Our Tools

Note: Be proud of movies, regardless of their box office performance.


It’s true: you can hear a movie’s heartbeat long before its opening weekend. As can you remember a movie long after the end of its theatrical run.

But as far as box office statistics go, it begins with a weekend.

  • Friday is the day most movies are born
  • 3-day weekends
  • Wednesday openers, holidays, and 5-day weekends

Friday Share of Opening Weekend (or Opening Weekend Ratio) is calculated either as a percentage or ratio, e.g. Dumb and Dumber To’s Friday gross-to-total weekend ratio was 37.3%, or 2.68 to 1. This is often an important calculation in indicating the film’s future status as either a frontloader or backloader (we’ll get to those terms later).

Holidays play an important (and sometimes unexpected) role in this ratio as well. African Cats can tell you more about that.

It ends with a Total Haul (or total gross). While studios declare official close dates, e.g. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was closed on December 4 with $208.5 million, most of the industry stopped paying attention around $205 million. But let’s not think of December 4 as a time of death, nor even December 5 as an afterlife. Instead, consider “$208.5” a gift we receive back from Dawn in return for our attendance

When you’ve got your Total Haul, a new useful tool is Opening Weekend (OW)% of Total Haul. The percentage of a movie’s total haul represented by the opening weekend indicates how healthy its overall run is. It will also give you the movie’s Multiplier.

Generally, movies have 3x Multipliers, but sometimes there are 2x Multipliers and occasionally 4x (or more) Multipliers. This is just a figure for how much a movie’s opening weekend multiplied itself to get to its total haul.

A movie with LONG LEGS means it had a big multiplier. In other words, its OW% of total haul is much smaller.

The Help opened with $26.0 million. With a typical 3x multiplier, its total haul would have been $78 million, but it actually ended up with $169.7 million. It had really long legs.

Short legs isn’t a term, but there is one to describe the opposite phenomena. It’s called FRONTLOADING.

Frontloading is when a movie opens very high but drops drastically thereafter. This could mean the sharp declines set in immediately over the opening Friday to Saturday, or, most probably, in ensuing weekends. Frontloaders typically have 2x multipliers.

The Purge opened to $34.1 million but its total haul was $64.5 million — not even a 2x multiplier. (Horror films will often fall into this category.)

Backloading isn’t a term either, but we’d like to take this opportunity to coin it.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding was quite the backloader. Its first ten weekends were beneath $2 million, but it had a total haul of $241.4 million.

Screen shot 2015-02-09 at 8.27.55 PM

Because all movies are gymnasts… but not all theaters are gymnasiums.

FRANCHISE FATIGUE is a term for when film franchises see a drop-off in interest and/or attendance in later sequels. Fatigue can usually be expected to set in around the third or fourth film in the series (as was the case of Shrek Forever After, the first Shrek entry whose total haul was less than $300 million), but in certain cases will happen immediately (e.g. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian) and, in rare cases, never at all (The Fast and the Furious).



Knowing your movie’s THEATER COUNT is an important tool in determining how much money it should be making relative to where it’s playing. Most wide releases open Super Saturated (3000+ theaters), while others settle in the Saturated (2,500+) or Very Wide (2,000+) ranges. A Wide release is technically over 600+, but don’t always expect to find something under 1,500 theaters at your local, small town movieplex.

Movies that open wide generally don’t expand very much. Expansion is left to movies that open in Limited Release (below 600).

American Sniper can take you through this. It arrived on Christmas Day at a mere 4 theaters, where it hung around for its first three weekends in release. It wasn’t until its fourth weekend that it followed a supersaturated expansion to 3,555 theaters.

This brings us to a very valuable tool: PER SCREEN AVERAGE. On Christmas, American Sniper opened alongside Unbroken. Unbroken debuted at #1 with $15.4 million and American Sniper debuted at #22 with $0.24 million. Seems like Unbroken was more successful, but it was playing super saturated at 3,131 theaters while American Sniper was limited in 4 theaters. Per Screen Average will put this into perspective by dividing the movie’s gross by the number of theaters they’re playing in. That day, Unbroken’s per screen average was $4,930 and American Sniper’s was $60,053. Who’s lethal now?


Remember how big Independence Day felt in 1996? It grossed $306.2 million, which for that time was, indeed, really big. In 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy grossed a little more than that with a $333.2 million total haul. Adjusting for inflation is a tool that recalculates a movie’s box office based on yearly average ticket prices. So adjusting Guardians of the Galaxy for 1996’s average ticket price leaves it grossing $182 million. Adjusting Independence Day for 2014’s average ticket price has it at $565.9 million. No wonder it felt big.

If you want to do this on your own, divide a movie’s total haul by the average ticket price for the year it came out. That will give you the number of tickets sold. Multiply that number by any other year’s average ticket price to know how much it would’ve made then.

Below are the averages for each year (some years are unknown). BoxOfficeMojo.com does the math for you with their Adjuster tab on any given movie’s profile page, but you don’t ever have to 100% believe what BoxOfficeMojo has to say.

      2015     Est.$8.30
2014     $8.17
2013     $8.13
2012     $7.96
2011     $7.93
2010     $7.89
2009     $7.50
2008     $7.18
2007     $6.88
2006     $6.55
2005     $6.41
2004     $6.21
2003     $6.03
2002     $5.81
2001     $5.66
2000     $5.39
1999     $5.08
1998     $4.69
1997     $4.59
1996     $4.42
1995     $4.35
1994     $4.18
1993     $4.14
1992     $4.15
1991     $4.21
1990     $4.23
1989     $3.97
1988     $4.11
1987     $3.91
1986     $3.71
1985     $3.55
1984     $3.36
1983     $3.15
1982     $2.94
1981     $2.78
1980     $2.69
1979     $2.51
1978     $2.34
1977     $2.23
1976     $2.13
1975     $2.05
1974     $1.87
1973     $1.77
1972     $1.70
1971     $1.65
1970     $1.55
1969     $1.42
1968     $1.31
1967     $1.20
1966     $1.09
1965     $1.01
1964     $0.93
1963     $0.85
1962     $0.70
1961     $0.69
1959     $0.51
1956     $0.50
1954     $0.45
1953     $0.60
1951     $0.53
1949     $0.46
1948     $0.40
1945     $0.35
1944     $0.32
1943     $0.29
1942     $0.27
1941     $0.25
1940     $0.24
1939     $0.23
1936     $0.25
1935     $0.24
1934     $0.23
1929     $0.35
1924     $0.25
1910     $0.07