Arthouse auds most likely to see film during holidays

Hollywood will be counting on a Christmas goose at the box office this year. But an exclusive survey conducted for Variety by film tracking and research company OTX finds that most moviegoers will be pickier at the plexes this season amid an abundance of year-end pic choices, and that they’re leaning toward some surprising choices.

According to the OTX survey, which polled more than 800 moviegoers nationwide between Nov. 13-15, a majority of auds have already chosen which films they want to see during the holiday frame. Most of the remainder make their choices either on or closer to the holiday.

The survey data suggest that Christmas filmgoing is less a matter of tradition and more based on the profile of the films themselves — a major boon for pics with pre-existing audience awareness, such as franchise titles like “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol” and “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” and adaptations like David Fincher’s remake of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”

Auds under 25, particularly women, are less likely to go to the movies on the days surrounding Christmas than over-25 auds; men over 25 are most likely at 42%, with women of the same age group at 39%, according to the survey’s findings.

That should bode well for Paramount’s “Young Adult” or “Dragon Tattoo,” the latter of which Sony is targeting mostly to adults as “the feel-bad movie of Christmas” — a tagline used in the film’s trailer.

“We saw Christmas as an opportunity to capitalize on a film with broad adult appeal,” said Sony prexy of worldwide distribution Rory Bruer. “But we’re finding that the film is appealing to older teens as well.”

The survey found that 57% of arthouse fans planned to see a movie over the Christmas period — the highest percentage for any film genre.

That’s primarily because arthouse moviegoers — more than any other demo — are more open to visiting the multiplex on either day surrounding Christmas, as well as on the holiday itself. By comparison, most moviegoers seeking sci-fi fare (54%) say they typically go to the movies the day after Christmas.

One surprising result of the survey is that family films, drawing 40% of aud interest, aren’t as popular as sci-fi pics, at 46%, and action films, at 41%, during the Christmas play period.

That’s good news for Summit’s teen sci-fier “The Darkest Hour,” which launches Christmas Day, as well as Par’s fourth “Mission: Impossible” installment, from Skydance Prods., bowing Dec. 21.

Looking back at last year’s high-profile holiday release “Tron: Legacy,” it’s easy to see why Disney chose to launch the film around Christmas (on Dec. 17), given the heightened holiday playtime and the existing appetite among key demos for sci-fi pics.

“That’s what everybody is chasing, the period from Christmas Day through New Year’s,” said Sony’s Bruer.

But the holiday session’s B.O. slowdown in under-25s last year ultimately hit “Tron: Legacy”: The film bowed below industry expectations, with a solid if not spectacular Stateside cume of $172 million, added to $228 million in overseas grosses.

Overall, family films display the longest legs over the holidays, primarily because they have the broadest appeal.

Dave Hollis, exec VP of theatrical exhibition sales and distribution at Disney, said he has high hopes for the studio’s holiday pair, “The Muppets,” which launches Wednesday, and “War Horse,” bowing Christmas Day. “With ‘The Muppets,’ there’s absolutely appeal among those 8 to 80, particularly during the holiday season with multigenerational gatherings,” Hollis said.

Other yuletide fare that could cross the generational gap include Fox’s “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked” and Par’s “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn,” which has already grossed almost $200 million overseas. “Alvin” launches on Dec. 16, followed by the U.S. bow of “Tintin” on Dec. 21.

Vincent Bruzzese, prexy of the Worldwide Motion Picture Group at the Ipsos OTX, said films released around Christmas need to have broad appeal to stand out in a crowded marketplace. “This is a moviegoing season of compromise,” he said. “The films that don’t fit that mold don’t usually perform to expectations.”

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