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Posted at 10:15 AM ET, 05/29/2012

Why Wes Anderson had a better box office weekend than Will Smith

Will Smith and his “Men in Black 3” was the No. 1 movie of the Memorial Day weekend, finally knocking “The Avengers” out of the top spot after a three-week stay at No. 1.


Kara Hayward in “Moonrise Kingdom”: I spy a broken box office record. (Focus Features)

So how is it possible that Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” — which made just $669,000 to “MiB 3’s” $70 million over the long holiday — actually has more to celebrate in terms of box office success?

Because “Moonrise Kingdom” set a new record while “Men in Back 3,” despite its respectable if not jaw-dropping revenue total, did not.

A press release issued Monday by Focus Features applauded “Moonrise Kingdom” — a coming-of-age romance and signature piece of quirkdom from Anderson — for setting a new record for the highest ever recorded per-theater screen average.

What the heck does that mean? Well, loosely translated it means that a lot of people in very few locations went to see Anderson’s latest work of hyper-meticulous movie-making. It opened on just four screens across the country, and managed to earn $167,250 on each of those screens, according to Box Office Mojo. By comparison, “Men in Black 3’s” per-screen average for the long weekend landed at $16,478. But because it was showing on more than 4,000 screens — i.e. within a mile of practically any North American location where you might drop an iPhone pin — and, in some cases, in the more expensive 3D, its overall haul was greater.

When you examine the track records of the respective artists involved, the weekend was also a bigger win for Anderson, as “Moonrise Kingdom” marks the biggest opening of his career so far. All of his films make their debuts on a handful of screens and roll out more widely; in keeping with that tradition, “Kingdom” is set to expand slowly to more theaters over the course of the next month.

On the other hand, when grading on a Will Smith curve, “Men in Black 3” stands as an average performer. Its debut during the traditional Friday through Sunday period fellow below the openings for both 2008’s “Hancock” and 2007’s “I Am Legend,” and that’s before even adjusting for inflation

So what’s the takeaway from all this? That “Moonrise Kingdom’s” success is proof that people, or at least the ones in L.A. and New York where the film was playing, still enjoy seeing intimate, character-driven films during the summer time. That Will Smith’s “Men in Black 3” did well enough at the box office to ensure that the bazillionaire still has no reason to worry about cash flow. Oh, and that crunching box office numbers is fun. Whee!

By  |  10:15 AM ET, 05/29/2012

Categories:  Box Office, Movies | Tags:  Wes Anderson, Will Smith

 
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