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:
Harry Potter 7-2
The Hangover Part II
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.