So there's this thing, the dirty little secret of all the major studios, called a "per-screen average." By doing a little math, you can figure out what audiences really wanted to see, instead of what the studios want you to think they're seeing. For example, a few weeks ago, I pointed out that Rian Johnson's Brick, playing on two screens, earned $83,000, while Ice Age: The Meltdown pulled in a total of $68 million, playing on nearly 4000 screens. The charts don't provide this formula for you, but all you have to do is divide the total gross by the number of screens, and you get your "per-screen average." Brick's was $41,500 per screen, while Ice Age 2 only earned $17,000.

Yet Ice Age 2 occupied the number one slot and got all the buzz on the Monday morning news. This is not fair. Basically, the studio spent a great deal of money -- probably equal to the movie's budget itself -- to make prints, secure that large number of screens, and provide advertising, all to earn that so-called #1 slot in the box-office competition. It's like pitting a giant destroyer against a kid on a skateboard. This #1 status convinces more moviegoers that the movie must be good, so that the studio can get a second weekend, and maybe even a third out of it. This buzz is so powerful you may even hear people around the office saying, "I heard Ice Age 2 was good."

categories Columns, Cinematical