Ghost Rider, Box Office And Movie Critics

So despite a drubbing from movie critics across the board (currently standing at a whopping 26% at, Ghost Rider did great at the box office this four-day weekend. According to an interview by Comics Continuum, Mark Steven Johnson, writer/director of Ghost Rider said:

"As expected, we were trounced by the critics, but the word of mouth on the film has been very good and gave us a bump up from Friday to Saturday, something uncommon for these kinds of flicks,"

Now I realize that there are movie critics out there that are "Ivory Tower" types, and write reviews that want to deeply analyze the existential angst of the characters or whatever. But there are plenty out there that are just regular people who want to see good movies regardless of the genre, and I fall into that category. Someone here remarked that they knew that I'd "poo-poo" (poo-poo?) Ghost Rider, implying that I'm some sort of person who views movies from an elitist perspective. Considering some of the movies I know this person likes, I had to take his comments with a grain of salt, but they still pissed me off.

I try to write reviews from the point of view of a regular movie viewer, with a slant towards the fact that I'm a parent. That's not to say that I only give high marks to family films... I enjoy movies that I won't let my daughter watch for another 6 years. I also try to review movies within the context of the genre - In other words I don't try to compare every movie to Citizen Kane. Heck, I've given good reviews to movies as diverse as Black Snake Moan, Fido, Crank, Freaked and Kill Bill 2!

But if a movie sucks, I'm going to say so. Just because a movie is about space aliens, haunted houses or a guy who dresses up in tights to fight crime doesn't mean that it can't be good. And one of the main qualifiers of "good" to me is that the movie must make me CARE ABOUT THE CHARACTERS. If that's not there, nothing else matters.

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, back to this weekend's box office performance, as stated by the director:

"We beat the record for President's Day weekend and look to be around the $50 million mark for the four days. We are opening at No. 1 around the world as well. It's also the largest opening for any Nicolas Cage movie, by a long shot."

It brought in approximately $51.5 million from 3,619 theaters. Not too shabby, eh? Over $14,200 per theater... woah. I've heard numbers like that associated with really good movies.

Ah, but let's dig a little, shall we? The land of box office receipt reporting is a murky one.

Sure, it opened in 3,619 theaters, but it was shown on 5,100 screens. Unfortunately, for some reason box office numbers are reported per theater instead of per screen, which in my opinion skews the results. No doubt one of those holdover things from back when movie theaters had only one screen instead of 17.

For a comparison that will show how movies continue to break office records for opening weekend, go back just five years to President's Day 2002: The top movie for that weekend was John Q. starring Denzel Washington. It did $9,600 per theater, but only opened at 2,466 theaters. Today "blockbuster" movies are opened at 50% more theaters than just a few years ago, so of course the total opening weekend box office can show bigger numbers.

If you want to compare apples to apples, here's another not-so-great superhero movie that opened on a President's Day weekend and did great box office on that opening weekend:


That fine film did $13,000 per theater on opening weekend across over 3,400 theaters and we all know how good that movie was and what a success it turned out to be.

Anyway, those numbers are for a four day weekend, so if you compare them to movies opening on a regular weekend you need to adjust the numbers. So now (for a regular two day weekend opening) we're at $10,700 per theater for Ghost Rider. Here is a list of movies that had comparable numbers (the following numbers are per theater averages for opening weekend):

  • The Pacifier (Remember that one? Vin Diesel in a comedy?) - $9,800
  • Chicken Little - $11,000
  • Scary Movie 4 - $11,200
  • Jackass: Number Two - $9,500

Ah, yes. Johnny Blaze is in excellent company.

I don't mean to pick on this movie specifically. As I stated in my review, I didn't hate it, I just thought it was weak and boring. What bugs me is the whole "redemption" angle that a studio and/or director will take when a movie that isn't that great does great on opening weekend, as if to say that movie reviewers are clueless. Jeez, open a movie on enough screens and it's bound to do well opening weekend.

Well you know what? Let's just wait and see how Ghost Rider does this upcoming weekend when I'll bet we see a 50% drop. I'm betting it will do between $18 and $20 million next weekend, tops.

Thanks to for the stats.

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