'Contagion' ticket sales strong, despite 9/11 anniversary


Image Credit: Claudette Barius

It might seem strange that Warner Bros. decided to release Contagion, a film that chronicles the outbreak of a worldwide pandemic, on the same weekend as the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Understandably, as Americans have reflected on that awful day, a reverent, melancholy atmosphere has fallen upon the country this week. Typically, that wouldn’t bode well for a film like Contagion.

As we’ve seen over the last decade, war dramas have seriously struggled at the box office. Movies like Brothers ($28.5 million), The Hurt Locker ($15.7 million), and Stop-Loss ($10.9 million), all of which dealt with current wars in the Middle East, couldn’t inspire many moviegoers to make the trip to the theater. Last year, Contagion star Matt Damon’s big-budget war-themed feature Green Zone fizzled with a weak $35.1 million. Many analysts attribute this “war fatigue” trend to the lack of escapism that these movies offer.

Thus, one might imagine that Contagion would be a tough sell at the box office as well. The film, which follows a team attempting to fight a global outbreak of a deadly disease, is debuting the same weekend as the 10th anniversary of 9/11, a crisis closely linked to the Anthrax scare that swept across America shortly afterwards. A deadly disease killing people around the globe isn’t exactly the same thing as a war, but it’s hardly uplifting. Many analysts wondered whether that subject matter would turn off audiences.

But according to a representative from Fandango, those fears aren’t causing any downturn in ticket sales. A whopping 32 percent of the popular movie ticketing service’s Friday sales have been for Contagion. That figure is much higher than three-weeks-running box office champ The Help, which is currently responsible for 12 percent of Friday ticket sales, as well as fellow newcomer Warrior, which surprisingly accounts for just 5 percent.

Warner Bros. has wisely promoted the film as a straightforward thriller, not focusing too much on the potential political struggles that might accompany the disastrous storyline, and it seems that moviegoers perceive it as such. I asked my followers on Twitter if they thought Contagion would be negatively affected by 9/11. One tweeter said, “I think if it was a ‘terrorist’ thing then yes, but since it’s not and more of a horror movie, then no.” Makes sense to me.

We won’t know until Sunday whether Contagion will match EW’s $23 million box office prediction, but after the cinematic dreck that’s debuted on screens for the last few weeks, audiences may be ready for a well-reviewed drama with an impressive A-list cast, and unlikely as it may have seemed, Contagion may be the first film since The Help to really break out.

Read more:
‘Contagion’ cast: Just how many Oscar-nominated actors does it have?
‘Contagion’ review
25 Fall Movies We Can’t Wait to See

Comments (35 total) Add your comment
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  • E-Hustle

    I think most people are going to go see this because there hasn’t been anything worth seeing since The Help came out a month ago. Oh, and that UFC movie,…meh.

    • fnord

      Warrior was a hell of a lot better than that patronizing, racist movie you loved. Meh.

    • Cain

      Warrior is not a UFC movie. It’s about the struggling American middle class and a dysfunctional family. Oh and it has MMA.

      • DRG

        Fanboys flooded these boards last weekend to proclain that Warrior would be #1 at the boxoffice this weekend. But it is off to a lackluster start with only 1.8 million on Friday. So much for fanboy hype.

    • GUS

      in 50 years Warrior is going to be thought of as Citizen Kane is now, a landmark in cinema history, scholars will be talking about it in film schools, it is destined to become legendary, truly a life changing expierience for any one who sees it, if they come up with a cure for cancer they should name it after this film, it is that important!

  • Amanda

    Stong, huh?

  • Patrick Moore

    Spell check…”ticket sales stong”? Strong!

  • Danny

    The force is stong…

  • J

    It never would have occurred to me not to see a movie about disease on the weekend of the anniversary of an attack. I don’t see any similarity.

    • K

      Exactly, J. I don’t see the connection. Maybe EW.com had some space they needed to fill? There is no basis for this story.

      • Tad

        I was thinking the same thing as I was reading.

      • Mike

        It’s because we’re supposed to be:
        1) Crying about 9/11, or
        2) Cowering under our beds fearing another attack, or
        3) Seeing escapist movies about doggies and kitties that don’t remind us that OMG PEOPLE DIED ON 9/11!!

    • ikagirl

      @J – I agree, no connection whatsoever. The writer of this article is way off base.

      • Templar

        Yeah—as though life is supposed to stop every special numbered anniversary. If anything, 9/11 taught us to enjoy life and continue—even if it’s to go see a movie about a disease sweeping across America and killing everyone.

      • Tad


    • Elizabeth

      Agreed… maybe its not very “Amurrican” of me, but every move I make this weekend won’t be with the anniversary in mind. I will pay my respects on Sunday, but I will “keep calm and carry on.”

      • dee123

        What smart people here (for once).

  • Good!

    I don’t think 9/11 has any bearing on whether this film will do well or not. It’s not a war film, it’s not a film about terrorism and from what I understand (I will be seeing it tomorrow) it is a straightforward procedural about a killer virus and not a statement about current politics (with the exception being Jude Law’s character who thinks there is a conspiracy between the RX companies and government — but as long as they don’t mention “debt ceiling,” they’re in the clear). You have a very popular director (when he is involved with mainstream fair), an ace cast, an intriguing storyline (everyone loves a disaster flick/epidemic story — see “Outbreak” from ’95) and some very strong reviews…this has the makings of a substantial hit. Not sure what the ultimate breakout potential will be, but it should draw decent numbers. Bringing into the whole 10th Anniversary of 9/11 is a bit of a moot point, if you ask me. This is a global story. It isn’t focused on NYC. It’s a viral thriller about what can really happen in nature…not about any man made catastrophe. This belongs no where in the discussion of the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, I’m sorry.

  • PNK

    What does this have to do with 9/11? Nothing, in my view. The 9/11 ‘memorial’ seems a media-created thing, not sure any day-to-day impacts would be observed if it weren’t for the media. It’s not a celebration, after all. (Just my opinion, don’t hate on me)
    Looking for a good movie to see – ‘The Guard’ with Brendan Gleeson is fantastic.

  • Marten

    Contagion isn’t as interesting as Traffic, or as scary as The Stand. It’s pretty much average. I think people are just sick of light weight superhero/80’s icon movies and will see anything with some depth with a fantastic ensemble and a noteworthy director.

  • anti

    Steven Sonderbergh is boring as hell because he does this commercial movies for the paycheck while he wd much prefer do other things. Hey Hollywood there are other directors/movies that need your funding than this crap.

    • Ugh

      Take that, well-reviewed movie!

      Hollywood, instead of making a solid, contemporary thriller… this money should be used to make a Snorks movie. Or Rainbow Brite or whatever you haven’t remade yet.

  • Selina

    I am a 30 years old single ballet teacher,love playing table tennis and reading books now I am seeking a nice man who can give me true love,so I got a username nanafoler432 on—Meetrich.C óM——-it’s the most effective site in the world to connect with, date and marry successful, beautiful people.Meanwhile,it’s worthy a try.The best part is that it’s completely free, unlike all the other paid dating sites.You do not have to be rich or famous!

    • Z

      Ballet, table tennis and reading? No wonder you’re still single? Do you also have 17 cats? (Yes I know I’m replying to a spammer)

      • Carrie

        Yeah, all the other spambots are marrying celebrities they met on THEIR websites!

  • marty

    @Z you beat me to the punch. I was about to reply to the table tennis and ballet spammer lol. As far as Contagion, I’m going to check it out tonight. If this movie was about terrorism, I can see it being insensitive to the 9-11 anniversary. But it’s not. So I don’t see what this movie has to do with 9-11

  • Jpx

    I fail to see any similarity with this film and 9/11. It’s been 10 years, I think most have worked through their grief by now.

  • ikagirl

    Not trying to be mean, but what “air of melancholy” that’s supposedly “settled about the country” is the writer referring to? Haven’t seen any evidence of that. Just people going about business as usual.

    • JPX

      I completely agree. The only people making 9/11 into a month long holiday of grief are the media. Don’t get me wrong, I grieved 9/11 along with the rest of the country 10 years ago. A decade later I still feel sad about this tragedy but I’ve moved on with my life. Will all the coverage you would think it happened yesterday. While I recognize that many people were personally touched by this horrible moment in our history, people move through their grief and get on with their lives.

  • s

    This is ridiculous. sorry but this thing every year with 911 is dumb. Why do people want to see the planes and buildings in flames every year? I don’t get it and never will. move on with life already.

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