In 2011, only two movies have opened in more than 2,000 theaters, yet finished outside the Top 10. The first was the 1980s throwback Take Me Home Tonight, which started with $3.5 million back in March, and the other was Glee: The 3D Concert Movie, which earned a poor $6 million out of 2,040 theaters over the weekend, landing it way back in 11th place.
The Glee concert picture, made for an estimated $8.5 million, showed a steep drop at the box office for each day of its opening weekend and earned only $6 million. And that’s with 3-D ticket prices!
That’s a far cry from the $31.1 million that Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: The Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour — which kicked off the recent wave of 3-D concert flicks — earned in its debut in 2008. It’s also much less than the opening weekend grosses of this year’s Justin Bieber: Never Say Never ($29.5 million), 2009′s Michael Jackson’s This Is It ($23.2 million), and even 2009′s financially disappointing Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience ($12.5 million). And since concert films are notoriously front-loaded in terms of overall box office performance — Hannah Montana barely doubled what it made in its opening weekend, finishing with $65.1 million — it’s unlikely that the Glee movie will pick up business this weekend.
So what went wrong with Glee‘s release? A few theories:
Let’s start with the source material. After an uneven second season and a full summer of behind-the-scenes drama, fans may have been feeling somewhat unenthusiastic about the musical adventure. And then there were the reviews: EW critic Lisa Schwarzbaum, for one, didn’t find the film particularly entertaining, calling the concert a “generically big, loud, overchoreographed, over-mic’ed, post-Madonna production, programmed with songs to get the whole audience singing, screaming, and waving oversized red foam-rubber Glee hands that form the show’s trademark letter L.”
The film also didn’t offer a very candid behind-the-scenes look at Glee. Instead of backstage hangouts with the cast, the movie intercut glitzy, on-stage performances with inspirational stories of teen fans who’ve been deeply affected by the show. In contrast, Miley Cyrus’ and Justin Bieber’s concert films did give fans access to the performers’ lives off the stage (even if those glimpses were heavily produced). Gleeks might’ve wanted more footage of their favorite characters and stars.
We can’t forget about the 3-D factor, either. Though the technology was certainly a draw for films like Avatar and Alice in Wonderland, audiences have quickly cooled on the trend. These days, many films only earn about 40 percent of their opening weekend gross from 3-D ticket sales, when one year ago, that figure was usually closer to 80 percent. Some movies, like Final Destination 5, can still coerce audiences to pay the marked-up ticket price (the horror film earned 76 percent of its opening weekend gross from 3-D screens), but when movies like Glee use 3-D without a clear reason to do so, it can feel like a shameless cash grab. Moviegoers generally don’t like that.
What do you think went wrong with Glee‘s box office release? Is the Glee train slowing down, or was this just a bump in the road?
Follow Grady on Twitter: @BoxOfficeJunkie