December 21st will be the most heated weekend at the box office of the year, with ‘Mary Poppins Returns’, ‘Bumblebee’ and ‘Aquaman’ all slugging it out for ticket sales. Disney is launching ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ a few days early to try and draw early birds and hopefully build up some momentum before the others arrive. Then last week, Amazon Prime announced that ‘Aquaman’ would be screened a week early, on December 15 for subscribers. Last year, ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ was also screened ahead of its opening date, which overlapped dangerously with the release of ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’, but thanks to these early Amazon screenings, ‘Jumanji’ generated excellent word-of-mouth and was able to hold its ground against the juggernaut.
Now comes word that ‘Bumblebee’ will also screen early… earlier, in fact, than ‘Aquaman’. Paramount will hold screenings of ‘Bumblebee’ on December 8 in 1,000 locations. These screenings will be at 7pm local time, and tickets will be regular price. Tickets can be purchased at BumblebeeMovie.com. Attendees will also get “bonus content” and a Transformers: Tiny Turbo Changers Movie Toy from Hasbro (while supplies last).
These early screenings don’t just help build word-of-mouth, they can significantly pad a film’s grosses. Amazon’s early screenings for ‘Jumanji’ made $1.86M, while those for ‘Hotel Transylvania 3’ made $1.3M. Recent early screenings of ‘A Star Is Born’ brought in an additional $1.35M, while those for ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’ generated $1.8M (at 600 locations).
In the case of ‘Bumblebee’, the poor performance of ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ indicates that US audiences are over Michael Bay’s bloated, explosion-filled epics. Even though they still do well overseas, especially in China, Paramount is hoping that ‘Bumblebee’, directed by ‘Kubo and the Two Strings” Travis Knight, will be a fresh start and draw back lapsed fans, with what reports to be a more heartfelt storyline.
The ‘Bumblebee’ preview screenings are on December 8. After that, the official opening date is December 21.