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Butts In Seats | Cowboys Vs. Aliens Vs. Smurfs

Every Monday we all gather on the Internet or around the proverbial water cooler to discuss how much money such-and-such movie made over the weekend. What does that mean, though? If a movie grosses $500 million in three days, it’s plenty impressive, but how many people actually SAW it? That’s what “Butts in Seats” is all about. Using an average ticket price of $7.86 – the national average ticket price as of Q1 2011 – “Butt in Seats” gives you an idea of just how many people crammed their posteriors into theater seats over the course of the weekend.

Welcome back to Butts in Seats! This weekend’s box office race was a close one between the family-friendly 3D cartoon adaptation The Smurfs and the Jon Favreau-directed comic book movie Cowboys & Aliens. Both movies landed in the first-place spot, with $36.2 million earned apiece.

That’s just the raw dollars and cents, though. Breaking each movie down by individual butts, the non-3D Cowboys emerges as the clear winner in terms of attendance figures. Both movies earned $36.2 million, but 45 percent of the screens Smurfs played on were 3D.

This means that roughly $16.2 million of the Smurfs take came from premium ticket prices. 3D attendance for the movie comes to roughly 1.4 million tickets sold — based on the $7.38 national average plus $4, a figure provided by Exhibitor Relations box-office analyst Jeff Bock — and 2D attendance totals out to roughly 2.7 million tickets, for a grand total of 4.1 million butts in seats.

With no IMAX screenings and no 3D release, Cowboys‘ ticket sales come purely out of non-premium pricing. The $36.2 million box office yields a much higher turnout at this lower average price, with roughly 4.9 million showing up to see Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig act like cowboys.

Captain America: The First Avenger finished its second weekend in theaters behind the two newcomers, with $24.9 million earned. We don’t have 2D vs. 3D attendance figures this week for Cap, but assuming it was a roughly 50/50 split, we can estimate that roughly 2.8 million butts came out. We should start seeing some more patterns emerge over the coming weeks, but it’s interesting to note even now that a box-office earnings gap of more than $10 million only amounts to roughly one or two million people.

Please keep those comments coming; your feedback on the previous Butts in Seats was much appreciated. Do you think these new numbers paint a more accurate picture? Would you like to see any other comparisons made? A closer look at anything we’re already considering?


  • demoncat_4

    figured given how classic the smurfs are that they would  take in some money plus who can pass up harrison ford as a cowboy though find it interesting that a  captain america wound up second to of all things the smurfs for cowboys and aliens kind of figured would give cap a run for the box office

  • pDUB

    i was a little surprised when i saw the numbers this morning and in reading a recap of the movies this weekend on rottentomatoes, where they mentioned Smurfs 3D intake but i had no clue Cowboys and Aliens was only in 2D which calms my beating heart over how stupid the smurfs are.

  • Mike

    yeah, but wouldn’t the price per ticket be lower on Smurfs because more kids watched it and paid the kids price?

  • Mr. M

    Good point, Mike. That’s why, although $$$ are obviously important and the barometer that has been used for decades, I tend to think that number of admissions is more useful to me.

  • apotheosis

    I’m surprised you don’t account for the fact that a significant percentage of ‘butts in seats’ for Smurfs were children, which has a lower ticket price than adults (the majority of C&Aliens attendance.)

    I figured that the higher ticket price for 3D was effectively offset by the lower kids tickets, breaking roughly even.

    As for your bit about Captain America, an article I read last weekend mentioned that about 40% of the revenue for Cap was from 3D (as opposed to Thor, where almost 60% opening weekend was 3D).  Additionally, the more ardent fans come out opening weekend and are willing to pay the premium for 3D, so naturally in the 2nd weekend the % of 3D attendence will fall even further. And add to that, that Cap lost both total screens and 3D screens to Smurfs – so there were fewer 3D showings in general.