This article describes how it's increasingly difficult for studios to 'buy their gross'--that is, to throw big advertising dollars at a film to ensure a big opening weekend. Opening weekend numbers, incidentally, are critically important to perceptions of a film's success. What's changed? Technology. E-mail, the cell phone, IM--they all make it easier for consumers to virally distribute a good or (more often) bad review of a film that has just opened. This was the most interesting fact in the article:
Widely released movies this summer dropped off an average of 51% between their first weekend and their second, according to Nielsen EDI Inc., a box office tracking firm. Five years ago, the drop-off averaged 40.1%.
Of course, that may reflect the increasing crappiness of summer blockbusters, but that's neither here nor there. Here's an interesting chart of the biggest second weekend drops in modern cinema history. I was surprised to see Mallrats, Star Trek: Nemesis and Hulk on that list.