By: Christopher Campbell (original publish date: February 3, 2008)
(With the Cine-staff off on a late-July mini-vacation, we thought it'd be fun to bring you some of our favorite pieces from months past. Enjoy!)
Today, as millions of (mostly) men are watching the Super Bowl, possibly witnessing the Patriots make history (sorry Erik), millions of (mostly) girls are watching Miley Cyrus (aka "Hannah Montana") make history of her own. As you read this, across the country the 3D concert film Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour is selling out its show times for the day. Actually, it's more likely that at many theaters show times have long been sold out.
On Friday, when the Disney release opened, I took a look at the status of the weekend show times in the tri-state area on Moviefone, Movietickets.com and Fandango. Most times were already unavailable. But I had no way of knowing how recently those times had sold out, because tickets went on sale back on December 1, and many people (our own Kim Voynar and her daughter included) bought theirs way in advance. As Kim mentioned last week, Fandango announced that more than 1,000 show times had already been sold out and that theaters were trying to squeeze in more screenings. The online ticketing company also announced that since December 1, the film has been one of its top selling titles and that this past week the film accounted for 91% of all the company's online ticket sales (compared to 1% each for Rambo, 27 Dresses and Cloverfield).
If you're at all familiar with the Hannah Montana craze, it might not seem that incredible for this film to sell out so quickly and so near-completely. And if you're at all familiar with how moviegoers are more likely to flock to a new film in its first week of release, you might not be surprised that this film could conquer the box office this weekend. But considering this film is only in theaters for a single week engagement (although some online ticketing sites have dates beyond Thursday listed -- while all ads for the film still mention the one-week-only thing), and it's so in-demand, Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus could very easily sell out shows on the weekdays, too.
Variety wrote last week that Disney could make history with this film if it indeed comes out on top for the weekend and beats other new titles like The Eye and Over Her Dead Body. Not only would it be the first exclusively digital 3D movie to reach #1 at the box office, it will also (obviously) be the best-selling digital 3D movie as of yet and the best-selling single-week-engagement film. The record books will also be taking note of the fact that Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus is only playing on 683 screens, which could give it a super-duper record-breaking per-screen average.
But there will also be other historical importance for the film. Despite my raving about the historical significance of U2 3D a couple weeks back, it could very well be that Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus is the live-action digital 3D film that people actually remember in decades to come. It could be that the teenage pop sensation is more comparable to Al Jolson and The Jazz Singer than is Bono and company. Because U2 3D only opened on 61 screens (I'm not sure if that includes Imax, but I think it does) and has earned only about a million bucks so far. (U2 3D will go wide to over 600 screens in the US on February 15, and then world-wide after that, so those numbers will, of course, change once that happens.) Compare that to the 683 screens for this film. Then do the math for the at-least 1,000 sold-out show times (1,000 x abt.400 seats x $15.00), which comes to $6 million. As you can see, it's already more successful than U2 3D. And that's only a small fraction of what the film is expected to earn (forecasters are saying at least $20 million). Unfortunately, according to Variety, the most it could earn on such a small amount of screens is about $30 million.
Anyway, we'll see later what is the film's box office numbers. I'm not here to report on the gross, just on movie exhibition trends and experiences. I haven't seen the film (it's not that I'm prejudice against the film, but I fear the prejudice of the parents who see a man sitting by himself at such a movie filled with so many young girls) and so can't write about the experience of seeing it -- that's what you and our comments section is for -- but I imagine it's equivalent to the experience of seeing U2 3D, and therefore I imagine it's life-altering and industry-changing. However, much more than U2 3D, I think Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus will have great influence on the cinemas that have been slow to invest in digital or digital 3D projection. After this week, I hope to hear a number of announcements regarding theater owners' plans to finally update their equipment so that they can be a part of the 3D revolution.
My first question is what could possibly top this film's demand? What artist could be next in line for the 3D concert film experience? Will there be another pop sensation that will be there with a 3D concert film when there are 4,000 3D-capable screens? Or will Miley Cyrus be still popular enough that Disney will go for a sequel? And what's next after animated films and now concert films to get the digital 3D treatment? Will there be anything between this and James Cameron's expected-to-change-the-world Avatar?
Too bad they haven't yet figured out a way to deliver a live program in digital 3D, or you could be watching the Super Bowl on the big screen and literally in your face. I've known in the past about some cinema chains airing the Super Bowl live on a theater screen, but I haven't heard about anything this year -- possibly because all those digital screens needed to show Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus, or more likely because of rights issues. I found an article from a couple years ago predicting that by now we'd probably have live 3D events in theaters (there's not a good explanation of the how, which may be the reason why it hasn't yet happened). Just imagine the situation at the multiplex this evening, though, if all the auditoriums had digital 3D screens and they were all showing either Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus or the big game.
Be sure to check out Kim's review of the concert film here.