For the third year in a row, a high-profile pop artist’s concert film opened in the top five at the box office and was well on its way to profitability. Sony’s One Direction film “This Is Us” had two striking differences than its predecessors: significant foreign ticket sales and, in the United States, a significant drop at the box office in the second week.
Of the three films — “This Is Us,” “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” and “Katy Perry: Part of Me” — the One Direction film is the first to roll out extensively in overseas territories, pulling in $26 million as of Sept. 8, its 10th day of release. At the time it accounted for 57% of its total box-office tally, according to figures compiled by Box Office Mojo.
In the States, however, “This Is Us” came in first place for the Aug. 30-Sept. 1 weekend, dropped to No. 2 when the Labor Day receipts were factored in and then took a precipitous 74% drop in its second week to land at No. 6.
Concert films, as a rule of thumb, drop close to 50% each week and hold on to their initial screen count — “This Is Us” opened on 2,735 screens — for three or four weeks before that number is lowered dramatically. Paramount’s Katy Perry film, for example, was halved to 1,123 screens in its fourth week and that figure was halved weekly until it ended its nine-week theatrical run.
Using the math of the Perry and Justin Bieber films, “This Is Us” is likely to earn another $9 million-$10 million more at the box office. That will take it to about $35 million total in the United States, putting it in fourth place all-time, far behind the $65 million pulled in by “Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert.”
But in the film world, unlike most cases in the music business, international sales can make the difference between profitable, which “This Is Us” already is, and a smash, which it may become. The film has already topped Bieber’s foreign revenue of $24.4 million and Perry’s relatively insignificant $7.1 million. Of course, all of them are dwarfed by “Michael Jackson: This Is It” with $189 million generated at the foreign box office.
The Perry and One Direction films were released on different holiday weekends; the Bieber film just before Valentine’s Day and with Presidents Day falling on its second weekend. Labor Day may ultimately be seen as a less-than-opportune time to release a film as youngsters head back to school immediately after it opens, so any act that does mostly domestic business will likely avoid that weekend in the future.
The success overseas, however, certainly has to whet the appetite of any film company with a strong international distribution arm. These films cost between $10 million and $15 million to make, and in One Direction’s case, the film serves to set up the single “Best Song Ever,” a late-November album release for “Midnight Memories” and international tour dates. The other films served different purposes: Perry’s was more the closing of a chapter of her life, Bieber’s a biography with performances. The question of who’s next — Taylor Swift? Lady Gaga? The adult edition of Miley Cyrus? — obviously has numerous potential players, but options for music stars could be broadened depending on the success of performance documentaries focused on Metallica and Jay Z.