Yesterday I was reading about the box office failure of the Disney movie Tomorrowland starring George Clooney; Disney stands to lose $140 million on it as its budget was $180 million and then they spent another $150 million on marketing.
An analyst for MKM Partners apparently said “There’s a reason you’re seeing more sequels, prequels and known properties because you never know how films like TOMORROWLAND or JUPITER ASCENDING are going to turn out.”
I really don’t think originality is the problem… the problem is these movies are crap. Both Tomorrowland and Jupiter Ascending had huge budgets and yet weren’t really sure who their target audience was.
They had mediocre to poor reviews and the trailers did nothing to make audiences want to see them.
I ended up watching Jupiter Ascending on the plane a few weeks ago because the trailers made it look dumb so I didn’t want to watch it in the theater… it was pretty bad and I have no regrets about not forking out money at all.
Tomorrowland’s trailers did nothing to make me want to see it and apparently nobody else wanted to either. Who was the target market for it? I haven’t seen it as the trailers didn’t appeal but a few people I know have seen it and described it as preachy, poorly paced and with several plot holes; audiences never like being preached to so word of mouth will have led to people being turned off by it.
To me it seems like there are 4 major factors:
BUDGETS: If the budgets were smaller then the expectations won’t be so stupidly high. Remember when Hollywood used to make movies for $10-50 million? They didn’t need to make $600 million worldwide to be considered a success. Frankly it’s nice to see Disney take a hit but it’s hardly going to put a dent in their huge profits. So how about lowering the budgets so then riskier projects are more viable? If an original movie is a success then by all means do a bigger budget sequel but spending $200 on a movie with lots of special effects but nothing else to really recommend it will of course turn people off.
MARKETING: This is like John Carter all over again; (despite the fact it’s based on a book) you’ve got a mega budget film but the studio didn’t know what to do with it. The ads were uninspired and just made the film look like a rip-off of Star Wars, despite the fact it came first. They never mentioned that it was based on the classic book by Edgar Rice Burrows and that John Carter was one of the first superheroes. The film was actually not that bad and I would have enjoyed a follow up but that’s not about to happen any time soon.
Tomorrowland’s trailers were just dull and didn’t really entice anyone to go see it; it was just CG overload and once again left you wondering who was it meant for?
TARGET MARKET: I work in advertising and the most important thing is to know the product you are trying to sell and who the target demographic is. With John Carter, Tomorrowland and Jupiter Ascending the companies couldn’t decide who the target market was which led to lacklustre marketing that made the films look appealing to practically no one. Research is always required to find out who you are making the film for and if there are enough consumers interested in what you’re selling. Knowing your target is key and if you don’t know who you are aiming at then of course your product will sink.
CRAP PRODUCT: The fact that Tomorrowland and Jupiter Ascending were original isn’t why they failed. It’s the fact that they just weren’t very good; throwing money at a film won’t polish a turd and if the trailers don’t grab audiences then you’re pretty much doomed.
John Wick had a budget of $20 million but it made $78 million worldwide; not a massive blockbuster however it didn’t need to make $200 million, therefore it was a success and is now getting a sequel. It ended up being one of the best action movies of the past decade and got nearly universally great reviews. It really is the perfect template as to how you should make an action movie which kicks plenty of ass, doesn’t have a huge budget but was still considered a success.
In terms of a blockbuster done right, sure San Andreas may not be anything new but it isn’t based on a comic book, a reboot or a sequel and it’s nearly made $300 million worldwide in over a week. So when something new comes along and is done right, people will see it and a little bit of star power like Dwayne Johnson doesn’t hurt either.
So to finish up, basically lower the budgets, do your market research, know your target audience and make original but GOOD films which can (maybe) generate sequels later. Just worry about making a great standalone story with characters we can connect with and care about then the rest will fall into place. Never be afraid to takes risks and try something new, otherwise in the future there will be no more interesting characters left. We can only watch so many reboots and sequels before we lose interest all together and you ruin the good names of the original movies people fell in love with in the first place.