Holiday weekends often equate to big bucks at the box office. And while Christmas weekend doesn’t always pack the punch of a Labor Day, Memorial Day or Fourth of July, it has been known to generate its fair share of cash. There are an abundance of revenue-friendly family flicks, Christmas Day movie marathons have become a popular tradition and mall-goers often take a break from hitting up post-holiday sales to catch a film.
But what happens to those Christmas-weekend box-office numbers when almost the entire East Coast, from North Carolina through Maine, is pummeled by a blizzard on December 26? Safe money would bet that B.O. revenues drop as precipitously as 2 feet of snow. And though those numbers probably chilled Hollywood execs to the bone, they weren’t just due to the blizzard.
The lackluster $30.8 million take of “Little Fockers” topped the charts for a weekend that was down a whopping 48 percent from last year’s Christmas-weekend receipts of $270 million (an all-time record for any weekend, by the way). But a quick look at the numbers suggests that while snowy weather certainly didn’t help matters, it was not to blame for the Scrooge-like turnout at the box office.
For starters, Christmas Eve, a notoriously slow movie-going day, fell on a Friday this year, eating into a big slice of the weekend box office. “Fockers” was the day’s top-grossing flick with a paltry $4.95 million. By comparison, the movie earned about $7.2 million on both Wednesday (when it opened) and Thursday, and took in $14.6 million and $11.3 million on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. More to the point, “Fockers” saw its box-office haul drop just 23 percent from Christmas Day (Saturday) to Sunday, when the snow hit. That number is in line with normal Saturday to Sunday decreases. Meanwhile, “True Grit” saw its earnings fall a mere 6.5 percent from Saturday to Sunday, while “Tron Legacy” and “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” dropped only around 1 percent, and “Yogi Bear” and “Tangled” saw their revenues increase over the same two-day period.
Numbers aside, one can’t ignore the possibility that the movies in theaters this Christmas simply weren’t as appealing to moviegoers as those in previous years. Last year’s record-setting weekend was spearheaded by the one-two-three punch of “Avatar,” which raked in $75.6 million in its second week of release, “Sherlock Holmes” ($62.4 million) and “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” ($48.9 mil).
Though “Little Fockers” had a built-in audience, its 2004 predecessor “Meet the Fockers,” which led the B.O. the last time Christmas fell on a Friday, wasn’t as well-received as the franchise’s first entry, 2000′s “Meet the Parents.” Combine that with the fact that “Little Fockers” didn’t exactly wow critics (it scored only an 11 percent rating on review aggregator RottenTomatoes.com), and it’s not hard to see why the threequel failed to snag blockbuster numbers. And, while the Coen brothers’ Western “True Grit” rode a wave of critical praise to a second-place finish and an impressive $24.9 million gross (the biggest opening for a Western ever), that wasn’t enough to make up for a shallow field of holiday-weekend contenders.
In other words, Mother Nature is off the hook for this one.
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