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Inside Move: B.O. figures don’t add up

Nielsen, Exhibitor report conflicting figures again

A pair of box office tracking services crossed T’s and dotted I’s on final 2003 reports Monday, incorporating official data from closing sessions that previously could only be estimated.

Nothing changed dramatically — and that’s the bad news. For as usual, Nielsen EDI and Exhibitor Relations reported conflicting figures for the B.O. year.

EDI says industrywide B.O. totaled $9.16 billion, $10 million less than originally reported based on earlier, tentative estimates for final-weekend grosses. Exhib Relations figures industry grosses totaled $9.27 billion.

So what accounts for the $110 million disparity in the figures? For starters, EDI uses a biz-year calendar that concludes with the first weekend after New Year, while Exhibitor Relations uses a calendar year.

But that doesn’t completely explain the regular disparity in their measurements, with Exhibitor Relations data almost always showing higher annual B.O. than EDI. Reps of each service say they’re uncertain what accounts for the variances.

Meanwhile, figures produced by the Motion Picture Assn. of America — traditionally disclosed by MPAA chief Jack Valenti at the ShoWest trade show each March — are usually higher than those from either tracking service. Data from trade paper the Hollywood Reporter, whose parent company, ironically, owns EDI, also are consistently higher than from other sources.

Despite the blur of year-end calculations, this much is clear: 2003 B.O. offered little cause for celebration. Both EDI and Exhibitor Relations agree that grosses and ticket sales fell from 2002’s record highs.

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