Why "Glee" was no Justin Bieber at weekend box office

LOS ANGELES (TheWrap.com) - Releasing the "Glee The 3D Concert Movie" into 2,040 theaters Friday, one Fox executive described the studio as being in "uncharted waters."
Fox's expectations weren't big for its first dip into the 3D concert-movie arena -- "mid-to-high single digits," the executive said -- but they had to anticipate that the waters were a little deeper than the film's opening weekend performance of just $6 million.
Come on, Justin Bieber spends that on haircuts. What happened?
"I don't want to beat up on 'Glee,' because the numbers already beat them up," a senior film-business marketing executive told TheWrap. "Honestly, I'm a Gleek, too. I'm a fan. It's just the concert version of the musical? Are you kidding me? Everything about that, in my opinion, was wrong."
Well, it's not like concert movies based on popular teen-oriented music acts haven't had box-office success before.
In February, after all, Paramount saw $13 million budgeted 3D concert film "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never" premiere to a whopping $29.5 million. Three years earlier, Disney debuted "Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour" to $31.1 million. The "Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience" opened to $19.2 million in 2009.
And it's not like the audience totally rejected the "Glee" movie -- the film got a rare A-plus grade from moviegoer survey firm Cinemascore for audience members under 25.
And it's certainly not a reason for Fox to "stop believin'" in the profitability of the movie business -- the "Glee" film cost only $9 million to make, and has already grossed more than $1 million in Australia alone.
But again, you have to ask: why didn't it open bigger than $6 million in the U.S. and Canada?
Well, for one, the Fox TV show "Glee" isn't the same kind of youth phenomenon that, say, Bieber or Hanna Montana is.
"Concert films are what they are. Bieber was a documentary of a musical sensation while Hanna Montana was a musical sensation coming off a sold out tour that sold out everywhere," noted a Fox executive.
"I think to attempt to answer this, one must ask why did "U2 3D" gross $10.4 million? Why did "U2: Rattle & Hum" gross $8.7 million?," the studio executive added. "Why did Martin Scorsese's "Shine a Light" gross $5.5 million? Phil Joanou directed Rattle & Hum and Scorsese? I mean, top flight directors with the biggest bands in the world, and it still doesn't matter.
According to Vincent Bruzzese, president of The Worldwide Motion Picture Group at Ipsos OTX, the fact that "Glee" can be seen every week on Fox also factored into the box office performance of the film.
Bieber doesn't have his own TV series.
But Bruzzese said Bieber does have something that "Glee" doesn't -- big enough fan base that's willing to shell out for premium 3D ticket prices.
"The people who went love 'Glee,' but there's only a certain size audience that's so much a die-hard fan that's willing to pay that price," he noted.
Phil Contrino, editor of Boxoffice.com, noted that "Glee" might have been hurt by strong summer box-office competition -- while Bieber, Hanna Montana and the Jonas Brothers all debuted in the calmer month of February, "Glee" had to take on the second week of a studio tentpole (Fox's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes"), as well as surprise DreamWorks hit "The Help."
"'The Help' really ended up hurting it a lot, because when you have a movie that overperforms and exceeds expectations the way 'The Help' did, it causes a ripple effect across the rest of the movies in the top 10 -- and this didn't even make the top 10," Contrino said.
A top marketing executive, meanwhile, said that Fox didn't have time to properly promote the movie, which was only announced in May.
"Here's a situation where they barely even had time to get a poster up," the executive said.
For its part, "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never" was handled with care by Paramount micro-budget boutique label Insurge and was the benefactor of a months-long online campaign built around the performer's huge social-media fanbase.
Fox did make efforts to mobilize "Glee's" 905,648 Twitter followers -- "@Glee3DMovie is in theaters today!" read one Friday tweet on @GleeonFox.
That's a great way to cheaply promote an inexpensive concert film. But you've got to have the social media goods -- Paramount was able to leverage a Bieber following that was more than 10 times bigger since @JustinBieber has nearly 11.9 million followers.

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