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Archive for November 15th, 2007

The Golden Rock - Box Office Report - An Introduction

One of the most consistent features of this blog is the box office reports - first it just started as the opener for every entry, and now it belongs in its own section. To this day, I cannot explain why analyzing box office figures is such a big thing for me, though I think it has something to do with box office numbers getting misread all the time. For example, just because a movie opened at 8th place doesn’t necessarily means it’s bad. If the movie opened at 8th place on just 5 screens with a US$200,000 per-screen average, that’s an amazing opening. On the other hand, if your movie opened on 3000 screens with just a US$1,500 per-screen average, not so amazing.

Since I never went in-depth into what all those box office numbers mean, I’ll take the opportunity to do this after only getting 3 hours of sleep. Hopefully all those screen counts and whatnot would make a bit of sense in the future:

Hong Kong:

Screens: Roughly 150 (much of them from multiplexes)

Exchange rate: HK$7.8=$1. This is solid, trust me. The Hong Kong dollar is pegged to the United States dollars.

Measure of success: HK$10 million.

I live in Hong Kong, so my analysis of Hong Kong box office will always be more detailed. In this city, a usual wide release would be anything that opens on more than 20 screens and under 45 screens. A major blockbuster, of course, would get a lot more screens (Spiderman 3 got 105 at one point). Many films used to go past the HK$10 million point back then, but this is the post-BT post-pirated VCD world, so 10 million’s a high enough bar to set.

If you look at the top 10 right now, only two films are past the HK$10 million mark: Lust, Caution at HK$43.65 million and Brothers at HK$11.15 million. They’re both hits, and everything else is probably not until we look at their release pattern and their per-screen average.

For example, and this is not from the chart, a movie opens on just 4 screens. The basic standard for an “ok” per-screen average is at least HK$10,000. For this 4-screen release film, it should at least have HK$80,000 for that day’s box office take to be considered good.


Screens: roughly a few thousand

Exchange rate: 110-120 yen=US$1. It jumps often, which is why I often report the figures in yen instead of dollars.

Measure of success: 1 billion yen.

Japan is the second-biggest market in the world for Hollywood films, and it’s pretty clear why: They charge people 1800 yen a ticket, and Japan has more people than The United Kingdom. Here, the success of a film can be hard to determined because first there’s an attendance ranking out (whose actual figures I believe should be incorporated for all box office charts), then I rely on Box Office Mojo’s figures for percentage drops and per-screen averages.

That method has two problems: 1) There are discrepancies between the attendance ranking and the Box Office Mojo numbers because films that attract kids and older audiences often mean less money is earned because their tickets are 300 yen cheaper (that’s roughly 3 dollars per person, which makes a difference). So a kids’ film would rank high on attendance, but may drop a place or two in the chart with numbers; 2) Box Office Mojo’s exchange rate changes every week, which means I have to calculate everything back to yen to get an accurate number.

In Japan, anything around 100-350 screens would be considered a wide release. However, they tend to put foreign films for wider release (Spiderman 3 for a crazy 700-screen release), while the biggest live-action Japanese wide release is Hero at 475 screens. Also, while per-screen average can be high at US$10,000, remember that’s partly because the ticket prices are so damn high. That’s why we have blogs like Eiga Consultant, who sometimes look at actual attendance record for smaller limited releases.

South Korea

Screens: Roughly 1800 (according to Korea Pop Wars)

Measure of success: 1.5-2 million admissions

I started following South Korean box office when crossing the one million admissions mark was considered record-breaking, which should tell you how much Korean films have changed over the years. Now, a film has to get to at least 1.5 million admissions to be considered a genuine success. And if you have a blockbuster on your hands, it better gets past the 2 million mark - even D-War got to 8.4 million admissions, people.

I don’t track South Korean box office very much because I don’t know the language, I’ve never been to the country, and Mark Russell’s Korea Pop Wars already covers it well enough that I don’t have to go too much into detail about the figures.

Now, this is the part where I’m asking for help. I would like to start tracking Taiwan box office numbers, so I’m hoping a kind reader out there can help me out with a Chinese site with actual Taiwan box office figures. Also, what’s the measure of success, and a rough total screen count figure.

Then again, I figure many of you out there may not care, but it never hurts to be comprehensive.

Next time: Hopefully some real news reporting Copyright © 2002-2018 Ross Chen