 million opening-weekend take was the second-biggest Memorial Day weekend opening in history. And yet Disney will be lucky if the actioner -- which cost $140 million to make -- will even crack the $200 million mark.
Pearl Harbor isn't alone. Remember Godzilla? Remember Mission Impossible 2? These and many other films scored huge openings, and then crashed and burned.
Conversely, take a film like Titanic. James Cameron's epic scored a respectable opening, but it became the top-grossing movie of all time because unlike these other films, it had legs. The public kept wanting to see it, again and again and again, despite being fed more and more new "event" films every few weeks.
Ask any box office analyst and he'll tell you the legs have it -- a movie's staying power is what matters, not how much hype triggers a huge opening weekend.
Sadly, revenue-sharing has pretty much put an end to legs in the video rental market. A big opening for a newly released rental title might not mean what it once did, but it's all we've got.
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