Wow. Thanks to everyone for an exciting opening weekend. I had a great time seeing the movie 3 times this weekend with lots of birders, friends, and family. Everyone helped make this a very special weekend for me. I’m a little bleary-eyed after driving over 1,000 miles this weekend and going right back to work yesterday. Ooofah. But hey! I did stuff like that during my big year in 1998. Only now I don’t get around as easily.
You know what? I’ve seen the movie 4 times now and…I still really enjoy it. But, I am in the minority. Yeah, and I’m totally biased, too. Minority, you say? Yes. Most folks have totally ignored the movie. How do I know? Have you looked at the box office numbers yet? Have you seen the news? Terms like “flop”, “tank”, “fail” are being used with some regularity about The Big Year. How bad can it be? Well. Very, very bad. In fact, record-setting bad.
Why am I upset? Am I not making a ton of money on royalties for Jack Black playing my character in a movie? Nope. No royalties. Not a penny. I don’t make any money on whether or not this movie soars or sucks. So why am I complaining about low numbers? Simply put, it’s bad for birding. Not the end of birding. It’s just that we are losing this vehicle of promotion for our hobby. If another movie is made soon about birding, it will not be kind to our hobby.
The Big Year movie brought in just under $3.3 million during opening weekend. Sure, it came in 9th place, but it was a really bad weekend for movie-going. How bad is $3.3 million? Well, it is bad enough to set an ALL TIME BOX OFFICE RECORD–and not the kind that is enviable. The Big Year comes in 29th on the list of All Time Box Office Worst Wide Openings (opening at more than 2,000 theaters). Wow. I read a Canadian paper last year that set the production budget for The Big Year at $85 million. I’m not sure what their sources were. But with moving a crew of 175 people to location after location every day, I am sure that this movie was not cheap to make.
I heard a recent quote on TV (about The Big Year) that there are 46 million birders in the U.S. I think I’ve heard a 20% number from the mid-2000’s from the USFWS about the number of birders. But I’m just throwing numbers out now. I don’t have the research to back it up. So how many people saw the movie in theaters opening weekend? Using 2010 average nationwide movie price of $7.89, you come up with a little more than 400,000 folks who went to theaters to see The Big Year. That is incredibly low even for a bad movie. So where are the other 45 million birders? Ahh. Well. I don’t know. They certainly were not seeing a movie about their hobby.
So here we have a movie that does NOT paint birders in a bad light. It actually attempts to make them out to be real people who are passionate about their hobby (or “calling” haha). If Hollywood really wanted to make a boat load of money, they could have (and probably should have) lampooned us with derisive humor and made merciless fun at how silly we all are. Now *that* may have performed much better at the box office. Maybe that is what everyone else was hoping for? I don’t know.
One thing is for certain now. It is going to be a VERY long time–if ever again–that Hollywood will attempt to do a movie like this again. Why? Because only 400,000 people care (less than 1% of the total population of the U.S.). So if you want to see this movie on the big screen, you’d better hurry–no RUSH to the nearest theater and see it now because I don’t look for a money-losing movie to stay in theaters for long.