Friday, May 27, 2011

Head-start Thursdays

If you're like me, you know your calendar by release dates.

If someone asks me what day of the week, say, March 23rd is, I'll be able to deduce it relative to the release dates of movies coming out around that time. If I know there's a movie coming out on March 21st and a movie coming out on March 28th, that means March 23rd is a Sunday.

For film fans this kind of thing becomes second nature. You see a release date on a poster, you internalize it, and voila -- just a little first grade math and you know what day every date of the month is.

So for a long time I thought that May 26th (today) was a Friday. I knew both Kung Fu Panda 2 and The Hangover II were coming out today, so that should make it a Friday, right?

Glad I didn't use that reasoning in any important situation, because today is of course a Thursday. I could have had dentist appointments and business meetings on all the wrong days.

Movies releasing on Thursday rather than Friday is nothing new, but it is a phenomenon that's only been around for five years or so. Prior to that, if you wanted to get a head start on a holiday weekend, you released your movie on Wednesday, not Thursday.

The reasons for getting the head start are clear enough. If you're like me, you're going to start celebrating your Memorial Day weekend tonight, rather than tomorrow. Everyone knows that tomorrow is a blow-off day at work -- many people even have half days (at my work, we expect to get out two hours early). But you do have to go to work, which means you can't leave for your weekend away until after work gets out on Friday. What better way to spend Thursday night (or in the past, Wednesday night) than at the movies, with whatever new blockbuster Hollywood has seen it fit to unleash on you?

Plus there's the whole psychology issue when it comes to weekend box office. If you want your movie to have the perception of a massive weekend -- which helps sell future tickets -- there's no better way to do it than to add an extra day, so the Sunday night totals look all the more impressive. Most prospective ticket buyers will just see the total, and not stop to consider that the movie had an extra day to reach that total.

But in both of those instances, doesn't it make sense to give yourself yet another day, and open on Wednesday rather than Thursday? A lot of us are probably blowing off the whole end of this week anyway, not just Friday. And the box office total might look all the more impressive with yet one more day.

But we're not seeing many movies open on Wednesdays anymore. It's always Thursdays now. I googled and couldn't find a useful explanation for this. I got some explanations about why they come out on Wednesdays rather than Fridays, but nothing about the shift from Wednesday as the traditional early day to Thursday.

When you take a step back, however, you'd think a Thursday opening would make more sense for a big-budget movie that had some amount of risk involved -- a Thor or a Green Lantern, where audiences might either embrace the character or reject him. The PR boost from the extra day of box office would seem to help a movie like this a lot more than it would help a movie with a built-in audience.

Yet there's a piling on effect with certain movies, isn't there? The Hangover II and Kung Fu Panda 2 are already being given the plum Memorial Day weekend release date, where lots of dollars can also be earned on Monday (though I think the totals are still reported on Sunday). Is the extra day in front of the weekend, as well, designed to give them the boost they need to possibly set records? For example, in the case of The Hangover II, highest opening weekend ever for an R-rated movie?

Lots of questions with only theories as answers -- at least, at the level I'm willing to google. (I stopped being a reporter because I was more comfortable with opinions and shallow research than facts and deeper research.)

Briefly, my thoughts on both films:

I liked Kung Fu Panda, but not as much as most people did. It was animated well and had some thrilling sequences, but there was a bit too much slapstick and a bit too much Jack Black-speak (everything was "awesome" or "righteous" or whatever word he felt like semi-improvising at the time. Oh yeah, I didn't really like the word "skadoosh" that he apparently made up, either). My reservations were significant enough that I'm not making a b-line to the theater for the second one. Plus, I might also like to start saving these kid-friendly movies for when my son is old enough to watch them. A movie I haven't seen to look forward to -- and if he loves it, I'll have one fewer viewing under my belt, meaning a delay in how quickly I get sick of it. (I've heard my friends with older children say they've seen certain Pixar movies 30 times.)

As for The Hangover, again I fall into the category of not liking it quite as much as most people did. I mean, that movie's really funny in spots and I'd definitely watch it again some day -- but from the trailers, I feel like I'd rather see the original again than watch the sequel. I think I resent the cult they're trying to create around this supposed "wolfpack." I don't remember why these guys started being called "the wolfpack," but I have to say I don't really like it. What's funny is that a term like that would normally be reserved for characters who are indisputably cool, but only one of our main three from the original -- Bradley Cooper -- has traditional "cool" credentials. Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis are both massive dorks. I'm not saying this is a problem, because dorks more closely reflect my own personal experience than cool guys. But don't try to make them seem super-cool by calling them "the wolfpack."

And that's all I got for this head-start Thursday. I'll probably write something tomorrow, but if I don't, enjoy your Memorial Day weekend.


Monty Burns said...

I really liked KFP1. It helped that it was Teddy's first movie in the theatre, and we saw it just he and I. That movie was fun, funny, and had great visuals. From what I have heard, KFP2 falls way short on story, and is a pretty needless sequel.

And I am pretty close to your thoughts on Hangover. I enjoy the first one, it has some very funny stuff. But I am totally over it as a 'thing'. I don't feel any need to see a sequel.

Vancetastic said...

Someone actually told me (notice how I'm not bothering to look it up) that Dreamworks may be planning a half-dozen Panda sequels. That will get real old, real fast.

Good description of The Hangover as a "thing." Indeed, its status as a cultural phenomenon sort of exceeds its quality as a movie.