There are times in life when you can see the train coming, know you should jump out of the way, but find you can do nothing to avoid the gruesome inevitability.
Last fall I documented Evan Almighty’s fishy $100 million box office gross; using box office statistics and a fair amount of common sense, I proved that the grosses for the film were artificially inflated to ensure the film reaching the industry standard century mark. This incident was not the first time, and I can assure you, is far from the last time, this kind of financial tampering will occur.
I can provide that assurance because I’m about to prove it happened again last weekend.
(I already went into the reasoning behind box office tampering in my Evan Almighty post, so we’re going to jump (heh) straight to the delicious dubiousness this time.)
On Valentine’s Day 2008, Jumper, the poorly received, poorly acted, poorly marketed sci-fi action craptacular was foisted on the general public. Starring a chunk of oak that has come to be called “Hayden Christensen”, uber-hottie Rachel Bilson, the Billy Elliot guy and the re-animated corpse of Samuel L. Jackson’s talent, the film was expected to launch a potential franchise. A cool concept, a well-regarded director, a (somewhat) hip cast and flashy special effects usually portend such an event (worked for The Matrix).
(By the by, the movie was good for exactly three things: 1. Continuing Hayden’s legendary streak of banging onscreen the hottest actresses in the world, 2. Paying off Sam Jackson’s 2008 Pebble Beach Country Club dues, and 3. the shameless plug on American Idol where Hayden and Ryan Seacrest attempted to outact each other, a cinematic moment unmatched in its brilliance by anything ever committed to celluloid. The Hayden/Seacrest tete-a-tete wipes its ass with Citizen Kane. On the real.)
Initially, all signs pointed to this studio wish coming true. Against all logic, the film grossed $27 million in its opening weekend. That, despite whore-rific critical reviews so bad I’m surprised the Razzie people haven’t ALREADY given them the 2008 Worst Picture Award (The film has a 16% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. To put that number into perspective, Hayden’s previous movie, Awake, the stupid beyond all measure “guy stays awake through surgery, but hey, in one scene you get to see Jessica Alba’s bare back, so you know you’re at least gonna YouTube that shit” thriller, received 24%.). Inexplicably surviving the thunder storm of “DON”T GO SEE JUMPER”, the film had a relatively solid ten-day gross of $56 million.
After one month in release, Jumper had grossed $75 million. But the legs were dying. Week-to-week grosses were dropping 50%; the chance the film would end its run north of $80 million were lowers than Hayden’s chances of ever becoming a “real live boy”! Unfortunately, 20th Century Fox had dumped too much money into the film, so no matter what, Jumper was reaching $80 million. You can’t justify a franchise launch at $79 million, but 80, you can make a brand with 80.
And that’s the moment I started paying attention.
Let’s take a look at the timeline for Jumper’s trainwreck run to 80 (all this info can be found: HERE):
Feb. 14 – Jumper opens. On 3,402 screens, the film grosses $6.6 million.
Mar. 15 – After 31 days in release, Jumper has grossed $75 million.
Mar. 28 – Jumper crosses the $78 million mark. At this rate, the film should cross the $80 mil mark in just under 35 days.
May 3 – 35 days later, the film is stalled at $79.43 million. This is the film’s 80th day of release. It is only on 141 screens and it’s gross for the day was $38,313.
May 13 – After 90 days in release, Jumper has grossed a modest $79.62 million.
Flash forward to…
June 13 – One month later, Jumper has grossed only $267 thousand in 30 days (this day’s gross – because it will be important later – $6,389 on 27 screens). At this rate, the film should theoretically break eighty million in about three more weeks. But here’s the problem: on June 10th, Jumper was released on DVD.
Now, usually a film is LONG GONE from cinemas by the time it is released on home video. So why is Jumper still in theaters? The film has been out for four full months. Its grosses have obviously stalled. Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and Indiana Jones 4 are all in the marketplace. And the movie sucks. So who is going to see this movie? Especially when they can save the crazy expensive gas, not to mention an extra five bucks, by renting the damn thing!
At this point, is there ANY doubt a dubious weekend box office jump is on the horizon?
So here’s where the fun starts…
June 19 – Jumper grosses $1,446 on 27 screens. This number is in line with every Thursday number during the course of the film’s second leg.
June 20 – On Jumper’s 128 day in theaters, having been available on DVD for 10 FULL DAYS, the film boosts its theater count to 105 screens and grosses… wait for it… wait for it… $50,715!!!!!!!!! Let’s put that INSANE number into perspective, shall we?
- $50,715 is Jumper’s highest one-day gross since April 19th, the film’s 66th day of release! On that day, the film was in 200 screens. So how did the film gross 80% of that number in half the screens, a full TWO MONTHS LATER?
- The last day Jumper was in 100 plus screens on a Friday was May 9th, when the film grossed $42,165 on 124 screens. So how did the film gross $8k more in 22 less screens FORTY-TWO DAYS LATER???
- One week before, the film grossed $6,389 on 27 screens. By doing simple math, one week later, the film should have grossed around $24k. So how does one account for the film DOUBLING that number?? How does the entire industry not question the film showing a 3,407% increase in day-to-day box office?
And it gets better!
June 21 – Jumper grosses $65,520 on its 29th day of release, to FINALLY cross the all-important $80 million box office plateau.
- That number is a 30% increase from the ludicrous gross of the day before.
- The film has grossed more than $100k in just two days, when it needed TWENTY-FIVE days to hit the last $100k.
- For the weekend, Jumper grosses $141,164, good enough for 22nd place in its 19th weekend. It beats the Harold & Kumar sequel, even though that film had been in theatres ten weeks less, and was showing on HALF the number of screens.
- It grosses only $6k less than Horton Hears A Who, even though that film had been in theatres three weeks less, was showing on 150 more screens, and had grossed nearly DOUBLE more than Jumper!
HELLO? Anybody? Bueller?
What is going on? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!
One last bit of perspective…
- Star Wars: Episode 2 – Attack of the Clones, on its 129th day of release grossed $92,364 on 236 screens. By this token, had Jumper been in 236 screens it would have OUT-GROSSED STAR WARS!
It is not fathomable the whole of America suddenly became enamored with Hayden Christensen, so what gives? Where did this new money come from? Who is still seeing this movie? Did $141k worth of people start seeing ads for the DVD and decide that even though they hadn’t bothered to see the movie in theatres anytime in the last four months, NOW was the time to capitalize? Somebody please tell me, cause I went to college, majored in Film Studies and have spent untold hours on Box Office Mojo and I can’t explain it.
And what’s more, Jumper has grossed an average of $24k every day this week! The last Wednesday Jumper grossed $24k before yesterday was April 2nd, TWO AND A HALF MONTHS AGO!!! It’s now on pace to top $81 million, a figure that was the climax of director Doug Liman’s frenetically placed, but awesome to watch, wet dreams only seven days ago.
But hey… maybe audiences are just catching up on Spring movies. Maybe these numbers can be explained by a lack of action movies in theaters. Maybe people just really want to see Rachel Bilson’s crazy adorable squirrel face on a 30-foot screen (and who would blame them?). Or maybe the film is just better than I remember. Well… maybe not that last one.
Whatever the reason, SOMEthing is suspicious about these numbers. SOMEthing was fudged. SOMEone did something to make it happen. If Fox really needed the extra $141k in order to justify greenlighting a sequel that probably won’t gross $70 million anyway, I guess this was the right move. But i don’t know… the film did well internationally. Worldwide, Jumper has grossed a robust $221 million against an $85 million budget. With home video and ancillary money, that spells profit in any language. So why go to such dubious lengths to ensure an $80 million domestic box office gross?
And the best part about all of this? Jumper hit its dubious box office achievement the same weekend that Steve Carrell, he of the last dubious box office achievement, opened his new Summer movie! You have to love that kind of serendipity.
Sometimes you can see the train coming, because its already come before. And hey, the conductor looks awfully familiar.