Buzz Smiles On 'Showman,' 'Jumanji'

By Robert Marich
   Feb. 4, 2018. I don’t think there’s sufficient appreciation that word-of-mouth (consumer buzz) still lifts some films to extraordinary boxoffice in the digital age, where ordinarily movies are supposed to soar or bomb upon arrival.
   Weekly Standard film critic John Podhoretz notes that Fox musical The Greatest Showman rebounded from a terrible opening, and the
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle surpassed expectations because audiences like its stars and concept

launch of Sony Pictures’ Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle surpassed expectations based on early industry expecations and formal research tracking surveys.
   “They have appeal across various demographics—little kids can attend them, but since they weren’t made specifically for little kids, their older tween and teen siblings have been willing to see them as well.” writes Podhoretz. “They have the kind of star power that attracts the millennial males who are the key to box-office success—the superhero Hugh Jackman plays The Greatest Showman, while the action dynamo Dwayne Johnson and the comedian Kevin Hart topline Jumanji. But other movies have shared all these qualities and haven’t broken through. No, the key to the success of Jumanji and The Greatest Showman is the ambergris of show business, the rarest and most valuable of harvested byproducts—word of mouth.”
   Jumanji, a reboot of a 1995 film, passed $350 million in domestic (US and Canada) boxoffice, so it’s many-times over a $100 million blockbuster. Greatest Showman arrived with a thud of a meager $8.8 million on its opening three-day weekend. But word of mouth and its music soundtrack—a big hit in record sales—gave it staying power to grow around $150 million in domestic boxoffice—good but not great.
   “The Greatest Showman just chugged along, grossing between $4 and $6 million a day from Christmas through New Year’s, dipping down near a $1-million take during weekdays before rising again to $5 million a day on weekends,” writes Podoretz (who found the music soundtrack “mostly lousy”). Remember that the $8.8m opening was over three days, so those one-day figures represent improvment.
   Notes the third edition of the Marketing To Moviegoers book, the supernatural romantic drama Ghost  starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and Whoopi Goldberg is a famous example of a slow-starting sleeper hit. “The Paramount film premiered July 1990 with a then-okay $12.2 million three-day opening to rank second that week,” says Marketing to Moviegoers. “The top film was holdover Die Hard 2, which had opened nine days earlier with a huge $35.5 million for the five-day Independence Day holiday. However, Ghost held steady as the slow-to-materialize adult audience patronized the film in later weeks. The film finished the year number one at the box office (at $218 million including some box office carrying over into the next year). Its opening week—with a then-sizable 1,101 play dates—accounted for just 9 percent of its total box office, which is incredibly low when measured against today’s era of front-loaded films. Meanwhile, Die Hard 2  finished in eighth place for 1990.”
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