In many ways, video games are most easily compared with popcorn flicks. Each comes packed with dazzling special effects, demands multimillion-dollar budgets to fuel those pyrotechnics, and is backed by explosive marketing campaigns to ensure quick successes.
With major releases, such as the recent "Harry Potter" film, the studios collect as much as 80 percent of a theater's earnings – but only for the first week, says Mr. Gray. That percentage drops every few weeks, settling at about 55 percent. To take advantage of this deal, Hollywood has increasingly front-loaded its marketing.
The shift is noticeable even within the past few years.
Today, "one-third of a movie's gross comes in the opening weekend," says Gray. "It was at a quarter in the late '90s and in the 20 percent range in the early part of this decade."
"The Twilight Saga: New Moon" is even more lopsided: 47.9 percent of its total domestic earnings came in that first weekend.
This barrage secured its record as Hollywood's biggest opening day, with $72.7 million. That's far less than Black Ops, but "New Moon" sold 9.6 million tickets in comparison with 5.6 million copies of the video game.