Every Monday we all gather on the Internet or around the proverbial water cooler to discuss how much money such-and-such movie made over the weekend. What does that mean, though? If a movie grosses $500 million in three days, it’s plenty impressive, but how many people actually SAW it? That’s what “Butts in Seats” is all about. Using an average ticket price of $15 – the rough median between 2D and 3D/IMAX ticket prices – “Butt in Seats” gives you an idea of just how many people crammed their posteriors into theater seats over the course of the weekend.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 came out swinging over the weekend, shattering multiple box office records both in North America and overseas. The $168.5 million domestic take comes out to roughly 11.2 million Butts in Seats. Potter earned $307 million in foreign markets, which breaks down to roughly 20.5 million tickets sold. The grand total of $475.5 million then equates to an estimated 31.7 million Butts in Seats around the globe. Ticket prices vary a little more outside North America, so take the foreign and worldwide figures with a slightly larger grain of salt.
Back to North America, Potter knocked out former opening weekend record-holder The Dark Knight, which earned $158.4 million and drew roughly 10.6 million viewers to theaters. Bear in mind, though, that the 2008 release was a 2D-only affair; even with IMAX in the mix, that viewer count is probably a bit higher. With the gap between it and Potter roughly half a million, it’s a safe bet that comparable numbers of movie-goers turned out for each.
Trailing behind in a distant second to Potter was Michael Bay’s 2011 summer blockbuster Transformers: Dark of the Moon, with $21.3 million at the box office and just 1.4 million Butts in Seats. Not a bad showing for two weeks after release, especially with a crowd-pleaser like Potter getting in the way. Transformers opened with $97.9 million earned domestically, and 6.5 million theatergoers.
Let’s compare these now to the weekend’s lowest of the top 10 performers, Woody Allen’s latest, Midnight in Paris, which also opened on Friday. The Sony Classics romantic comedy took in $1.9 million over the weekend, which comes out to around 127,000 tickets sold using the blockbuster math. There’s no 3D or IMAX release for Midnight though, so using a median ticket price of $10 we get 190,000 Butts in Seats, less than two percent of Potter’s estimated draw. Midnight in Paris is also notably Allen’s strongest box office opening ever.
Stepping back to Harry’s domestic showing of 11.2 million Butts in Seats, let’s see how it fared against the top players on TV as an apples-to-slightly-different-apples comparison. TV shows only get a single night to do their business, but network programming – the biggest performer – is free to watch. America’s Got Talent, the nation’s latest reality craze, drew 6.1 million viewers on Tuesday.