The Secret to the Opening Weekend

Last weekend marked only the fourth time that two films topped $50 million in the same opening weekend with the release of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill’s 22 Jump Street and the animated sequel How To Train Your Dragon 2. But I think this is more than a mere coincidence. Looking at the other three occurrences, I am starting to see a trend!

22 jump street dragon 2

In 2008, action thriller Wanted and Pixar favourite Wall-E opened on the same weekend to box office takes higher than $50 million each.

In 2012, science fiction film Prometheus and the third instalment in the Madagascar franchise both achieved box office takes higher than $50 million opening in the same weekend.

In 2013, both Monsters University and World War Z took more than $50 million each on the same opening weekend.

And then there are the results from last weekend with 22 Jump Street and How To Train Your Dragon 2 both opening!

Seeing a movie on its opening weekend involves both benefits and risks to the consumer. On one hand, they are engaging with the product as soon as it comes out and the attraction of novelty is one which is deeply rooted inside all of us. On the other hand, the only research that consumers can undertake to see whether they will like the movie is watch the trailer and look at the involved stars. Sure some reviews will hit the press as soon as the movie is released, but there isn’t any word of mouth from trusted friends and family reassuring your decision.

However, often the enticing novelty wins out and we end up taking the risk anyway (no matter what disastrous consequences may follow if the wrong decision is made).

With this in mind, a number of news organisations have taken this opportunity to try and divulge the secret behind scoring record box office figures. And they have hit upon a number of viable candidates. Celebrity-filled films: Loyal followers are going to see the movie anyway as soon as it comes out. Sequels: Having already seen the first one decreases the risk in trying something new because consumers already know if they are going to enjoy it. And Timing: each of these record breaking weekends have occurred in June at the beginning of the school holidays.

All these candidates are certainly having an impact on the box office takes, inciting movie-goers to be more likely to give up some fun in the sun for the latest flicks. But I think it is simpler than that.

Have a look at each of the pairs. Each record breaking pair can be divided into two categories. Children’s movies and Adult movies. And the types of audience members almost sit at two different ends of the spectrum. Those who saw 22 Jump Street last weekend probably don’t have How To Train Your Dragon 2 very high on their ‘Must See’ list. And the families that were awed by the Pixar animatronics at Dragon 2 probably aren’t going to scar their children by taking them to see 22 Jump Street.

The same can be said for each of those weekends. The two major recently released offerings appeal to markedly different clientele in addition to their popularity and decreased risk due to celebrity involvement (or the celebrity brands of Pixar and Disney) and sequels.

While one specific reason will not be behind the creation of these record breaking box office tallies, an incredibly important component is the varying audience. Release two films for kids on the same weekend and they both cannibalise each other’s ticket sales and leave the more adult audience high and dry. Release two grown-up films in the one weekend and kids are going to be content at home on their iPads and laptops.

But engage both profitable segments and you are onto a winning weekend!