In 2010 I saw 100 different movies in 100 different theaters. Here are the details.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Theater Distribution, Part 2

Not all wide releases are created equal. For the 120 or so Bay Area theaters that I track, I've compiled some statistics for a few notable runs. Below is a chart that shows the total number of Friday showings offered for each movie (a showing is one showtime on one screen).

I didn't begin tracking showtimes until the second Friday of the year, but even several weeks into its run, and with Daybreakers and Leap Year (not pictured) opening, Avatar was still king with 516 daily showings. The Book of Eli was the first true challenger, debuting at 428 showings, and matching Avatar exactly in its second week with 398 showings each.

In Eli's second week, it and Avatar fought off three wide releases, among whom we see an interesting trajectory of mediocrity. Legion and Tooth Fairy showed up with just over 300 showings each, and they stayed friends into their second week. But then Tooth Fairy cracked a joke that everyone and their kindergartner (and Eli) could laugh at, while humorless Legion just didn't get it, and the honeymoon was over. Tooth Fairy (purple line) began a slow descent, while Legion (red line) dropped showings like zombies at a diner.

No other movie has seen quite the same success (of failure), though, as Extraordinary Measures. Just about the time people were choosing Dwayne Johnson in pink wings, the Bay Area also decided they'd rather fight off an army of warmongering angels than watch parents try to save their children from cancer. The film went from 236 showings in its second week, to just twenty showings in week three. When that fourth Friday rolled around, not a single showing was offered in the entire Bay Area. That is a cataclysmic rejection. I predict that this movie, among all others widely released this year, will maintain the record for quickest doom.

One thing remained consistent during these dark times: Avatar. Heading into its eight weekend it still offered a Bay Area showing, on average, every four minutes. But finally, through the combined efforts of three new releases, and after more than a month in the top spot, Avatar was beaten. The Wolfman is most notable for setting the new record for the year at 558 showings (it actually reached 568 the next day). (My apologies to Avatar if I'm robbing it of a trophy by excluding January 1st.) Avatar, The Wolfman, and Valentine's Day (not pictured) are the only movies so far this year to break 500 daily showings in the Bay Area. Surprisingly, The Wolfman has now dipped below Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, perhaps because of other thrillers being released.

I've been wondering lately how the Bay Area differs from the rest of the nation in terms of how many showings it devotes to an individual movie. Unfortunately, my strategy to gather showtimes for every theater in the country proved unfeasible. But I do have statistics for local engagements (scraped from IMDB) and national engagements (courtesy of The Numbers). An engagement is a single theater. Even if the theater shows a movie on multiple screens, the theater will still only be counted once.

I list below the movies widely released this year (1000+ engagements). Dividing their Bay Area engagements by their national engagements yields a percentage. Excluding the outlier Crazy Heart, the Bay Area has an average of almost exactly 2%, meaning that, on average, Bay Area theaters account for 2% of a movie's national engagements. (Crazy Heart is an outlier because not only did it barely make the list at 1089 national engagements, but these were still relegated to independent theaters, of which the Bay Area has a disproportionate number.)

Thus if the percentage is below 2%, the Bay Area slightly under-represents the film contrasted to the rest of the country, and if the percentage is above 2% we like the movie more than does the rest of the country. With The Spy Next Door and When in Rome at either extreme of the list, I don't think anyone comes out a winner on this one.

It's also fun to see that although The Wolfman had more daily showings than Valentine's Day, the romance found its way into seven more local theaters than did the supernatural tale.

MovieBay AreaNationalPercentage
The Spy Next Door4729241.61%
Cop Out5231501.65%
Tooth Fairy5833441.73%
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief5933561.76%
The Crazies4624761.86%
Avatar 3D6734521.94%
From Paris With Love5427221.98%
Leap Year5025111.99%
Valentine's Day7336651.99%
Extraordinary Measures5225452.04%
The Wolfman6632222.05%
Dear John6129692.05%
Edge of Darkness6330662.05%
The Book of Eli6431112.06%
Shutter Island6629912.21%
Youth in Revolt4318732.30%
The Lovely Bones6526382.46%
When in Rome6124562.48%
Crazy Heart4410894.04%

As I gather more counts of theater seating capacity, I hope to ultimately be able to tell you exactly how many seats were made available for each film this year. These numbers are vastly incomplete at this time, but so far this year Avatar has made available at least two million seats to the Bay Area's seven million residents (source: Wikipedia).


  1. Man, Extreme Measures tanked.
    Okay I'm lying, I don't have a lot to say about this post. I just wanted to look like on was on topic when my true motive was to mention Avatar passed 700 million, w00t!

  2. (My apologies to Avatar if I'm robbing it of a trophy by excluding January 1st.)

    Oh, and you most certainly are.