The modern box office is run by opening weekends. If you blockbuster fails to make enough money in that time, they are often dropped by their studio and so the film flops. According to Box Office Mojo, presently the Biggest American Opening Weekends Box Offices (not adjusted for inflation) are:

  1. The Avengers
  2. Iron Man 3
  3. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 2
  4. The Dark Knight Rises
  5. The Dark Knight
  6. The Hunger Games
  7. Spider-Man 3
  8. The Twilight Saga: New Moon
  9. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2
  10. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1

Now apart from the surprise (to me anyway) of four, arguably female focused movies in the top ten (which is a post for another time!),  you will see all but one are sequels. Even The Hunger Games, the none sequel of the list, is based on an existing property that happens to be the biggest selling book series of all time.

Beyond the traditional complaints that Hollywood can’t think up of any new ideas, this list also reveals an important aspect for modern blockbusters that want to make lots of money. I believe, that one of the ways to ensure a large box office for your movie is to make sure your film, or elements from it, are recognised in the cultural consciousness of society. If the audience already knows and trusts the brand then they’ll purchase it again. Look again at the list, each film has an identifiable brand logo. Often these are so strong you recognise them even when placed in a different context.

However, this iconography is more than brand recognition. It is also about recognising characters and story elements. Many of us, like to do things we know that we’ll enjoy. This is quite difficult when trying something new. However, the more information you know about the new thing, the easier it is to try it. The same is true of the movies. After seeing the first Harry Potter movies, the audience will want to know what happens next, and so will pick Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets rather than Thunderpants, another children’s movie from that year.

The same is true of story elements. Ask the average person on the street about Superman and they’ll probably be able to tell you what his costume looks like, where he is from, and how he arrived on earth. Essentially his origin story. With this in mind, when you hear there is a new Superman movie coming out, people already feel comfortable with the story and so are more likely to go and see it.. They know what to expect, if the film maker doesn’t play around with the formula too much! It is this expectation I will be discussing next time.