THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"JOURNEY TO THE BOTTOM OF THE BOX OFFICE"
Unless you live in a cave, you probably know that Furious 7 broke box office records for the month of April this past weekend. Estimates said the film earned a mind-boggling $147 million in its first three days. Amazing stuff. But with all this constant emphasis on what is number one at the box office, do you ever wondered what comes in last place? I have, and to learn more, I consulted Box Office Mojo, a valuable website for people who like to closely track the motion picture business. What I found may surprise you.
How many movies do you think are playing at the current time? Mostly, our awareness only extends to the films that are now showing at our local multiplex, a few second run movies still puttering around and, perhaps, two or three "art films" that we hope will open locally soon. Truth be told, there are usually more than 75 movies in release at any given time. During the April 3-5 weekend, there were 87 films tracked by Box Office Mojo, meaning that they reported earnings. The #1 movie was, of course, Furious 7 which made its $147 million while playing on 4,004 screens.
Coming in last place, at #87, was 3 Nights in the Desert, a film about three former friends/band mates who reunite to celebrate turning 30, while also trying to sort out the issues between them. It stars Wes Bentley and Amber Tamblyn. The movie's grand total box office take for the weekend was $40. That's right - forty bucks. You may have more than that in your wallet or purse right now. I do. Divide that by $8.17 (the national average ticket price) and you can surmise that about four people paid to see it sometime last weekend. In contrast, Furious 7 is estimated to have drawn in about 18 million viewers. To be fair, 3 Nights in the Desert was playing on only one screen in the whole United States. It has been in release for five weeks and has thus far accumulated $1,279.
The prior week's last place finisher, On the Way to School, took in only $120 for the weekend. Such numbers are not unusual for the bottom of the box office charts.
I don't bring this up to mock or ridicule movies like 3 Nights in the Desert. No one expects a small, indie art film like this to make Fast & Furious money. Nor do I mean to infer that such films rank low because they are bad. Far from it. Sometimes the most obscure movies are the best ones.
The reason I do point all this out is to illustrate how the mass media gets so consumed with "big" movies that they fail to give an accurate portrayal of the cinematic landscape. Instead of focusing on all the films out there, they focus only on the top ten. I know that not much press can be given to a film like 3 Nights in the Desert, considering that 18 million Americans (myself included) want to hear about Furious 7. But wouldn't it be nice once in a while to hear about those little movies that don't get much hype, much advertising, or much notice? Wouldn't it be great to celebrate the true underdogs of modern moviemaking? There are all kinds of worthy movies out there; a lot of them just struggle to find an audience because they aren't as easy to sell as an action picture about fancy cars.
Odds are you've never heard of many of the films toiling near the bottom of the box office chart. You may not know that pictures such as Futuro Beach, Like Sunday Like Rain, Ode to My Father, Cupcakes, Human Capital, and Can't Stand Losing You are in theaters as you read this. Now you do. Look them up and learn more about them. They may not ever play at a theater near you, but they will all come to DVD and VOD at some point, and a few of them might be real treasures, regardless of how much money they made.
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