Yes, I do think Transformers will be bigger than Harry Potter

Here’s the thing with me and The Numbers—I’m terrible at predicting box office. Comically bad. I have an acquaintance who does box office analysis for a living and he loves to laugh at my spectacularly wrong estimates. When it comes to picking exact numbers, I am almost always wrong. Where I get better is once the movie is out and I can judge how people are responding to it. Then I can sometimes come up with a final gross that is within range of where a film ends up.

While I fully own my own terribleness at guessing exact numbers, and you should always take my predictions with a grain of salt because I am so bad at it, I can often be right about “feelings”. Like my buddy who is an analyst for a living—sometimes he is so buried in trends and data that he forgets the human element. He might come up with a reasoned and logical estimate but I disagree with him based on a feeling I get from how people respond to trailers and it’s not uncommon for my uneducated feeling to trump his formal estimate.

Case in point: Red Riding Hood. He thought between Amanda Seyfreid’s selling power and Catherine Hardwicke’s Twilight connection that it would do well in March and be a big spring hit. I laughed when he told me this, and said I thought it wouldn’t land. I saw how people were mocking the trailer, rolling their eyes, and how people were turned off by the too-derivative Twilight tones. Turns out I was right—Red Riding Hood disappointed at the box office. Had I tried to pin down a specific number I would undoubtedly have been wrong, but I knew it wasn’t going to do well with audiences.

So when I say I think Transformers 3 will out-perform Harry Potter 7-2, it’s based on little more than a feeling. Several people commented on this assertion in yesterday’s June preview, so I’d like to quickly run down why I think this.

First, Harry Potter always does better internationally than it does in the US. When I talk The Numbers I talk US domestic figures because that’s the industry standard. International doesn’t factor into it. Internationally, the Harry Potter movies average $818 million in cumulative gross. Domestically? $287 million average cumulative gross for the seven films so far. US grosses account for only 1/3 of Harry Potter’s total box office. Domestically, they play to the tune of about $290 million a pop. Only two of the seven movies (Sorcerer’s Stone and Half-Blood Prince) have topped $300 million. I expect HP 7-2 to end up around $300 million, too—it is going to be big. Just not Transformers big, not in the US.

In contrast, the two Transformers movies average $360 million domestically, and US grosses account for over 45% of their total take. More Americans go see Transformers than Harry Potter. Depressing, but true. Which is why I think that yes, Transformers 3 will outperform HP 7-2 at the US box office. Not by much, though. If I had to attach a number to my Transformers feeling, it’d be about $325 million (watch me be wildly wrong). When I’ve seen the trailers run, in general people seem more jazzed about Transformers 3, especially men. The difference between the two is groups of grown men going to see Transformers and not Harry Potter.

Right now my Summer 2011 Top Five is:

Transformers 3

Harry Potter 7-2

The Hangover Part II

Cars 2

A genre film, right now, Super 8

I expect Transformers to take the top title with Harry Potter coming in second domestically (worldwide, Harry Potter will outperform Transformers). I expect one of the genre films to land on the list. Right now I think it will be Super 8. I don’t think it will have the biggest opening but I feel like it’s going to have legs and word of mouth will be good and people will feel like they have to see it because everyone is talking about it. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Cowboys & Aliens or one of the superhero movies slides into this spot instead. Thor is currently outpacing The Hangover Part II, but I expect them to switch spots over the next couple weeks. And while Pirates of the Caribbean: Arr, give me your money is the top movie of the summer so far, it took a huge hit in week 2 and I don’t think week 3 will fare much better.

So basically I’m banking on Transformers and HP topping $300 million with Transformers taking a slight lead, The Hangover 2 and Cars 2 ending up in the $250+ million neighborhood, and Super 8 tapping out at around $220 million. But I’m probably wrong. I just kinda feel like it’ll play out this way.

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9 Responses to “Yes, I do think Transformers will be bigger than Harry Potter”

  1. Fair enough. Thanks for that. When you play the percentages like that it does make sense that Transformers will outperform. I, however, also have a feeling that HP 7-2 will have more ‘repeat’ viewings which might skew things – but again, I’m not an HP fan at all, so what do I know! ;)

  2. “When I talk The Numbers I talk US domestic figures because that’s the industry standard. International doesn’t factor into it.”

    Now do you know why that is the case? Seems weird to me. Dollars earned in Germany or Australia are worth just the same as dollars earned in Dallas.

    By the way, I discovered your blog recently, and I’m really enjoying it!

    • It just is. I don’t know when/why that became the standard. Certainly in the accounting departments they care about every cent no matter where it came from, but when it comes to measuring success and comparing properties, US $ is the standard.

      • Thanks. I guess that standard used to make sense in the past, when the US was the main market. But that’s less and less the case, and the industry had better catch up on it.

  3. Yeah, if you’re just talking domestic, I think Transformers might outgross HP7.2. Transformers 2 outgrossed hp7.1 by about $100 million domestically. It’ll be really interesting to watch how it pans out though. There has been some speculation that 3-D is on the downslide these days, so will audiences choose 2-D over 3-D for these two movies? I’m curious. If they do opt for the 3-D though, I really think your $300 estimate for HP7 is going to be low. HP movies usually gross about that amount, and just imagine the percentage of tickets that will cost an extra 5 bucks. Plus it’s the final one, so… repeat viewings? I, for one, will be seeing it multiple times. And crying. A lot.

    I’m also curious to see if Transformers 3 will end up with a smaller gross than Transformers 2. Have people forgiven Michael Bay for Transformers 2? I certainly haven’t. I won’t be seeing the third. But can you really compare the two since Transformers 3 will be in 3-D? Transformers might be one of the movies that audiences actually do opt to see in 3-D. I guess attendance will be more important than gross when comparing the two.

  4. Yes definitely Transformers 3 will be the biggest movie for this. Micheal bay first 3d movie and i expect more in this sequential of the transformers..

  5. Chalk this analysis up to “sad but true.” Sometimes, we movie viewers have to face hard truths about the taste and mental capacity of our fellows.

    Though while I haven’t seen any of the others in the theater, I think I might see Transformers 3. I will surely be drunk and am mostly going to see if they use the accidentally golden footage of Bumblebee t-boning a DC Metro cop car. And I will see HP7b at least twice for every viewing of Transformers 3.

  6. [...] I thought that the top five grosses of the summer would belong to Transformers 3, Harry Potter 7-2, The Hangover Part II, Cars 2 and Super 8. [...]

  7. Guesss what, Harry Potter made more! Big shocker? NO. Transformers is always poorly acted, and the only reason that people go and watch it is because of its visual effects and action.

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