A post-script on the year just ended: Once again proving its recession resistance, the Box-Office overall in 2008 was 2% higher than the 2007 tally.
Exhibitor's favorite song, COME IN FROM THE RAIN
At a family holiday party in the Southern California desert city of Indio, my retired Uncle Dwight Smart, a former Edwards Theatres employee, mentioned a box-office phenomenon never discussed in this column: box-office special circumstances – conditions or event that sparks the motion picture box office.
Specifically, the Box-Office Special Circumstance that Uncle Dwight remembered was this: When it rains, it pours money for motion picture exhibitors. Uncle Dwight reminisced that a rainy day always meant a big day for Edwards Theatres, and other motion picture exhibitors in areas experiencing precipitation..
COME IN FROM THE RAIN, written in the 1970s by Carol Bayer Sager and Melissa Manchester, was a haunting, seductive pop song, recorded by many of the top artists of the day. When Match-Flickers come in from the rain; they go to the movies.
Ask movie-goers why they head for the multiplex when the rain falls, and you'll hear a variety of
reasons. One of the most popular is "Rainy weather is depressing. Going to the movies is a great escape from a dreary day."
Valentino: Death becomes the box-office's sleek sheik.
If rainy days and Mondays don't always get you down, then you may feel like the Match-Flickers who claim, "If it's a rainy weekend, or some other non-work day, and I can't go out and play sports, then I head for the multiplex, and I go out to lunch or dinner after the movie."
With many Americans having rainy or snowy days this month, the box-office should be "raining" money.
Another Special Circumstance: Death becomes the actor or actress who passes, especially if s/he has a new motion picture scheduled for release posthumously. The death of a hot star is a burning hot box-office special circumstance.
The most recent example of a fallen star cashing in at the box-office was Heath Ledger. Suddenly, unexpectedly, mysteriously, the young star left us one year ago.
Public interest in THE DARK KNIGHT, in which Ledger played The Joker, skyrocketed after his untimely demise. As Bill Ramey, founder of the fan Web site Batman-on-Film.com, put it in an Associated Press
feature, "No doubt some people may be apprehensive about seeing THE DARK KNIGHT because there may be a little ghoulish factor about it. But I'm betting that more people kind of look at it as a tribute to Heath Ledger, and the biggest tribute you could give someone is to go see it and enjoy his performance."
James Dean was GIANT in death.
The fan site founder won his bet. As of this writing, THE DARK KNIGHT has earned $997 million, worldwide, making it the fourth highest grossing flick in motion picture history. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association paid tribute to Ledger's final film work with a Golden Globe win for Best Performance By a Supporting Actor." On Thursday, January 22, we'll learn if Ledger is an Oscar nominee.
I've traced the origin of the "Death Becomes Him" Box-Office Special Circumstance back to August 23, 1926, when the screen's preeminent Latin Lover, Rudolph Valentino, passed suddenly, at age 31. Two weeks later, his final film, SON OF THE SHEIK, opened nationwide. Thousands of forlorn females, and, I suspect, some heartsick homosexuals, lined up in front of box-offices across America, to see the
fallen heartthrob's final film.
Population Control bodes ill for the Box-Office
Twenty-nine years after the screen's sheik succumbed, James Dean, a very different kind of superstar, perished in a car crash before completing his final scenes in director George Stevens' epic production of the Edna Ferber novel GIANT. Dean's scenes were completed with a stand-in.
Released fourteen months after the star's death, GIANT was a box-office giant, and the still-grieving fans of the young star were no small part of this classic flick's success.
Young adult Match-Flickers, by virtue of their age, constitute another Special Circumstance that super-charges the boxoffice. Statistics prove that single young adult are, by far, the box-office and the snack bars' best customers.
This fact leaves statisticians concerned about the potential for future movie industry growth. A slowed down population growth yielding a diminished number of next generation young adult Match-Flickers may be a boom for the environment, but it doesn't bode well for the box-office.
We don't recommend, however, that you start procreating like rabbits in order to spike box-office growth.
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Does advertising, public taste, or overindulged stars determine a movie's box office fate? Christoper Stone explores what's going on behind the box office.
Christopher Stone is the author of the international best seller Re-Creating Your Self. With Mary Sheldon, he co-authored three highly successful hardcover books of guided meditations.|
He is a member of the Writers Guild of America, West.
If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Christopher Stone by clicking here.|