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The Box Office is quite Twittery lately

Reuters has written about something I’ve been noticing lately. Movies are flopping a lot faster this year. They’re also rising a lot faster. From my experience, midnight showings are growing more popular, though perhaps its because this year is particularly full of sequels (what year isn’t).

Reuters speculates that social site Twitter is responsible for a lot of the hastening. Twitter is one of many new ways movie fans are instantly communicating with one another. Many times, people text or tweet right during the movie, to the dismay of everyone sitting around them.

“Has everything speeded up? The answer is yes,” said Adam Fogelson, Universal’s president of marketing and distribution, speaking with Reuters. “Depending on how big your opening day audience is, word-of-mouth starts playing a factor immediately,” he said.

Bruno is a great example. The film had a strong $14.4 million midnight opening, but its ticket sales plummeted to $8.8 million on Saturday, which usually posts higher numbers. This is after a lot of negative chatter about some of the grosser moments in the film, and that it just didn’t stack up to Borat (read my review here). Borat on the other hand, did the exact opposite in 2006. (Click here to see a comparison of the two films’ opening weekends.)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince may turn into another example. Though critically acclaimed, there is a reasonable number of disappointed tweeters voicing their opinions. The film opened with a record breaking $22.5 million midnight showing, but failed to set any opening day records ($58 million, it needed $68 million to top Dark Knight). Did word the negative word spread overnight? (I didn’t care for it, read my review here) Transformers 2 had a slightly smaller midnight showing and a less diverse audience, yet it’s opening day numbers topped $62 million. Half-Blood Prince has dropped substantially in the days since, posting $22 million Thursday and $26.8 million Friday.

But is this actually the effect of Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites, or do some of these movies simply have a larger percentage of fans willing to wait at midnight to see them? I’d bet a mix between the two, but some point toward a Twittery box office (which is a word I made up that means jittery).

This summer, which is the most lucrative movie season and can make up as much as 40 percent of annual box office, ticket revenues for new films have dropped 51 percent, on average, from week No. 1 to week No. 2, a figure matched only in 2007, according to tracking firm Box Office Mojo.

“If people don’t like the movie now on Friday it can die by Saturday,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of tracking firm Box Office. - Reuters

I cannot see how this is a terrible thing. If more people are finding out a movie is bad sooner, then yeah, movie studios will make less money. However, that just makes it all the more important that they make good movies. The problem: the general public loved Transformers 2…and there’s no making sense of a populace that rallies in mass around Michael Bay. I do have some sympathy for film studios. It seems we don’t know crap when we see it, sometimes.

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