Could Wolverine's Leaking Have Helped It At The Box Office?

from the seems-possible dept

We still can't understand why Fox studios acted the way it did over the leak of the Wolverine movie. There were so many better options that didn't involve freaking out and eventually wasting FBI resources. We did note, when the movie was released, what a fantastic opening weekend it had. Of course, some argued that it would have had an even better opening weekend without the leak, but, of course, no one knows for sure.

However, Ross Pruden points us to an interesting analysis by Reid Rosefelt trying to more carefully analyze the leak's impact on Wolverine. Rosefelt compares Wolverine's opening weekend to lots of other highly touted movies, and then even breaks out the movies that were "the latest installment of a very lucrative franchise" (of which there were a bunch this year). In that class, Wolverine earned a lot more than any of those other similar movies, with the exceptions of Twilight and Transformers -- and, again, it's worth remembering that Wolverine got dreadful reviews. But it is worth noting that Wolverine outgrossed other highly touted "franchise" movies like Harry Potter's latest and Star Trek -- both of which got much better reviews.

Rosefelt also does a nice job pointing out how silly Hollywood's new favorite line is whenever anyone points out the record year at the box office. We've seen it from our usual cast of Hollywood insiders who frequent the comments here, where they say that the box office doesn't matter. Piracy is really impacting DVD sales and that's what will kill Hollywood. Of course, this is funny on a variety of levels, starting with the fact if Hollywood had had its way, the DVD player would never have existed, because home video machines (you may recall) were the "Boston Strangler" to the movie industry. It's also amusing because Hollywood has been working hard to prevent one of the biggest DVD buyers, Redbox, from buying its DVDs. Rosefelt points out that the data does show that DVD sales are down, but notes that rentals are way up. It appears that people just find it easier to rent than to buy -- and a large part of that may be uncertainty over HD format (and the ridiculous price put on many Blu-ray discs). Once again, it's looking like the decline in DVD sales might not be the fault of piracy, but of the industry and its own practices yet again.

Again, none of this shows for certain that the Wolverine leak helped at the box office, but it's hard to take seriously any argument that it was harmed. Wolverine did massively well at the box office and outshone many other movies from equally popular franchises, which received much better reviews.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Robb Topolski (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 1:13pm

    I've pretty much stopped buying new DVDs...

    ...they clutter up the place and the prices are too high for something that I only watch once or twice.

    This weekend I rented "Up!" for $5 via On-Demand CATV. It was good for 72 hours. I've also sometimes bought a used DVD via Amazon. Either choice sure beats going out in 0-degree wind-chill and buying a DVD.

     

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  2.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 1:17pm

    "Wolverine outgrossed... Star Trek"

    You know, maybe the movie industry should die.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    The Lying-Mike, Jan 4th, 2010 @ 1:35pm

    Hollywood is being destroyed by piracy. Some estimates bring the total amount of destruction to a trillion dollars. Internet stealers have sent millions of jobs in the entertainment industry to rot in the dustbin of history. Without proper controls on the internet then Hollywood will never make another movie again. These are all facts and the more you choose to ignore them the greater the destruction will be, at your own peril.

     

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  4.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 1:40pm

    Re:

    "Without proper controls on the internet then Hollywood will never make another movie again."

    Promise?

     

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  5.  
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    anonymous, Jan 4th, 2010 @ 1:54pm

    Re: Re:

    please promise, we dont need more crap movies, and as a matter of fact we dont need any more Bono's either

     

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  6.  
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    cc, Jan 4th, 2010 @ 2:02pm

    As shite as this movie is IMHO, it's one of those movies that you have to watch at the cinema. It's just not the same watching it on DVD.

    The only way an early leak might hurt a movie like this, is if people watch a bit of it and decide it's not worth spending any money on.

    That said, I doubt the leak helped any either.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 4th, 2010 @ 2:09pm

    Re:

    Hollywood isn't being destroyed by piracy, it's being destroyed by it's own laziness and "stars" getting 20 million dollars a film while putting out subpar work.

     

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  8.  
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    BullJustin (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 2:09pm

    Re:

    +1

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 4th, 2010 @ 2:12pm

    Watching pirated movies for me is to hard. It is much easier to just watch ones on netflix

    So it goes to show the movie industry just needs to adapt to the model people want, instead of trying to force the one people don't want.

     

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  10.  
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    AdamR (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 2:13pm

    Well i had access to the leak and a better version a few days after the movie was released but refused to watch them because i wanted to see it in the cinema. Well thats was a bad descion the movie made no sense and sucked!

     

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  11.  
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    Robert Ring (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 2:18pm

    Blu-ray Price

    On a side note, I actually haven't found Blu-ray prices to be all that unreasonable lately. Sure, the MSRP is often pretty absurd, but if you buy from the right place, they're often only about $5 more than their counterpart DVDs.

     

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  12.  
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    Laurel L. Russwurm (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 2:18pm

    Of course it helped boost ticket sales...

    I first saw Lawrence of Arabia on a small black and white portable TV. You can bet I was at the cinesphere for the revival. Awesome.

    If you like a movie, you'll want to see it in a movie theatre, even if it has lousy reviews.

    (They must have been exceedingly lousy if they were worse than Harry Potter reviews... but then, Harry Potter lacks Hugh Jackman. Yum.)

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 4th, 2010 @ 2:37pm

    Has anyone else noticed that DVD prices have gone up recently? They will be 12.99 or cheaper during their first week and then shoot up to 19.99. The trend used to be that they would only go up to 14.99 or 15.99, and I was OK with that price.

    If jacking up DVD prices to make Blu-Ray prices look more reasonable is their strategy then they will see a lot less DVD sales from me. $15 is my price point. Put them there or lower and I'll buy 'em all day without thinking twice. $20 and I'm going to have to have seen it already and really liked it.

     

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  14.  
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    Paul (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 2:37pm

    Re:

    "Hollywood is being destroyed by piracy. Some estimates bring the total amount of destruction to a trillion dollars..."

    This has got to be sarcasm. Where in the world was this "trillion dollars" supposed to come from, sans piracy? And where did it go?

    If Hollywood can post record profits and record numbers of movies produced while suffering destruction of this magnitude, I can only hope for such destruction in the sector of the economy that I work in.

    Seriously, Lying-Mike has to be kidding us, setting up a stawman argument for the MPAA like this.

     

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  15.  
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    The Anti-Mike (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 3:05pm

    none of this shows for certain that the Wolverine leak helped at the box office

    Which means this is a truly big piece of speculation, with nothing to back it up. The same data could be used to show that Wolverine would have in fact opened even bigger if people hadn't already seen the movie.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 4th, 2010 @ 3:19pm

    Re:

    So you're saying that the issues caused by rampant piracy are pure speculation?

    Thanks, we'll be sure to write that down for future reference.

     

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  17.  
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    Overcast (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 3:32pm

    Seen it online, went to the cinema last night. Online movie watching and going to the cinemas are things I do for two different reasons.

     

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  18.  
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    The Anti-Mike (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 3:40pm

    Re: Re:

    No, sorry, I didn't say that.

    I said that this piece of "journalism" is pure speculation, and that even Mike admits that there is no causal connection between the leak and better sales. That other movies of the same type sold better might suggestion the opposite.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 4th, 2010 @ 3:40pm

    Re: Re:

    Yeah, I thought it would be funnier to post as The Lying-Mike as opposed to The Sarcastic-Mike. Live and learn.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 4th, 2010 @ 3:42pm

    Re:

    Now where have I seen that kind of behaviour before?

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 4th, 2010 @ 4:25pm

    Re:

    Remember that one time The Anti-Mike used facts to argue his stupidity?

    Oh, wait, that was a dream, sorry.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 4th, 2010 @ 5:09pm

    Re: Re:

     

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  23.  
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    TDR, Jan 4th, 2010 @ 5:10pm

    Re: Re:

    Not to mention, TAM wouldn't know a fact if it walked up and bit him. He should get a Darwin award.

     

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  24.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 5:14pm

    Re: Of course it helped boost ticket sales...

    "If you like a movie, you'll want to see it in a movie theatre, even if it has lousy reviews. "

    But not if you have a lousy theater.

    I'm always amazed that they'll task an usher with watching for camcording but not, y'know, unruly or annoying patrons.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 4th, 2010 @ 5:29pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Or it might not.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 4th, 2010 @ 9:02pm

    Re:

    Stating the blatantly obvious that no one knows the answer is not calculated to receive here a very friendly reception. I give Mr. Masnick credit for noting this point.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 4th, 2010 @ 9:04pm

    Re: Re:

    By "point" I mean that Mr. Masnick is accurate in noting that the correct answer is that there is no answer.

     

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  28.  
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    ChrisB (profile), Jan 5th, 2010 @ 4:33am

    Re:

    I watched the leaked version. I also saw the movie in the theater. The movie was crap; worse than X3. The ONLY reason I went and saw it in the theater is I was really interested in seeing the effects finished, as the leaked version had temp effects. That was really fascinating to compare (having dabbled in film-making and effects).

    I can absolutely guarantee I would have NOT seen this movie in the theater if I hadn't seen the leaked print. I would have read the reviews and skipped it.

     

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  29.  
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    mdavidthomson (profile), Jan 5th, 2010 @ 4:59am

    2009 Box Office Records aren't so simple

    As much as I agree with almost everything written by Mike on Techdirt about the movie business, it does always make me cringe slightly when you keep repeating the statistic that 2009 was biggest box office year ever. It was, but only under Hollywood PR rules.

    Sure... hit them with their own fluff, the MPAA can't have it both ways and you are in the right, but do take a look at the fundamentals.

    Execs in the business should just point out that if you take into account ticket price inflation and monetary inflation the movie industry box office business model did better in 2002 by quite a long way. Here are admissions numbers from NATO (http://www.natoonline.org/statisticsadmissions.htm).

    2008 1.363
    2007 1.400
    2006 1.395
    2005 1.376
    2004 1.484
    2003 1.521
    2002 1.599
    2001 1.438
    2000 1.383
    1999 1.440
    1998 1.438
    1997 1.354
    1996 1.319
    1995 1.211
    1994 1.240
    1993 1.182
    1992 1.099
    1991 1.14
    1990 1.19
    1989 1.26
    1988 1.08
    1987 1.09

    With ticket price inflation and monetary inflation taken into account, the movie industry's best year (maybe since the 1960s or 1970s or earlier) was 2002.

    And then look at Avatar's this week. Don't misunderstand me here, they are pretty great, particularly in retention and midweek viewings. But they are less great when you figure in the huge ticket price hike for 3D (10%+ varying by theater) compared to other films currently in the top ten box office numbers (and older box office numbers are even more misleading). They are making more money, yes... but theatrical attendance may be decaying and no-one really knows why.

    Historically, according to the MPAA figures there was something like 4.1 billion tickets sold in 1946 and they continued to fall through to the mid 1970s where you have about 1 billion admissions, the then started to rise again in the 1990s to peak at 1.6 billion in 2002.

    A quick check on Box Office Junkie (http://www.theboxofficejunkie.com/ticket-prices.html - I haven't checked their calculations myself) that monetary inflation rate for 1924-2009 was 1,120% whereas ticket price inflation 1924-2009 was 2,872%. Quite a bit more. And a lot of that is in the past 30 years too - ticket prices have more than doubled since 1989 ($3.97 average 1989 to $7.18 2009).

    So... all this means is that box office is actually a bit of a distraction when it comes to real movie profitability - at about 20% of all profits on a film. This is where the movie industry is in a slightly better place than the music industry. The largest profit center for a movie from what is described as anciliary markets - right now that is mainly DVD (and TV). That's why they're scared.

    But George Lucas isn't the richest man ($4 billion) in the business because of DVD's -- it's because of plastic toys and (special effects) technology. Two themes that frequently recur here...

    That's right. He sold looooooooooooots of T-Shirts.

    Why is there about 8 different versions of the same Star Wars movies out to buy? Why all the toys, tshirts, videogames? Well, it may be cynical and I now never want to see anything Star Wars again, but it certainly makes some kind of business sense.

    And Disney. I'd love to look at the real accounting numbers for Disney by movie property, who must make a fortune on movie related toys and stuff. If you look at the whole film ecosystem and include toys and games, the most profitable movies of all time might turn out to be almost entirely Disney movies (with I suspect, Star Wars still sitting up top...)

    Now my own analysis is that in truth, most people just don't want to go to the theater; they'd rather stay at home. I love it and I go more than twice a week sometimes. But even I think the theatrical experience is too expensive for what you get. It's simply too poor an experience to compete with delivery food, a big sofa, good sound and a big TV screen. That's why the industry is so scared. As much as they say the theatrical experience will never die, in their heart of hearts, they don't believe it.

    Actually, I don't think it will, but I suspect it eventually might go the way of opera or legit theater. Extremely expensive tickets in plusher auditoriums and more companies like IFC Films who own their own movies, TV channel and theater, the old Waverly in NYC. Studios need proper vertical integration as they used to in the old days of the studio system otherwise I can't see how they can control Loews or AMC or whomever from selling inedible sweets and popcorn and damaging their business.

    That said, they have vertical integration on DVD distribution and they have been pretty slow with innovating there because of the massive profits. (Just compare to Criterion Collection who sell movies that are sometimes out of copyright...)

    Ticket prices have gone up a lot since 89 - as has admission, which suggests that people are willing to pay for a better experience. I don't think movie theaters need to compete on price - especially if you figure in that people are spending money to get to the theater (and maybe hire a babysitter). A little extra for better service would seem to be a good idea (and there are examples of successful theater chains that do this).

    None of this grand sweep of the business should be affected by "piracy" it hasn't before, so long as they keep innovating (and if you really want a laugh, read up on why the movie business moved to Hollywood in the first place - to escape Thomas Edison's New York based patents). Movies didn't start out at 2 hours in a big theater, they started on small personal players for a nickel. It was the showmen the invented the big screen and the longer story by fighting against restrictive east coast patent laws. This is because it was a better way to get customers. So long as the business keeps giving the audience new and better ways to experience the core product: the storytelling experience.

    Which is why it wasn't called "The DVD Factory," it was called: "The Dream Factory".

     

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  30.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jan 5th, 2010 @ 5:30am

    Re: Re: Re:

    ...yet that doesn't stop the industry from using their claims, similarly subjective and unproven, to try and enforce draconian "protections", three strikes laws, toxic DRM and whatever else they can get away with.

    Why do you always support one side of the argument and attack the other, when both sides are based on subjective opinions and analysis?

     

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  31.  
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    Dementia (profile), Jan 5th, 2010 @ 7:23am

    Re: 2009 Box Office Records aren't so simple

    All I can say is that this is an excellent post. While I can believe the shrinking numbers at the box office, most of the reason that I seldom go to a movie theater has to do with the cost of admission and concessions. To take my family and buy them all a pop and some popcorn would easily run me nearly the same as a trip to the local steak house for prime rib. It's much easier to wait for a dvd, make my own popcorn, and watch it in an environment where I control the variables like temperature and sound volume.

     

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  32.  
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    Almost Anonymous (profile), Jan 5th, 2010 @ 8:33am

    Re: 2009 Box Office Records aren't so simple

    """
    And then look at Avatar's this week. Don't misunderstand me here, they are pretty great, particularly in retention and midweek viewings. But they are less great when you figure in the huge ticket price hike for 3D (10%+ varying by theater) compared to other films currently in the top ten box office numbers (and older box office numbers are even more misleading). They are making more money, yes... but theatrical attendance may be decaying and no-one really knows why.
    """

    Um, I know why. Better home theater systems, VASTLY increased ticket and concessions prices with no corresponding increase in value added, poorly maintained theaters, theaters refusing to deal with idiots with cellphones texting/calling during screenplay.

     

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  33.  
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    tracker1 (profile), Jan 5th, 2010 @ 8:40am

    Re: Re:

    I remember Men in Black 2 being the first time I actually wanted to ask for my money back. It was horrible, overacted, and too short for what it was.

     

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  34.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jan 5th, 2010 @ 10:10am

    Re: 2009 Box Office Records aren't so simple

    Wow. Definitely a great and informative comment.

    I mostly agree, but I don't think the number of attendees is as meaningful as the revenue number -- since all the industry has done is realized that it can maximize revenue in other ways, which seems like a good thing.

     

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  35.  
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    Overcast (profile), Jan 5th, 2010 @ 5:41pm

    Re: Re: 2009 Box Office Records aren't so simple

    Um, I know why. Better home theater systems, VASTLY increased ticket and concessions prices with no corresponding increase in value added, poorly maintained theaters, theaters refusing to deal with idiots with cellphones texting/calling during screenplay.

    Forgot one.

    In addition to all of that - the popcorn's $5.00, a Cola's $5.00 - that's 10. For a family of four, that's $40.00, plus $12.00 a ticket to see Avatar (what we paid). If we would have done the 'whole thing' that would have been $90.00 - get real.

    Of course, prior to going to the show, instead of wasting $40.00 on Coke and Popcorn, we went to IHOP and for a few dollars more got a decent meal.

    But at home, on a big screen, (sure it's not 'Real 3D' - which kinda annoyed my eyes anyway, but was impressive in any event) the Popcorn is $5.00 for 5 bags and the Cola is $5.00 for 12 cans.

     

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