Recent reports of relatively poor video performance in the first quarter of this year have pointed to the box office of the slate, which was down from Q1 2010 by over 20%, as a factor. The big video rumble of Q1 2011 came in March, with a match up that pitted Tangled, Jackass 3, and Black Swan plus a very deep slate of less-than-$100m theatrical titles against last year's Twilight Saga: New Moon and The Blind Side plus Alvin & the Chipmunks: Squeakquel and Sherlock Holmes - each with $200m-plus in box office. So far this quarter hasn't been any easier, with 2010's record-breaking Avatar included in the April comps. But the studios turned out a strong slate topped by Harry Potter 7, Part 1 that only came up about $50m short of last April's box office total (see IHS Screen Digest's Hollywood Aftermarket, March issue). The May slate, led by The Green Hornet, Gnomeo & Juliet, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never and No Strings Attached, is looking very solid.
A Q1 video market that was down in the -10% range on a slate with 20% less box office muscle suggests that video retail is actually holding its own - which would be good news indeed for studios. The top three titles for May should convert well at retail, as they have each proven to have high appeal for their target demographic, even though none of them topped the magic $100m box office mark that used to indicate a title was ripe for the sell-through market.
A bigger concern than a down Q1 video slate which still outperformed the box office trend for the quarter is the year-to-date box office totals, which are off from 2010 by 15%, according to Box Office Mojo. These are the movies, along with the summer tentpoles, that will be driving video revenue in the crucial second half. So far, this year has only produced four $100m-plus box office hits, although Gnomeo and Juliet with $99m is poised to break that barrier before coming out on video in May. Hop started very strong but at week five looks like it will top out in the $110m range. Rango is slowing down as it nears $120m, while Rio brought in another $15m in its third week, which means it will probably do about the same. All four animated features should perform well on video, but Hop will most likely be held for an Easter release next year. The Adam Sandler/Jennifer Aniston live-action film Just Go With It grossed $103 at twelve weeks in theaters and is slated for video in June.
Fast Five, the fifth film in Universal's Fast & Furious franchise, just made a smokin' debut, earning $86m in its first week. We can hope that means the American movie-goer is signaling a liking for familiar characters and storylines, since the coming summer season is thick with sequels, prequels and franchises.