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By Hammad Zaidi | February 5, 2013

What a game! Yes, I‘m talking about the Super Bowl, and yes, I was there. Even though my beloved San Francisco 49ers fell five yards short of completing the largest comeback in Super Bowl history, I will remember this past weekend fondly. I will remember the Sandy Hook Elementary School Choir singing “America The Beautiful,” as well the chaos around me during the 34-minute power outage. Of course, what I’ll remember most is experiencing my birthday trip with my dad. I love you dad, and thank you for being my co-pilot at the Super Bowl.

If you’re wondering what the Super Bowl has to do with film distribution, the NFL’s biggest stage slayed the weekend box office. Weekend earnings were at about $68.5 million for the top 12 films, proving once again that film studios would be wise to not open their gems opposite the NFL’s annual crowning moment.

However, some Super Bowl Weekend releases do work. In fact, this past weekend, “Warm Bodies,” was the box office champion, with Friday to Sunday earnings of $19,505,000 and $20,030,000 including preview screenings last Thursday. The film about a Zombie falling in love with a human girl became the seventh biggest Super Bowl Weekend release.

Today we’re examining the films and genres that have successfully counterprogramed against the Super Bowl, in order to reveal tactics used by distributors to salvage whatever box office they can during a weekend where hundreds of millions of eyes are watching the big game.

But before we kick-off into discovering what works cinematically on Super Bowl Weekend, lets first discuss a few factors why this past weekend was so weak at the box office.


With an estimated 48.1 rating and 71 share, (which means that 71% of the 114 million TV households in the USA were collectively tuned into the game at some point) Super Bowl 47 between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers, became the single most watched television event in the history of the United States. The game joined the 2011 Super Bowl between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers, the 2012 Super Bowl between the New York Giants and New England Patriots, and the 1983 final episode of “MASH” as the only telecasts in history to top 100 million viewers. Obviously, such a cultural feat severely limited the number of people who went to the movies.

One other main factor that helped the Super Bowl ratings is that the word of the power outage spread like wildfire over the Internet and through social media. Thus, people who wouldn’t usually watch the Super Bowl tuned in to it out of curiosity about the power failure.

Okay, now let’s get into what types of counterprogramming works at the box office over Super Bowl Weekend.

Below is’s listing of the Top 20 Super Bowl releases:

Rank Movie Title Studio Opening
% of Total Theaters  /Average Total Gross Date
1 Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour BV $31,117,834 47.7% 683 $45,561 $65,281,781 2/1/08
2 Dear John SGem $30,468,614 38.1% 2,969 $10,262 $80,014,842 2/5/10
3 Taken Fox $24,717,037 17.0% 3,183 $7,765 $145,000,989 1/30/09
4 Chronicle (2012) Fox $22,004,098 34.1% 2,907 $7,569 $64,575,175 2/3/12
5 When a Stranger Calls SGem $21,607,203 45.1% 2,999 $7,204 $47,860,214 2/3/06
6 The Woman in Black CBS $20,874,072 38.4% 2,855 $7,311 $54,333,290 2/3/12
7 Warm Bodies Sum. $19,505,000 97.4% 3,009 $6,482 $20,025,000 2/1/13
8 Boogeyman SGem $19,020,655 40.7% 3,052 $6,232 $46,752,382 2/4/05
9 You Got Served SGem $16,123,105 39.9% 1,933 $8,340 $40,363,810 1/30/04
10 She’s All That Mira. $16,065,430 25.4% 2,222 $7,230 $63,366,989 1/29/99
11 The Roommate SGem $15,002,635 40.2% 2,534 $5,921 $37,300,107 2/4/11
12 The Messengers SGem $14,713,321 41.6% 2,528 $5,820 $35,374,833 2/2/07
13 The Wedding Planner Sony $13,510,293 22.4% 2,785 $4,851 $60,400,856 1/26/01
14 Because I Said So Uni. $13,122,865 30.8% 2,526 $5,195 $42,674,040 2/2/07
15 The Eye LGF $12,425,776 39.5% 2,436 $5,101 $31,418,697 2/1/08
16 Darkness Falls SonR $12,024,917 36.9% 2,837 $4,238 $32,551,396 1/24/03
17 The Wedding Date Uni. $11,129,580 35.1% 1,694 $6,570 $31,726,995 2/4/05
18 Spice World Sony $10,527,222 35.9% 2,339 $4,501 $29,342,592 1/23/98
19 The Uninvited P/DW $10,325,824 36.1% 2,344 $4,405 $28,596,818 1/30/09
20 Sanctum Uni. $9,447,930 40.7% 2,787 $3,390 $23,209,310 2/4/11

Of the top 20 Super Bowl Weekend releases, nine are horrors, thrillers, or a combination of both. These are “When a Strangers Calls”, The Woman in Black,” “Boogeyman,” “The Roommate,” “The Messengers,” “The Eye”, “Darkness Falls”, “The Uninvited”, and “Sanctum.” Thus, studios rely on strong faction of young non-sports fan men, 18-25, to carry these films. Furthermore, a large chunk of the overall box office from these films comes from their first weekend of release, meaning they probably didn’t have strong word-of-mouth to carry the film to viewers outside of the targeted, young man demographic.

The other big counterprogramming strategy studios have over Super Bowl Weekend is to target women. That’s why romances and romantic comedies usually score big. Of the top 20 Super Bowl Weekend releases, six films them fall into this category. They are “Dear John,” “Warm Bodies,” “She’s All That,” “Because I Said So,” “The Wedding Planner,” and “The Wedding Date.” Furthermore, an additional three films, “Hannah Montana/Miley Cirus Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour,” and “Spice World,” were also geared toward the female gender, albeit younger females.

With “Taken,” “Dear John,” and (maybe) “Because I said So,” as the only three films in the top 20 Super Bowl weekend releases to even have their budgets reach $25 Million, it’s clear that studios don’t usually take big risks on a weekend that’s traditionally weak.

ScreenGems certainly knows best how to counterprogram against the Super Bowl, because they’ve scored big with six of the top 12 Super Bowl Weekend releases. Their films include: “Dear John,” “When a Stranger Calls,” “Boogeyman,” “You Got Served,” “The Roommate,” and “The Messengers.” Thus, if you have a film that might work over Super Bowl Weekend, take it to ScreenGems first!

Okay friends, as you’re reading this article, I’m 37,000 feet in the air, headed to the Berlin Film Festival/European Film Market, so next week’s article ill be from the home of Porsche and Mercedes-Benz! As always, I thank you once again for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday. I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.

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