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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.

Japan

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

7 Responses to “The Golden Rock - Box Office Report - An Introduction”

  1. missa Says:

    So. Does this mean you will no longer give weekly, monthly, number for Japan’s or rather Oricon’s music, as well we Japan’s drama updates (which I know you only talk about the highs and then link to the rest)? I just want to check before I subscribe to this.

    Coz if so, I’m sorry you decided to go so high class. *rolls eyes* I’ll just have my husband translate crap for my poor english only eyes.

  2. glenn Says:

    Hey,

    Congrats on making the move over here. So the old link is now dead? I will remove it from my blog since I already link here.

    Anyway, great post and I think I should flag this one as this is one of the first succinct posts I’ve ever seen on the differences between HK/Japan/Korea in this regards.

    Thanks again.

    Hard to believe Spidey 3 took up 105 out of only 150 screens in Hong Kong. That is sad.

  3. jasongray Says:

    Nice new digs.

    While it’s true the box office ticket price is very high in Japan, most people don’t pay the full amount. People here see less than 2 films per year, so when they choose something they often buy maeuriken (advance tickets) through Pia and whatnot, or go to a ticket shop. The average ticket price for the past 15 years has been between 1210-1262 yen. Take Sony’s recent #1 hit “Biohazard III” (”Resident Evil: Extinction”) for example. 598,182,850 yen on 450574 admissions=1327yen avg. ticket price. Movie company shareholders get free tix, which might have some effect, but you get the idea…

  4. TheGoldenRock@gmail.com Says:

    Missa,

    The Oricon numbers will be left to Tokyograph to do since they pretty much do what I do weekly, and they certainly wouldn’t skip it if their writers are too exhausted from shooting movies until 3am. I will link it, as always, every Wednesday I manage to write an entry.

    I will continue to do Japanese drama numbers every Monday when I can get to it, and if you do have a specific drama you would like me to track, then name it and I will. I did it for Yama Onna Kabe Onna last season (to a certain extent.). And I don’t know where you got the idea that not doing those numbers mean I’m going “high class”……

    glenn,

    Yes, I am here for good now, but the old site will remain.

    Actually, I’m quite surprised Hong Kong has more than 100 screens to begin with. Theaters are closing down, and it’s hard to believe that a 17-screen release in HK can be considered limited while it’s considered wide in Taiwan.

    Glad you like my work, and I really hope I can even be more comprehensive with my box office figures, which leads to….

    Jason,

    I would really like to my hands on those figures, which I believe you mentioned can be found on the Screen Daily website for a price (that I can’t afford right now). And i also remembered that I even wrote an entry about the effect of pre-sale tickets in Japan, which I should’ve mentioned.

    Nevertheless, the average ticket price in Japan seems to remain higher than most of the world, except for Great Britain, which has ticket prices up to 12 pounds, last time I checked. That would mean per-screen-averages that may be considered high in the US may not mean the same in Japan.

    Thanks for the stats, and come back more often now, ya hear?

  5. missa Says:

    Golden Rock -
    Thanks very much for the response. I’ll keep looking as ever.

  6. jasongray Says:

    Even after a movie opens a standard ticket is 1300-1400 through Pia or ticket shops like Daikokuya. Chains such as United Cinemas also over 1200 yen late shows (after 9pm) and Wald9 has matinees for the same price. The last time I paid 1800 was so long ago I can’t even remember what film it was.

    Those particular figures were from a Sony press release.

    Anyway, unless you’re writing about this stuff for a living you shouldn’t care about things like per screen averages as a young filmmaker!

  7. jasongray Says:

    “over” should read “offer”

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