The Quorum

Do the HOUSE OF GUCCI numbers help us understand the impact of HBO Max on KING RICHARD?

As the first of several high-profile adult-skewing films of the season, what do these two mean for WEST SIDE STORY and A JOURNAL FOR JORDAN?

As you know, we’ve been anticipating the box office number for KING RICHARD and HOUSE OF GUCCI for several reasons. They are both star-driven true life stories about real families. They were both given ubiquitous marketing campaigns. And, they both targeting adults and women, who have yet to fully return to theaters in this pandemic era. 

With RICHARD opening simultaneously on HBO Max and GUCCI getting a full theatrical release just a week later, the two films created an excellent case study into the impact of day-and-date releases. If our goal is to know how much HBO Max reduced the box office for RICHARD, we could just compare it to the GUCCI numbers, with the difference being attributed to the streamer. 

Not So Fast

Obviously, the problem with this theory is that it’s predicated on the two having precisely the same box office potential. Let’s set that aside for a moment because the biggest obstacle is that RICHARD had a regular three-day opening, while GUCCI opened on a Wednesday for a five-day holiday debut. 

That leaves us with a situation where RICHARD had a three-day release in theatrical and HBO Max, while GUCCI had a five-day theatrical-only rollout. Super fun for us data wonks. 

The theatrical numbers:

With $5.4M, RICHARD came in south of industry projections, which were in the $8-$10M range. As a percentage, RICHARD was well off the projection, but as an absolute value, $5.4M isn’t much lower than $8M. Still, it was widely considered a disappointment.

GUCCI is projected to gross $21.8M for the five-day holiday weekend and $14.2M for the Friday-Sunday period. The coverage has been positive. 

Level Setting

How do we make sense of these numbers? 

One approach is to look at just the three-day numbers and conclude that HBO Max reduced the box office for RICHARD from $14.2M to $5.4M. GUCCI made $14.2M, so should have RICHARD. In this scenario, HBO Max cost RICHARD $8.8M (in pink). 

Yes, this is a flawed exercise, but stay with me. 

Shouldn’t we be using the five-day number for GUCCI? After all, the people who saw GUCCI on Wednesday and Thursday would likely have bought tickets for a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday show had it been a regular three-day release. So maybe we should be comparing the $5.4M for RICHARD to the $21.8M for GUCCI. In this scenario, HBO Max cost RICHARD $16.4M. 

The truth lies somewhere in the middle. 

Are They Equals?

This analysis assumes that given the same kind of release, they would gross the same amount. That assumption allows us to easily assign a value for the HBO Max erosion. 

When we look at the pre-release tracking data, the numbers for the two films were not that far apart, though GUCCI had a more significant 11th-hour surge. 

Here are the interest scores for the two films. At opening, GUCCI (light blue) hit 5.8 while RICHARD (navy) opened with a score of 5.6. You can also see that GUCCI climbed nearly an entire point in interest in the weeks leading up to release. As of November 1st, GUCCI had a lower interest score than RICHARD.

When we asked people if they would prefer to watch the film in a theater or at home, 48% of people said they wanted to see GUCCI (light red) in a theater. RICHARD (dark red) came in lower at 45%.

These numbers suggest that GUCCI was poised to open higher. And that, no, the two films were not equal going into their respective openings. 

Factoring in that GUCCI was on pace for a higher opening, we can attribute less of the difference to HBO Max and more to the fact that more people were interested in GUCCI. But how much less? That’s still unclear.

What Do We Know?

Here’s a list of the adult-skewing dramas that have come out since Memorial Day (note, the box office hadn’t returned in earnest before that date) charted by opening weekend. 

Three things stand out:

  1. GUCCI is easily the strongest performer of the group. 
  2. With the top two films, United Artists has had the most success of any studio in this space
  3. While RICHARD had the highest opening of any Warner Bros. film, it’s clear that these hybrid releases are suppressing the box office grosses for their films. 

With more adult-skewing films on the horizon including WEST SIDE STORY, A JOURNAL FOR JORDAN AND AMERICAN UNDERDOG, GUCCI is now the gold standard upon which these will be measured. 

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