Butts In Seats | Cowboys Vs. Aliens Vs. Smurfs

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 $7.86 – the national average ticket price as of Q1 2011 – “Butt in Seats” gives you an idea of just how many people crammed their posteriors into theater seats over the course of the weekend.

Welcome back to Butts in Seats! This weekend's box office race was a close one between the family-friendly 3D cartoon adaptation The Smurfs and the Jon Favreau-directed comic book movie Cowboys & Aliens. Both movies landed in the first-place spot, with $36.2 million earned apiece.

That's just the raw dollars and cents, though. Breaking each movie down by individual butts, the non-3D Cowboys emerges as the clear winner in terms of attendance figures. Both movies earned $36.2 million, but 45 percent of the screens Smurfs played on were 3D.

This means that roughly $16.2 million of the Smurfs take came from premium ticket prices. 3D attendance for the movie comes to roughly 1.4 million tickets sold -- based on the $7.38 national average plus $4, a figure provided by Exhibitor Relations box-office analyst Jeff Bock -- and 2D attendance totals out to roughly 2.7 million tickets, for a grand total of 4.1 million butts in seats.

With no IMAX screenings and no 3D release, Cowboys' ticket sales come purely out of non-premium pricing. The $36.2 million box office yields a much higher turnout at this lower average price, with roughly 4.9 million showing up to see Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig act like cowboys.

Captain America: The First Avenger finished its second weekend in theaters behind the two newcomers, with $24.9 million earned. We don't have 2D vs. 3D attendance figures this week for Cap, but assuming it was a roughly 50/50 split, we can estimate that roughly 2.8 million butts came out. We should start seeing some more patterns emerge over the coming weeks, but it's interesting to note even now that a box-office earnings gap of more than $10 million only amounts to roughly one or two million people.

Please keep those comments coming; your feedback on the previous Butts in Seats was much appreciated. Do you think these new numbers paint a more accurate picture? Would you like to see any other comparisons made? A closer look at anything we're already considering?

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