July 29, 2012

Doomed to Fail

A while back I wrote a blog called “It’s the Marketing, Stupid“, so this is kind of a follow up to that.

There’ve been a bunch of movies over the past couple of years that have died at the box office and Studios are scratching their heads wondering why. Yes, the marketing is a big aspect but the main reason is: The stories and titles are ridiculous. This is not to say that the films are necessarily bad, just that when an audience starts laughing at a trailer and the film isn’t a comedy; you’ve got yourself a problem.

A few recent examples would be Cowboys & Aliens, Battleship and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I haven’t seen Battleship so I can’t comment on the film’s quality, but I have seen Abe Lincoln and C & A. Both are well made and entertaining films, but it’s obvious to me why they failed. The ideas are so preposterous that you are asking audiences to suspend disbelief too much.

I mean did anyone really think that Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was going to make $100 Mil at the box office? Its audience is limited and the film is mostly aimed at people who’ve read the book.

With a title like that and the serious tone of the film, it was never going to be a success. People are expecting a farce like comedy, but get a dark tale of how the US President was a vampire hunter. The entire idea is nonsense and had no chance of making a lot of money; no matter how entertaining it may be.

Cowboys & Aliens is a similar movie in terms of tone as it has a comedic sounding title but the film was stone cold serious; really? Cowboys & Aliens wasn’t a comedy? When I saw the first trailer, the audience laughed when that title came up.

The film wasn’t a total failure at the box office, but it underperformed. Sure it was great fun and I personally loved it, but that title is terrible and the idea is just too preposterous. Who is the target audience for this movie? Kids? They don’t like westerns. Adults? Too silly an idea. Hmm, so who then? Whoever it was, there wasn’t enough of them to make a load of money at the box office.

Battleship is another underperformer but it’s not hard to see why; despite the fact the reviews weren’t THAT bad for it, once again as soon as the title came on screen the audience laughed.

How did you think making Battleship into a movie was a good idea? From the trailers it just looked like a Transformers clone which turned a lot of people off, myself included.

John Carter is another film that was destined to fail; I knew from the first trailer that it would die. Why? The main actor Taylor Kitsch wasn’t a star yet, the marketing was rotten and by changing the title from John Carter of Mars, you alienated the target audience: Fans of the book.

You don’t spend $250 Million on a film with no stars, a book that few people will know today, poor CGI and a terrible marketing campaign.

In trailers they could have had “From the book that inspired Avatar and Star Wars comes a motion picture 100 years in the making.” There you go; then people will be like “Ohh, that sounds cool.”

Apparently Disney needed to make $750 Million worldwide for John Carter to be considered a success, which is totally unrealistic for all of the reasons listed above.

It’s a very simple rule in Advertising; know your target demographic. Is our film aimed at kids? Adults? Who are they and why would they want to see this?

Nobody thought Battleship was a good idea when it was announced so why do Studios think they know better?

If an idea sounds stupid, that’s because IT IS. I’m all for taking risks with movies; that’s what makes them interesting, but there’s taking risks and then there’s just making daft decisions. Knowing your audience is key and if a film is silly and it’s aimed kids then great; it’ll make a load of money. If the concept is silly and the target is adults, then you’ve got a problem. You can only insult the intelligence of the audience so much before they turn around and say “Sorry that looks stupid!”

You know what else is going to fail at the box office and I will happily eat my hat if I’m proven wrong: the Highlander reboot with Ryan Reynolds. NO ONE is happy about this; is it too much to hire a Scot this time? You couldn’t actually hire someone who looks MORE North American; are we meant to believe that he will pull off being a Scot? Nae chance! No one in Scotland has teeth that white!

So the point of this endless rant is to actually think before green lighting a film; maybe wonder is it REALLY such a great idea? Particularly when you’re investing millions of dollars. Alright I’m done, I’ll be at Moe’s.

About the Author

Eoin Friel
Eoin Friel
I grew up watching JCVD, Sly and Arnold destroy bad guys, blow things up and spew one-liners like it's a fashion statement. Action is everything I go to the movies for and the reason I came up with this site is to share my love for the genre with everyone.

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