Since its release on July 6th in the US, Pokémon Go has taken over the world. It’s caused stampedes in Central Park, inspired baby names, and endangered lives. Depending on your perspective it’s either the death of civilisation or a harmless escape from the increasingly terrifying real world. One thing that’s certain is that Pokémon Go is incredibly popular right now, so what effect has it had on other forms of entertainment?
Launched right in the middle of summer blockbuster season, the main medium at risk has to be cinema. These summer holiday months are when studios traditionally release their biggest blockbusters to catch the family audience, so what happens when kids (and probably their parents) are out catching Pokémon instead?
We’ve used Box Office Mojo’s data to analyse the previous ten years of box office results to find out. We looked at the domestic U.S. box office and used data for the estimated number of tickets sold in order to discount any influence inflation or ticket price changes might have. If you look at the table below showing the average number of tickets sold per day between July 6th and July 27th (the period since Pokémon Go’s launch up to the latest available data) it seems like films have actually performed quite well this year despite Pokémon Go’s popularity.
2016’s figure of nearly 15 million tickets is perfectly average, placing it 5th highest out of the 10 years analysed. It’s also better than the last three years in a row, suggesting an upward trend in recent box office. But these figures don’t tell the whole story.
If you look at the period from January 1st to July 27th for each of these years then 2016 is actually the best performing. The 12,840,122 tickets sold per day on average narrowly beat 2015’s figures and also suggest a general upward trend in ticket sales for anyone fretting about the future of cinema. So the numbers since Pokémon Go’s launch might seem respectable on their own, but in the context of the most successful year out of the last 10, that achievement looks a little less impressive.
When you look at the data in more depth, 2016’s box office results since Pokémon Go are much less promising. What’s clear is that this summer period is always popular, raking in millions more tickets than the average day. We’ve worked out just how much these busy summer days tend to vary by and come up with the average figure of 1.48.
That means across the period since Pokémon Go’s launch on July 6th you would expect cinemas to sell an average of 19,063,671 tickets a day (12,840,122 x 1.48, maths fans). In reality they’ve sold just under 15 million. It’s far below expectations, but can the drop be attributed to Pokémon Go? It’s a worldwide phenomenon, but is it that powerful?
The obvious rebuttal is that previous years were boosted by the release of colossal blockbusters which skewed the data. Look at 2008, where this summer period brought in twice as many sales per day than average. Most of that increase was down to the runaway success of The Dark Knight. Likewise for the impressive numbers in 2011 where Part 2 of the Deathly Hallows concluded the Harry Potter series and dragged punters to the cinema more effectively than any spell. If they hadn’t landed during these dates then expectations for this year would be far more reasonable.
It’s not an unfair point, but 2016 isn’t exactly playing with its hands tied behind its back. This period saw the final weeks of Finding Dory in the U.S., a surefire audience draw, as well as the release of The Secret Life of Pets. Reviews haven’t been stellar for the latter, but as any film fan knows, box office and critical appreciation aren’t always linked. The fact it’s a light-hearted animation is most likely a bigger factor in it performing well than mediocre reviews would be for it performing badly.
That’s before we even get to Ghostbusters and Star Trek Beyond, two franchise films that in any other year you’d expect to smash the box office. I’m sure a certain sub-section of the internet would love to claim the Ghostbusters’ failure as a scalp, but there’s enough data elsewhere to prove it performed no better or worse than comparable films. It was just reported differently. Both films are well-reviewed continuations of incredibly popular series, so why didn’t they catch fire like you’d expect?
It would be an exaggeration to say that Pokémon Go killed these summer blockbusters but it certainly didn’t help. Analysing box office results is always a tricky game, but one thing that seems clear is that this summer’s big films have underperformed so far. Considering how insanely popular Pokémon Go has become it’s not outrageous to suggest its success might be partly responsible.