This weekend’s winners: Your Thanksgiving leftovers may be well past their “safe to consume” window, but at the box office, there was more carcass-gnawing than in an episode of The Walking Dead: Disney’s Tangled combed out $21.5 million in its second week, finally dislodging from top position the penultimate Potter, which is well on it’s way to a quarter billion in just in the U.S.
This weekend’s losers: Hollywood in general: November box office receipts are down ten percent from last November, and attendance is the weakest it’s been in 15 years. Overall, box office is still up when compared with last year, but this is the fourth month in a row grosses are down, and with nearly one in ten people out of work, it’s not hard to see why $50 bucks for tickets, parking, popcorn and soda might seem like rather indiscrete use of discretionary spending.
How it all went down: There are three reasons why this weekend was so weakened: First, of course, was that there was almost nothing new in release. (Sorry, Warrior’s Way — we’re not hiring a sitter for you, and since you opened at $3 million, neither, apparently, did anyone else.)
Second, with Thanksgiving break over and the kids back in school, family titles took an especially big hit: Potter was down 65 percent; Megamind, down 60 percent; Tangled dropped by more than 55 percent.
But there may be a third reason, and if it’s true, it’s particularly scary: Economists have a name for what’s happening in the broader U.S. economy right now; they call it “unpunished experimentation.” For example: People switch to a cheaper brand of gasoline in lean times, but keep pumping the cheap stuff when things get better because their Honda Accord is running just fine, thank you very much — their experiment with cheaper fuel was “unpunished.” A new report from consultancy Booz & Co. on our “new frugality” finds that recession-driven behaviors such as increased saving and deferred consumption are unlikely to change as the economy improves. And so, for Hollywood, the question is not whether this starting to happen to box office — 51 percent of respondents to the Booz survey said that they already had reduced discretionary spending on media and entertainment — but rather, will it ever stop?