Last week Hollywood tried something a little new in marketing a new release, they released two days early. Both Sony Pictures and Warner Brothers decided to take a shot at grabbing a summer audience that might be bored mid-week and opened their new releases Wednesday instead of waiting for the traditional release frame on Fridays. Of course the hope was to rake in lots of extra ticket sales and build word of mouth (and hype) for big nights on Friday and Saturday. Not a bad idea and one we commended last week as being an idea obvious enough that it's a little surprising it's not already the norm through the blockbuster weeks of summer.
Both pictures, Pineapple Express from Sony starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 from Warner starring Amber Tamblyn, Alexis Bledel, America Ferrera and Blake Lively, turned in respectable if not stellar numbers. In fact, on Wednesday, the day of release, both Express and Pants beat out The Dark Knight at the box-office with Express scoring 12 million over The Dark Knight's take of 5. Nice, but it wouldn't last and eventually The Dark Knight scored another big weekend (making it four in a row) and placed first, with Monday delivering weekend totals that put Express in the number two slot and Pants number 4 (Brendan Fraser's The Mummy sequel, still performing nicely in it's second weekend, scored the number 3 slot).
So does a Wednesday release work? The definitive answer will come this weekend with the Paramount/Dreamworks release of Ben Stiller's big budget "war movie in a satire flick" Tropic Thunder. In spite of multiple threats of boycotting from a few offended organizations, (much more on this will shortly be appearing over at our sister blog Satire is Reason), Tropic Thunder may wind up basking in the kismet of being a perfectly placed release. Not only will it have the joy to be reporting what I expect to be blockbuster 5 day numbers on Monday, I've got to go with the odds and say that Thunder will also be the flick to drop the Batman down to the number 2 weekend slot for the first time since it's release on July 18th. That extra bit of bragging rights, which most seemed to be assured would go to Pineapple Express this past weekend, and likely didn't due to the Wednesday release not building well into the weekend, will now go to Thunder which is far more likely to carry its momentum into the weekend and with it, enthusiastic word of mouth. And perhaps that's all appropriate as The Dark Knight can justly be called the best film of the summer and Tropic Thunder holds the promise of being the summer's funniest comedy.
We like the idea of Wednesday summer releases. We like the idea of Wednesdays becoming big events through the summer release schedule. Studios, theaters and audiences may find that separating big action and dopey comedy fare from more serious and adult fare between a Wednesday/Friday release pattern may even help to smooth things at the ticket counter, alleviate the trepidation adults can have for standing in long movie lines that have a decidedly young demographic and allow working adults a less crowded Friday night. It may even be a way to knock down the resistance many of us have to fighting opening weekend lines. We'll bet big time on Tropic Thunder having a strong night tonight and a great weekend. We'll also cover any bets on The Dark Knight again nailing down impressive 5th weekend numbers and in the process taking over the number 2 all-time US box-office slot from Star Wars as The Dark Knight passes the 461 million mark. It's all good and it's nice to see studios backing their releases with a little more confidence. Even in the face of misdirected boycotts and over emotional gut reactions. But that's another column on a different blog.