Chances are it wasn't "Boys Over Flowers" (Hana Yori Dango Fainaru), which is shaping up to be this year's "Koizora". This July 4th column by eiga.com editor Komai Naofumi breaks down the math behind its dishearteningly gargantuan success, and illustrates how the profitability of high-rating-TV-show-turned-multiplex-fodder means their ilk are sure to be raping and pillaging the souls of undiscerning filmgoers for the foreseeable future.
Even with its various numerical achievements before it even hit theatres, such as selling 240,000 advance tickets (the most ever sold for a Toho live-action film) and 250,000 applications for a preview screening at the Budokan, the momentum of "Boys Over Flowers" upon its release has far exceeded expectations. In the two-day period from its opening on June 28th, it was seen by 805,350 people and made 1,005,798,910 yen. That means it wrung 1 billion yen out of 400 screens in the space of two days.
Word has it that "Boys Over Flowers" could achieve a 10 billion yen haul because of this opening - a 160% improvement on that of fellow TBS production "Crying Out Love, in the Center of the World" (which ultimately racked up 8.5 billion yen) - but that's probably a little off the mark. You couldn't call it a valid comparison.
First of all, let's measure it against the previous week's opening of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" (excluding advance screenings). That film pulled in 806,427,400 yen in its first weekend, meaning that the turnout for "Boys Over Flowers" was 125% better. In addition, while "Indiana Jones" went out on 789 screens, "Boys Over Flowers" started with 400. In other words, it has hammered out a 125% superior performance with around half the screens of "Indiana Jones", and holds the current record for the biggest opening by any film released this year.
Also, the most appropriate yardstick for forecasting the box office revenue of "Boys Over Flowers" would most likely be "Hero" (produced by Fuji TV et al and released in September of last year), in the sense that it also came from a high-rating TV series and had a TV company at the helm, with distribution by Toho. In its first two days in release it pulled in 749,807 filmgoers and earned 1,009,473,875 yen, which coincides well with the performance of "Boys Over Flowers. "Hero" eventually brought in 8.15 billion yen, so we can expect that "Boys Over Flowers" will do similarly well, namely around 8 billion. Needless to say, in all probability it will supplant "Indiana Jones" as the second biggest hit of the summer holidays 1 (I already retracted my silver medal forecast for "Indiana Jones" last week).
All in all, the massive success of "Boys Over Flowers" is an occurrence that underlines the fact that today's hit films are being made by television companies. Both "Boys Over Flowers" and "Hero" originated in popular television series that constantly rated over 20%. As a 1% rating is said to correspond to 1 million viewers, that means over 20 million people were tuning in each week. If we suppose that one out of four viewers (i.e. 5 million people) go to see the film version - that's 5 million tickets at 1500 yen each sold - we can estimate a box office take of 7.5 billion yen. Most filmgoers are female, so by factoring in the many available discounts such as ladies day, even by reducing the ticket price to 1300 yen that's still a 6.5 billion yen haul.
Of course, basic numerical simulations like these can't tell the whole story, but at the very least we can gain a glimpse of the revenue potential when popular TV shows become movies.
Incidentally "Partners" (Aibo - Gekijoban - Zettai Zetsumei! 42.195km Tokyo Biggu Shiti Marason), another television-to-film adaptation that was released in May and became a resounding hit, garnered average ratings of 15% over the course of several television series. Supposing that one in four of its 15 million-strong audience went to see it, meaning 3.75 million people, at 1500 yen per ticket that's a take of 5.625 billion yen. At 1300 yen a ticket, you're looking at 4.875 billion. For the record, in the 9 weeks to date since its release "Partners" box office take stands at 4.3 billion yen.
Just going on these calculations, I sense that we'll be seeing a steady stream of film adaptations of popular television series from now on. As it happens, across the Pacific in the U.S., the huge success of the film version of "Sex and the City" has given impetus to an adaptation of "Friends" 2. "24" and "Lost" are already on the same course.
In every country, films are deeply dependent on television. However, it's too late to worry about that now. It's more positive to look forward to more and more television viewers flooding into theatres.
*1 The odds-on favorite is Miyazaki Hayao's "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea".
*2 Since debunked as pure speculation, so there is some justice in the world after all.