What’s grosser than gross?

Why gross gross of course!

In yesterday’s box office gross posting, I alluded to a change in the box office figures as reported by the League.  After six months of deliberations about the reporting of grosses, including the fundamental question of whether or not they should be reported at all (yes, they should, btw), the League made some modifications to its policies.  Here are the basic changes:
  • Figures reported will now be “gross gross” rather than NAGBOR (Net Adjusted Gross Box Office Receipts).  The NAGBOR totals were after credit card deductions, group sales commissions, and a whole lot of other expenses from ticket printing and so on.
  • Total Attendance will now be what I’m calling Total Total Attendance.  Rather than just report paid attendance, the TT Attendance will include any and all complimentary tickets.
What does this mean?  Well, it doesn’t take a David Merrick to know that grosses and attendance are about to go up.
Bigger numbers are always better, and this will enable us to present our industry as an even bigger economic force.  The deductions that come off the Gross Gross vary per show, but it can easily be 10%+ of the total.  Another 10% tacked on to last year’s season’s totals would have put us well over 1 billion buckaroos.  In a year when we’ll be lucky to see an increase, and in an era when our flat lining gross could have put that billion dollar mark well out of our reach for another decade, modifying this reporting virtually guarantees that we’ll get there.
And why shouldn’t we?  As the League has rightly justified, this change puts us in line with other industries, most notably our big brother, Hollywood.  Do you think Hollywood’s grosses are reduced by every credit card surcharge from Fandango?  Nope.  And what about sales of video games, books, etc.?  In fact, I can’t think of any industry, entertainment related or not, that would reduce their sales by credit card service fees?  Do you?  And if there is one, they should change that up pronto.
The attendance modification, while not as justifiable as the reporting of the Gross Gross, still makes sense to me.  Frankly, the release of numbers in any private industry depends solely on how that industry wants to present itself, and the League has decided that the number of bodies present rather than just the number of paid bodies present is a better number to show.  Does it make us look better?  You bet.  That’s why press is all about.  Think about it this way, if you had to give a presentation to a big group of people, wouldn’t you comb your hair, put on some makeup, and make yourself look as good as possible so you would make a good impression?
For those that feel they’re getting an artificial financial perspective of the figures, don’t worry, the average paid admission is still being released, so you’ll still be able to get a sense of the ‘value of the experience’ for those Total Total attendees.
The only thing that concerns me is the inability for us to compare year over year over year of figures. Thankfully, the League has made some adjustments to last year’s figures, but any comparisons beyond that will be skewed.
But, the change had to be made, and so it was.  To those whose feathers may be ruffled, I ask them . . . if it had been this way from the beginning, would you have ever thought it to be odd?
And more importantly, would you ever have asked for it to be changed?
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  • Richard says:

    Here’s the problem with what the League is doing: it makes it more difficult to parse the performance of the components and analyze them.
    Here’s an analogy that will make sense to everyone. An investor who wants to understand the performance of her trading decisions would not want to lump in the commissions (and other fees) in with the cost basis of investments purchased. It would skew understanding the performance of the investment itself. And it would skew understanding how efficient the vehicle you’re using to invest is (full-service v. discount broker, for example).
    The new methodology will cloud understanding of performance. Everyone should be clear that the sole purpose of the new methodology is publicity.

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