Butts In Seats | <i>Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes</i> Rises

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.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes arrived last Friday, and so did the movie-going audiences. The James Franco-starring sci-fi prequel emerged from its opening weekend with $54 million in the bank, or roughly 7.3 million Butts in Seats. Tim Burton's rebooted take on the franchise, which premiered in July 2001, opened bigger, with a $68.5 million release weekend. The gap widens when you account for ticket prices 10 years ago, which the National Association of Theater Owners puts at $5.65. That means roughly 12.1 million people bought tickets for the Burton flick during its opening weekend, nearly double the 2011 release's turnout.

Trailing behind Rise in a distant second place is The Smurfs, with a weekend gross of $21 million. Add to that the fact that 41 percent of those sales were premium-priced 3D showings, and you have significantly fewer Butts in the house, about 2.3 million in all, versus last week's estimated 4.1 million.

The gap between The Smurfs and Cowboys & Aliens, which both emerged from their shared opening weekend with neck-and-neck box office totals, widened this week on the money front. The Jon Favreau-directed comic book adaptation has earned $15.7 million domestically since Friday. That's roughly 2 million Butts; add that to last week's roughly 4.9 million draw and you start to see how looking at attendance numbers paints a different picture. The Smurfs is earning more money, but Cowboys is bringing out more Butts.

Or is it? The Smurfs complicates things because there's a higher volume of lower-priced child tickets being sold, as one commenter pointed out last week. This is much more difficult to account for, as attendance percentages broken down by ticket type aren't provided like they are with 3D vs. 2D. Do you think it's fair to say that the two movies are still pretty much on even footage due to the disparity between their two audiences?

Keep the comments and feedback coming, folks. Thanks for your continued interest!

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