A photo of Greg Buell

What's Better Than a $40M Opening... a $50M Opening. Here is why we Need to Rethink Dating.

Greg Buell on October 9th, 2018

Another weekend, another record at the box office. Venom is a hit, and A Star is Born exceeded all expectations. For months it was obvious: two beasts in their own regard were gearing up to do battle in the same weekend. Whilst most reacted to the data "as two different audiences",the real insight is in. Had either title debated in separate weekends, Venom would have hit $100 million and A Star is Born would have cleared $50 million.

Credit: Digital Spy

Dating... It's a Traditional Thing

For years, studios, distributors and their movies have lived and died by a traditional set of standards for releasing films. Cluster tentpoles titles around the summer and award titles towards the end of the year. Fall and spring hold interesting opportunities, whilst holiday driven titles open, well, around the holiday.

Enter March 2017. A shift in the market. The traditional approach becomes limited and now causes potential breakout films to flounder in a crowded weekend schedule, cannibalizing both profits and audience's attention. Add in the content streaming services and the box office has now become the wild west.

The Old-School Comp Approach

The "seasonal" released strategy is based on a two-dimensional view of competition when in fact it's really a three-dimensional issue. Comps help to visualize an audience, yet create inherent biases. "If Titanic did this, then my movie about a ship should also do that." The problem is that basing your strategy on comps doesn't take into account all the other titles playing during the same three-week frame?-?not for the comp you're trying to replicate and not for your new film, nor does it consider what Netflix was doing or will do.

This approach to releasing films and television needs to evolve before more potential hits get cannibalized.There is no clearer example of this than what we saw this past weekend.

A Star was Born

Here is what we knew: A Star is Born had been tracking on our platform for 24 weeks: with 10 weeks before its release it had been consistently hitting huge demand, culminating in over a month of top ten rankings for both our Story and Talent index's.

But, as imagined, A Star is Born had been facing stiff competition from Venom, destroying its ability to market efficiently. Out of the 80+ movies on our platform in the 24-week window, A Star is Born held more than 10% demand across all titles combined for weeks. Venom was not far behind going into the final release week.

Insert Head to head for Star vs Venom

The above clearly shows that the engagement for these films has been consistent for the past 10 weeks. While they are two very different titles attracting different types of audiences, it's clear that they cut into each others box office profits. Yes, combined they generated $120 million, but what if they had been released on separate weekends where each one could clearly dominate?

Had A Star is Born hit the screens on a different weekend, it would have locked in a $50+ million opening. Venom would have gone far towards $100 million.

That's nearly $30 million taken off the table because of dating. That's not chump change.

Trend 2: Timing Isn't Everything, But it's Definitely Something

Now let's look to see what happens to A Star Is Born was released during the same weekend of The House with a Clock in its Walls, the top money maker with a $26 million opening. The below slide shows the monumental difference in pure story demand. Clearly, A Star is Born dominates, a great sign seeing this data source is highly correlated to box office.

If A Star is Born was released during this weekend, it would have had the potential to earn an extra $7-$12 million dollars at the box office and make a positive financial impact the weeks following its release.

The Bottom Line

Leveraging state-of-the-art A.I. to analyze the entire market, not just hand picked titles, means we can find inefficiencies in the market to help inform release strategy. It allows us to instantly query the market to discover where a title may have an easier time or a harder time with a release. With Halloween, Christmas and Easter all revealing a ton of titles, understanding where a title can best succeed is critical to an ever changing and over crowded marketplace.