Musings over what happened at the box office in 2012
244 people in Sweden got to see Premium Rush in 2012. I wasn’t one of them.
It was screened for a very short time, maybe a week, in one (1) cinema in a mall in a suburb outside of Stockholm, many hours away from where I live and in practice out of my reach.
I had heard a lot of good things about it and given the chance I would have bought a ticket for it. Or several. I think my entire family would have liked to see it. A thrilling ride in combination with Joseph Gordon Levitt, my daughter’s favorite actor, sounded just right.
Too bad for me that someone – the distributor, the multiplex theatre chain or both – didn’t believe in it. Now I’ll have to wait for the DVD release. As so many times before.
For some people that’s not a big problem. They watch most films at home anyway. Maybe they have good equipment, almost on par with a small theatre screen. Maybe they hate the smell and rustling noise of popcorn. Or maybe they think it’s just too expensive and too much hassle to watch movies in a cinema. However to me it’s not the same and that’s why I’m writing this post.
I don’t want to come out as a whiner. Ultimately I understand that the people who make and distribute films do it like a commercial enterprise. They need to get return on their investments and they’re afraid to take losses. But I think we can agree on that something isn’t working well here.
This movie was made for a lot of money. Someone decided to make it available to a Swedish audience. It should lie in their interest to try to get the biggest possible audience. But how could this film become successful if you don’t give the audience a chance to see it and if you give it zero marketing? This release is so limited that I wouldn’t even call it a release. It’s a private screening for a few lucky people.
As a part of the potential audience I don’t agree with how they’re handling this and I don’t understand the reasons.
The question is: is there anything we can do about it? Does my wish to see this film in a theatre matter to the people in charge? Do they ever put their ears to the ground and what can I do to make them hear my little drum?
Diving further into the latest statistics from the Swedish Film Institute (including the box office sales from January to November 2012), I noticed that The Cabin in the Woods did pretty well considering that it originally wasn’t planned to be released at all. It was after a campaign from the fans in social media that it finally got a release. It ended up at spot 121 at the box office with over 15 000 sold tickets, which doesn’t sound too shabby.
Maybe it does matter what we say. You could say that I have a part in that Premium Rush never opened in my city. I hadn’t been vocal enough about it. I hadn’t tweeted, blogged and otherwise indicated my interest. On the other hand: the idea that I should be campaigning for every upcoming movie I want to see to make sure it opens in my city seems unrealistic.
Here are a few other observations I did studying the statistics of 2012:
- The difference between how successful movies are at the box office are enormous. The successful movies are really, really successful. Skyfall has sold 911 940 tickets, which is equivalent to a tenth of the entire population in Sweden. At launch, I think about half of the available screens in my city showed Skyfall at the premier. That’s what I call availability! On second position is The Dark Knight Rises at 717 958, not bad either.
- As expected, most of the films we watch in theatres come from US. The market share is 59,7 percent. Swedish film has had a strong year at the box office, increasing with 17 percent, having a market share of 21,6 percent. The third largest country is UK at 9,5 percent. Movies from other countries have a hard time reaching a wide audience. In the top 50 there’s only one film that isn’t English or Swedish speaking: the French Intouchables, at spot 12 with 343 604 visits.
- 3D doesn’t seem to catch on very well. In November as little as 5 percent of the visits were to 3D films.
- The biggest surprise is Palme, a Swedish film that made it to spot 24 with 235 065 sold tickets. Not shabby for a documentary! I think this speaks volumes about the national trauma that the assassination of the prime minister was and still is.
- Many of my favorite films of 2012 were seen by very few people. I’ll give you a few examples.
We Need to Talk about Kevin: rank 160, 5811 viewers
Take Shelter: rank 211, 2140 viewers
Bullhead: rank 215, 1997 viewers
The Muppets: rank 254, 826 viewers
Bill Cunningham New York: rank 263, 612 viewers
I don’t begrudge Skyfall or TDKR its success; they’re both very good movies. But it makes me a little sad to see how few people that got around to see the smaller titles.
I’m going to give this post a happy ending. Like many others I sometimes worry about the future of cinema. Facing the competition from various streaming services – legal and illegal – as well as the crisis in the world economy, we ask ourselves for how long we well have theatres to go to.
After taking part of this statistics it looks as if they’re bound to die, it’s not going to happen anytime soon. The number of theatre visits grew with 6,8 percent compared to previous year.
People still go to theatres. The question is what they get the chance to see. And this is where we – the bloggers, podcasters and twittering fans – come in. Let’s make 2013 to a year when we spread the word, not just about the blockbusters, but about the movies in the 200rd spot in the box office ranking, which actually might benefit from it!
And with this challenge I wish you a Happy New Year.