Battle of the Precocious British Children
Warner Bros. might want to seriously consider moving the release date of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Currently it's scheduled for July 15 - the day before the new Harry Potter book hits the shelves.
When the last Harry Potter book came out, it was the day after The Hulk was released in June of 2003. The Hulk's opening, while sizable, was smaller than most box-office prognosticators were anticipating. It's Friday gross of $24.3 million was on target to deliver the weekend numbers expected of it. Then came Saturday. It dropped 11% from Friday. Most movies that appeal to kids go up on Saturday (even if there's a big fanboy rush on Friday, the box office tends to level off on Saturday, not drop significantly). Spider-Man, X-Men 2, Shrek 2, the first two Harry Potter movies (ironically, the third film in the series had a bigger Friday to Saturday drop than The Hulk), The Mummy Returns, Finding Nemo, Jurassic Park all went up from Friday to Saturday.
The Hulk had the 11th biggest opening day of all time (at the time) and the seventh biggest opening Friday. Yet, it could only muster the 16th biggest opening weekend. While there are plenty of possible explanations for its Saturday decline (bad word of mouth, most schools being out for summer - though both of those could apply to Batman Returns which still managed a minor Saturday bump), Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix has to be considered a factor.
And it's not just a matter of kids (and a few grownups) staying home to devour the latest adventures of the boy wizard. As Box Office Prophets wisely pointed out back then, The Hulk also had to wrestle for the deficited attention of the media as well:
The new Harry Potter novel turned into the big pop culture attention-getter this weekend, and stole Hulk's frenzy. Don't get me wrong - book sales do not impact movie box office to a measurable degree. However, it certainly can be said that it cut into Hulk's media coverage (aka free marketing). Media hysteria on Friday was all about Potter, and Hulk coverage was limited to more-often-than-not-poor reviews and the odd special effects story. CNN was live at a bookstore on Friday night, not at the movie theatre measuring lineups. Entertainment sections of newspapers covered Potter more than Hulk; in my Saturday paper, there was a full-page review of Potter, and nothing on the summer blockbuster. Did Universal not realize they were putting their biggest film of the summer out against the Potter book until it was too late?
Warner Bros. still has time to change course. I'd say that Charlie's intended audience overlaps with Harry's even more than The Hulk's did. In the past book sales may not have impacted the movie box office to a measurable degree, but the Harry Potter books are a phenomenon unto themselves. With more than ten million copies in print, there are going to be a lot of people staying home on July 16.