Word change reflects reality

'Per screen' becomes 'per engagement'

The phrase “per-screen average” rolls off showbizzers’ tongues about as easily as “Cobb salad, hold the onion.”

But in most cases those averages are totally inaccurate.

With megaplexing in full swing, most top releases play on at least two or three screens per location. In many 30-screen palaces, top-grossing pics can be on as many as six or seven screens.

Exhibs also are known to shuffle prints around into different auditoriums to maximize revenues. That makes the actual per-screen tally almost impossible to track down, even for the studio distributing the film.

Nevertheless, what has typically been reported in Variety and elsewhere has been called “per-screen average.” That figure actually refers to the average gross per engagement, or each location where a pic is booked.

Art-house distribs, it should be noted, are usually precise when they use “per-screen” because limited releases are seldom shown on multiple screens at a single site.

To better reflect the realities of the movie biz, Daily Variety begins this week to use the term “per engagement” to indicate a pic’s total gross divided by the number of playdates. Look for the new wording in all B.O. charts and accompanying articles.

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