postTuesday, 13 November 2007

Box Office Expert or Spin Doctor

Bee Movie was No. 1 but is that really impressive?Do you know who Paul Dergarabedian is? Do you know what his link to Bee Movie is? Do you know if Dreamworks pay him in diamonds? If the answer is no you've found the right article.Jerry Seinfeld is looking a little yellow since Seinfeld.Bee Movie captured 1st place at the box office in its second weekend of release after opening in second last weekend to American Gangster. "It's so rare to do what Bee Movie has done," Media by Numbers President Paul Dergarabedian told the Los Angeles Times, attributing the jump to "terrific word of mouth."

This is an interesting statement from Dergarabedian but before I discuss why this is so interesting and unusual let us first learn a little more about Dergarabedian and Media by Numbers.

According to the Media by Numbers website Dergarabedian has been the industries most widely respected and widely quoted expert for nearly 15 years. Media by Numbers goal is to provide in-depth analysis and perspective for everything in the box-office and filmed entertainment industry. According to them, “We don’t just give you data. We help you understand it, use it, learn from it and profit from it.”

I am not disputing the validity of Media by Numbers mission statement. What I am concerned about is the validity, or intentions, behind Dergarabedian’s Bee Movie statement. Interestingly although Bee Movie has become number one in its second weekend its second weekend drop is worse than previous animated films that opened in early November. Consider the following:

Chicken Little – 21.0% drop

Monsters, Inc. – 27.2% drop

The Incredibles – 28.7% drop

Bee Movie – 32.8% drop

In addition Bee Movie has lower user ratings than each of these films (with the exception of The Internet Movie Database user rating for Chicken Little):

Chicken Little Yahoo User Rating: B- IMDB User Rating: 5.8

Monsters, Inc. Yahoo User Rating: B+ IMDB User Rating: 7.9

The Incredibles Yahoo User Rating: B+ IMDB User Rating: 8.2

Bee Movie Yahoo User Rating: C+ IMDB User Rating: 6.5

In addition Bee Movie’s second weekend drop is less remarkable in light of the Veterans Day weekend meaning more kids would have been out watching movies on Sunday. This is more likely the main factor helping lead Bee Movie to a first place finish rather than word of mouth.

This analysis is interesting for one specific reason. When the media says a film has terrific word of mouth it convinces the public that the people who are watching the film are loving it. However, clearly the yahoo and IMDB user ratings paint a different picture.

It is an interesting explanation from an analyst with over 15 years of experience to give and one has to wonder if Dergarabedian is a credible news source or if he is merely a spin machine being used by certain Hollywood players.

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