The Blog

The Passion of the Starsky and the Hutch

Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller go old school; the Oscars give it up for the ugly and the unhappy; and "The Passion" might be bigger than you think.

11:00 PM, Mar 4, 2004 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
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The biggest grossing movies aren't foretold by opening weekend numbers, but by the percentage of weekend-to-weekend declines. A poorly performing movie declines over 60 percent every weekend; an average movie declines around 50 percent; a good performer keeps the drop to around 45 percent. Movies with declines under 30 percent can go on to very, very big business.

The midweek numbers for "The Passion" are quite strong and so far track closely with "The Return of the King" and "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace."

But watch the numbers this weekend. Gitesh Pandya, editor of the excellent site Box Office Guru, thinks "The Passion" will decline somewhere around 35 to 40 percent--"Which would be very good," he says "for a movie that opened this big."

For a number of reasons I won't get into here, I suspect "The Passion" may have an even lower decline number--perhaps as low as 20 or 25 percent. This would put it on course to be one of the top two or three grossing movies of all time. A decline number in the twenties would signal that "The Passion" is on its way to becoming a cultural phenomenon similar to "Titanic," would in all probability make it the biggest grossing movie of 2004, and thus make it impossible to ignore at next year's Academy Awards.

Jonathan V. Last in online editor of The Weekly Standard.