Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Crunching the Numbers on Rent

Rent debuted in fifth place at the box office this weekend, grossing 10.1 million over the weekend, for a total of 17 million in the bank so far. Although many industry insiders assess this figure is pretty weak, the same folk were saying the same thing about another musical, Phantom of the Opera, last year at this time. Phantom cost 60 million to make, grossed 51.2 million at the American box office, 18 in Europe and 3 in Australia. On Video/DVD is has tallied up at least another 23.5 million as of late summer 2005. So, everything else aside (including considerations about quality), Phantom of the Opera was not the bomb suggested by the industry, but on the contrary, remains a modest hit.

Now, Rent cost 20 million dollars less than Phantom (with a budget of 40 million), and has already in a 7 day period grossed 17 million. Like Phantom, it still has a chance to get out of the red and well into the black. Assume it makes the same amount in DVD/VHS revenue as Joel Schumacher's 2004 movie, and it will just cross the 40 million threshold (though you still have to factor in advertising costs, production, etcetera). But then there are those other territories to consider too (Europe, Australia). Even if Rent leaves theatres in America having grossed 25 or 30 million, that will be enough to make it profitable assuming it does okay across the globe and that "Rentheads" show up to buy it on the ancillary market.

I'm writing about this because the movie musical is held to a stringent standard that few other genres are. Every time a new movie musical comes out, people ask "is the movie musical dead?" We don't ask this, you will note, when a superhero movies fails (Catwoman), or an action-flick (Stealth). Only the musical is held to this rigorous standard that every single one made must be a hit, or the ENTIRE GENRE is dead.

So I was looking at some reports today about how Rent fared over the weekend, and was surprised to see insiders saying the results are "low" or even disastrous. I disagree. Rent did respectably, and could still emerge a hit at the end of the day.

I mean, two films that I absolutely love, Serenity and Land of the Dead, had about the same opening weekend grosses that Rent did (10.1 million and 10.2 million, respectively), so why don't I hear people saying that "space adventure" is dead, or that "zombie movies" are moribund?

The fact is, we just have to wait and see. Rent may get the rent paid for the movie musical after all. No, it did not outgross Harry Potter. But anyone who expected it to is flat-out nuts.


  1. zombie movies are moribund. i caught that muir, and i heartily applaud you. of course they are by definition, you clever bastard.


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