There are few moments as fraught in the world of "Entourage” as the weekend after a big Vinny Chase movie opens. That's when E and the crew, usually after a shrill cellphone call from Ari, find out if Vinny should celebrate by taking the boys out for a late club night and then buying a big house the next day or whether, on the other hand, he should mourn by taking the boys out for a late club night and then buying a big house the next day.
So what kind of mood should Vinny be in as he’s scouting for digs?
If you’ve been following its box office results, you know “Entourage” had a strong midweek opening in which it collected about $7 million, and then settled into a more low-key $10.4 million over the weekend, good enough for only fourth place, behind two new openings ("Spy" and Insidious: Chapter 3") and a holdover ("San Andreas”).
But the ranking tells only part of the story. The big question with a movie like "Entourage" -- well, besides the other big questions -- is whether a sufficient number of people turned out to justify the movie's existence. The one thing you heard more with "Entourage" than you did with almost any other movie this year — even with movies based on brands -- is why, after eight seasons in which it seemed to wear out every last bit of tread on its tires, the film was coming along in the first place?
Often you heard this from some of the very people who said they watched the show. And if they weren’t going to buy a ticket, they noted, who would be? So the number of these people who turned up at theaters is an important question.
As it turns out, the argument for the film may be a little like Ari Gold’s sense of ethics: You wish it were stronger, but it’s not (entirely) nonexistent.
Here's how it breaks down. The $17.8 million in “Entourage” box office works out to 2.2 million viewers, given average ticket prices. Assuming a typical second- and third-weekend trajectory for the movie, that will put its eventual total at about $40 million, or roughly 5 million tickets sold. That's higher than the number of people who watched the finale — with repeat airings, 3.1 million — if not quite double that total. Basically, it’s a multiple of 1.5x.
Where does this rank compared to other TV hits that were turned into movies during or shortly after their run?
"Sex and the City” is probably the best analogue. It’s an HBO comedy with a similar level of frankness and fantasy, and one whose movie also came four years after the show went off the air.
Its finale garnered 10.6 million viewers, and the movie sold about twice the number of tickets -- 21 million -- in the summer of 2008. That’s slightly better than "Entourage" — Vinny & Co. would have to garner $50 million to reach the number — but not considerably better.
Faring stronger than both is "The Simpsons Movie." The show’s 2007 season finale garnered just under 10 million viewers when the movie came along that summer. The film went on to sell more than 25 million tickets, a notable expansion of the show’s base. But again, while “Entourage” won’t hit that 2.5x multiple, but it won’t be that far under it either.
The true gold standard is “Borat,” which is based on a running segment from the niche “Da Ali G Show" that garnered only a relative handful of viewers. Yet the movie managed to sell nearly 20 million tickets. It turned on scores of people to a character they had never seen on TV. Almost no TV-to-movie adaptation is ever going to beat that.
Perhaps the low bar, at the other end of things, is “The X-Files: I Want to Believe.” The 2008 movie saw less than a quarter of the 13 million who tuned in for the Fox series' finale six years before come out for the film — it’s basically at a 0.2x multiple. "Entourage" did much, much better.
Of course, the point of a film, especially a summer film, with its event feel and late-night TV appearances and major marketing budget and endless number of brand tie-ins, is to expand an audience. And that may be where "Entourage" hits a wall, hits a wall like — what’s the best analogy to come up with here -- E and Sloane sometime after their third breakup? Ari after Terrence ran him out of the agency? Vince after “Medellin”?
Plus the finale numbers offer only one metric. And, like all metrics, it's not bulletproof. “Entourage” had been losing viewers and steam by the end of its eight-season run, the very fact the naysayers point to in asking why we needed a film to begin with. So the fact that the movie was able to exceed finale numbers isn’t as boast-worthy as it would seem. (In contrast, “Sex and the City” hit a massive record with its finale, so the fact that its film could double them up was impressive.)
Still, for a movie even many of its viewers expressed skepticism about, “Entourage” has done pretty much fine. It held its base and even grew it somewhat. It didn't overwhelmingly display its need for existence, but it served a need too. “Entourage” was, like E's fashion sense, right up the middle. Which some might say is just right.