[Update: The data in the graph has been updated to fix an error. The Purge earned “just” a 946% return on investment in week one. Of course, that number has certainly grown well past 1000% since]

Alternate Title: Sometimes I Wish I Was an English Teacher

The talk in Hollywood this Monday is that this weekend The Purge took in $31.4M, winning the box office. The Purge had a budget of only $3M and really only started marketing a short couple weeks prior, relying heavily on social media to create an intense buzz around the low-budget horror/thriller. An original premise to the level rarely seen in Hollywood these days certainly helped:

There’s so much to talk about here! Since this is a math blog, let’s start there. The Purge had a 1047% return on investment in its first week in the box office alone. That’s ridiculous. It was filmed in 20 days. There’s no investment on Earth that can rival it. Here’s a table of the top 10 films in the box office this week that compares the films first week’s box office gross and their budgets.

10 top grossing films of the weekend of 6/7/13

Last year when we hit on stats in Algebra II, I went to box office numbers as interesting data sets. This takes it to a whole other level. How can we best visualize how unbelievably historic The Purge‘s opening weekend was? Was it the best opening weekend ever, by our ROI metric? Iron Man3 earned $174M in its opening weekend; how does that compare to The Purge?

If you were in charge of Universal Studios, would you prefer to have invested $3M in The Purge or $200M in Iron Man? Would knowing the latter is approaching $400M in gross box office revenue change your thoughts?

Of course, from a literary perspective, this data is also immensely interesting. The premise of The Purge is original and harkens back to the days of The Lottery. Is it a sign that originality and a new idea still can win out over flash, CGI and star power? As Dave Karger of Fandango says:

“Every once in a while a movie comes around that has a premise that just captures people. The Purge is one of these movies. The concept is so different. It makes people want to see the movie.”

Most reviews have lauded the concept before lamenting the execution, which is unfortunate. I’ll probably wait for this one to hit the library shelves, but I certainly am more interested in it than I am Iron Man or Star Trek.

I know it’s a creepy, scary, disturbing concept! But original! I think there’s a lot to be said for the originality here and a great discussion to be had with students.

Even mathematically: “How could we determine how much ‘originality’ is a indicator of success? How are we defining success?”

It is a SUPER original idea. (I actually really love that about it.) And the math involved in your post was excellent and really interesting.

I don’t know that the question you pose about trying to determine how much originality is an indicator of success can be answered–at least not mathematically. Though it is an intriguing question.

I would tend to agree that we cannot mathematically come up with an “originality” indicator. But I think that’s a really cool discussion to have with students. What can we come up with? Well, we can talk about the financial success of a film and maybe we can find some data similar to what I presented – maybe our students can come up with another metric?!

And then we can start DOING THINGS with that data or having discussions based on that data. Maybe we formulate a metric and find that “The Purge” and “The Blair Witch Project” are the highest ROI films of the last twenty years. Maybe we notice that 10 of the top 15 are horror films (I’m making this us here, but I think it is likely). Then we get to have some cross-discipline discussions about the film industry and the economics of why every year we see the same derivative horror films. But then we can go into English class and discuss what’s the difference between “The Purge” or “The Blair Witch Project” or “28 Days Later” and the less successful “FearDotCom” or “The Wicker Man.”

I love this discussion and its really making me consider turning my mini-statistics unit in the fall in Algebra II into a exploration into the world of horror films. There’s a lot of data to work with here and it really leads to some interesting discussions that are applicable to many aspects of our entertainment lives.

I think the discussion you plan on having with your Algebra II class are a little above my 7th graders, but I really like the real-world example of a large percent. The percents greater than 100 really throw my kids off, but I know that they all probably illegally saw this R movie and it begins a rich discussion about percent increase and markups and discounts! Thanks! Love your blog, just found it and added it to my Feedly account.

That’s something I didn’t even consider! There’s a tricky distinction between percent increase and return on investment that I need to think about here, but I love your idea.

Lets say Monsters University had a $30M budget and it ended up making $90M. That’s a return on investment of 200%. 30M to 90M is also a 200% increase, but that’s a different concept (or is it? Same formula to calculate, but I can envision this being a tricky discussion to have). And why is 200% $90M and not $60M. That, of course, is the really tricky concept.

I need to think about this some more. How can we phrase the Monsters University question as a percent increase and avoid the possibly misleading or confusing vocabulary of investing.

I should not have watched that video. Darn you!

I know it’s a creepy, scary, disturbing concept! But original! I think there’s a lot to be said for the originality here and a great discussion to be had with students.

Even mathematically: “How could we determine how much ‘originality’ is a indicator of success? How are we defining success?”

It is a SUPER original idea. (I actually really love that about it.) And the math involved in your post was excellent and really interesting.

I don’t know that the question you pose about trying to determine how much originality is an indicator of success can be answered–at least not mathematically. Though it is an intriguing question.

I would tend to agree that we cannot mathematically come up with an “originality” indicator. But I think that’s a really cool discussion to have with students. What can we come up with? Well, we can talk about the financial success of a film and maybe we can find some data similar to what I presented – maybe our students can come up with another metric?!

And then we can start DOING THINGS with that data or having discussions based on that data. Maybe we formulate a metric and find that “The Purge” and “The Blair Witch Project” are the highest ROI films of the last twenty years. Maybe we notice that 10 of the top 15 are horror films (I’m making this us here, but I think it is likely). Then we get to have some cross-discipline discussions about the film industry and the economics of why every year we see the same derivative horror films. But then we can go into English class and discuss what’s the difference between “The Purge” or “The Blair Witch Project” or “28 Days Later” and the less successful “FearDotCom” or “The Wicker Man.”

I love this discussion and its really making me consider turning my mini-statistics unit in the fall in Algebra II into a exploration into the world of horror films. There’s a lot of data to work with here and it really leads to some interesting discussions that are applicable to many aspects of our entertainment lives.

Thanks so much for your comments!

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I think the discussion you plan on having with your Algebra II class are a little above my 7th graders, but I really like the real-world example of a large percent. The percents greater than 100 really throw my kids off, but I know that they all probably illegally saw this R movie and it begins a rich discussion about percent increase and markups and discounts! Thanks! Love your blog, just found it and added it to my Feedly account.

That’s something I didn’t even consider! There’s a tricky distinction between percent increase and return on investment that I need to think about here, but I love your idea.

Lets say Monsters University had a $30M budget and it ended up making $90M. That’s a return on investment of 200%. 30M to 90M is also a 200% increase, but that’s a different concept (or is it? Same formula to calculate, but I can envision this being a tricky discussion to have). And why is 200% $90M and not $60M. That, of course, is the really tricky concept.

I need to think about this some more. How can we phrase the Monsters University question as a percent increase and avoid the possibly misleading or confusing vocabulary of investing.

Thanks a ton for your comment and for following!