Sony spent a good amount of time on Saturday trying to dial back expectations for their Michael Jackson concert documentary “This Is It”. Perhaps they should have thought of that before they helped set those expectations in the first place? After failing to produce “great numbers” in its first three days in theatres, “This Is It” did manage to notch first place over the weekend with an estimated $21.3 million from its 3,404 domestic engagements. Not bad for a concert movie, but when you consider that recent number one films like “Where the Wild Things Are” and “Zombieland” managed to pull in over $30 million over the same time period, you have to wonder what all that hype was about.
|1||This Is It||$21,300,000||$32,509,000|
|3||Law Abiding Citizen||$7,303,000||$51,385,000|
|6||Where the Wild Things Are||$5,081,000||$61,800,000|
On Thursday, after the first day numbers for “This Is It” made it obvious that the promised hordes of curious viewers were not going to materialize; Sony began stepping back from their prediction that the Jackson doc would be “the biggest concert film of all time.” After bringing in $7.4 million on Wednesday and only $3.7 on Thursday, the studio was now counting on international markets to give “This Is It” “the biggest worldwide gross for a concert movie ever after only 5 days”.
Jackson was certainly more popular overseas than he was here in the US, so it seemed safe to assume that foreign viewers would carry “This Is It” to its promised glory. And that proved partially true. After an unspectacular $12.7 million international debut on Wednesday, the film’s foreign market brought in an estimated $68.5 million through Sunday for a total of $101 million worldwide. That’s only $150 million short of concert promoter AEG’s boast, but with US numbers such a washout I’m sure Sony will take it.
Incidentally I should point out that, as concert films go, “This Is It” only appears to be a disappointment here in the US – and then only based upon on all of those overblown predictions of a week ago. Realistically, “This Is It” is still on track to be one of the highest grossing concert films of all time. Because, in case you didn’t know, that’s a fairly low bar.
Concert features are hit or miss – usually miss. Even releases like The Rolling Stone’s Scorsese-directed “Shine a Light” could only drum up a worldwide total of $15 million. With a total of $70 million worldwide, the success of Disney’s “Hannah Montana: Best of Both Worlds” caught nearly everyone by surprise back in 2008. And when the same studio’s “Jonas Brothers 3D Concert Experience” failed to top $20 million one year later everyone was surprised all over again. With Michael Jackson’s music and legacy now such a media focus, it seems odd that “This Is It” could not overturn Miley Cyrus’s $8.6 million box office debut, but that only serves as a lesson for other studios: If you plan on marketing a release as an “event”, make sure the fan base is there to back you up.
The true event movie this Halloween continued to be Paramount’s “Paranormal Activity”. After six weeks in release (and three weeks of wide release), the super low-budgeted feature fell only 21% over last weekend and added another $16.5 million to its domestic total. The indie horror still has a way to go before it can lay hold to the kind of dough that “The Blair Witch Project” racked up ten years ago, but with $100 million now in sight for distributor Paramount, “Paranormal Activity” is now undoubtedly the studios most profitable pick up.
The Halloween holiday held numbers down across the board this weekend, keeping the period flat compared to last year when “High School Musical 3″ ruled. Next week Disney launches the latest version of “A Christmas Carol” in 3,500 venues and in no less than four versions: standard, 3D, IMAX and IMAX 3D. The choices, the choices. It’s a little early for a Christmas movie so it should be interesting to see how many people will be fall for Jim Carrey’s humbug.