Robin Hood, and the Curse of Hollywood’s Loser Weekend

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Robin Hood

Moviegoers seem plenty surprised today by the news that Robin Hood limped to the finish line in second place. But the analysts all saw it coming – after all, this was Hollywood’s official loser weekend.

Opening to the tune of $37 million, Robin Hood and Russell Crowe lost out to Robert Downey Jr. and Iron Man 2, which, in its second weekend out of the gate, still raked in a hefty $53 million. TIME’s Richard Corliss noted the older age range of the Robin Hood audience, suggesting that the franchise skewed a little too old to be a fanboy hit.

But Jeff Bock, box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations, said that whatever title had been dropped into Robin Hood‘s slot would have had a hard time in cutting through the Iron Man noise. “This is the single hardest place to open a movie, the most difficult place on the release calendar,” Bock says. “Historically in this position, you have movies like Speed Racer which can’t find an audience. So almost everyone had projected $35-$40 million.”

Bock’s line of thinking is that with a property as prominent and anticipated as Iron Man 2 kicking off the summer movie calendar, the interest is so widespread that conversations about Tony Stark and Whiplash all but overshadow any mention of Robin Hood and Maid Marian. “This is really a battle that plays out a couple years in advance, because that’s when the release schedule is being decided. But there aren’t a lot of slots available in the summer, and by the time they got around to scheduling Robin Hood, maybe this is the only spot that was open.”

Which is not to say that a movie can never break out as the second-weekend blockbuster in May. Last year, it was Star Trek that erupted out of nowhere to be one of the top titles of the year.”Paramount certainly did not expect that to be such a hit. As a property, it was something of an unknown quantity, but then it surprised everyone when it turned out to be one of the year’s bigger hits,” Bock says.

But when it came to Robin Hood, Bock says that it “looked and felt like Gladiator 2, let’s not kid ourselves,” and that there wasn’t actually much demand for a second sword-swinging epic from the Russell Crowe-Ridley Scott team. Add that fact to the antiquated subject matter and the scheduling congestion, and Robin of the Hood finally met his match.

For those who don’t follow the inside baseball of Hollywood scheduling and finances, I asked Bock for a metaphor that might make more sense for the casual movie fan. Why is the second weekend in May the loser weekend? “Because it’s just a matter of supply and demand,” Bock said. “It’s like trying to book a plane ticket at the very last second, and it turns out that you’ve waited too long and now you’re stuck on Nigerian Air, and it takes you to four or five different locations before you get to your destination. It’s all about timing, plain and simple.”