If it wasn’t obvious from the ticket sales, movies are becoming more expensive to produce. Be it the special effects or the overpriced talent, it’s expensive to make a movie you hope to hit theaters nationally. That being said, nobody wants to produce a movie that won’t make a nice profit. The only way you can do better in this industry is if you study what gets people’s butts into the theater and what sends them fleeing from a flick like a cinematic abortion. Here are a few elements we’ve learned from past data that suggests a movie will be a dud at the box-office.
1. Poor Timing
When it comes to movie’s release, timing is key to its success at the box-office. It doesn’t take a genius to put the pieces together on this one. If it’s a heart-warming drama, you don’t open up against a big-budget science fiction/action movie. If it’s a raunchy R-rated comedy, don’t open up against a Pixar film.
But it’s far more than just competition; it’s also seasonal. A non-stop action thrill-ride will do much better in the summer than it will in the winter and a romantic comedy will do much better in February than it would in October. Not heeding these rules can lead to such box-office bombs as Speed Racer which took a hit from Iron Man and My Sister’s Keeper getting its ass handed to it by Transformers 2.
If you find a movie that seems out-of-place in its competition and seasonal placement, either the studio is going for counter-programming or it just doesn’t give a crap about the movie. Either way, it is a bad sign for a movie when it has steep competition with the movie season working against it.
2. Niche Appeal
A movie can only be a box-office success if you can convince every person in the country to go watch it. If you narrow your target audience to a small group of people that it’ll appeal to, you run the risk of alienating other audiences and lose big money in the box-office. This has been made clear from movies like Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, which catered to the video game and anime crowd and ended up as a box-office bomb in 2010. That isn’t to say that a movie is bad for trying to appeal to a certain audience, but it rarely makes a large chunk of change unless it has that national appeal that has worked its way into pop-culture. For example: films about heart-warming romances, comic books and spies tend to do better at the box-office than films about anime, video games and Dungeons & Dragons.
3. Internet Pandering Campaign
While it is true that the internet has evolved into a culture all its own ripe for marketing, it sadly does not translate into box-office success. Take Snakes on a Plane; a movie heavily marketed to the internet crowd. There were games, parody videos, special Sam Jackson voice-mails and a chance to have your own song in the ending credits. While I went to a midnight showing at a packed cinema with everybody in the theater going nuts for this film, it seems like word did not spread after that night. Snakes on a Plane made a mere $26 million on its opening weekend which, while making it the #1 movie that weekend, was still a disappointment for a summer movie with such a large campaign working for it. The patrons of the internet may dig a campaign about memes, but it is not a market for guaranteed box-office success.
4. Sequel to a Fluke
Lightning rarely strikes twice as the first time is usually just luck. A movie can make a lot of money and become ridiculously popular for a load of reasons: word of mouth, marketing, appeal, etc. Usually this warrants a sequel, but a sequel does not guarantee more money. In fact, if the first film was a fluke, it can be a major disappointment.
The two films I’m referring to are The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, two horror films made for petty cash that hit it big at the box-office. Both were successful and both received sequels that had a slightly bigger budget. However, neither of them made nearly as much money as their predecessors. But producers honestly believe they can capture lightning in a bottle twice which is what leads to such disappointments as The Blair Witch Project 2: Book of Souls.
5. Based on a Video Game
Unless a studio can score some hot celeb like Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider, a movie based on a video game is always destined to fail. And yet, year after year, Hollywood continues making them. From the embarrassment that was Super Mario Brothers to the over-the-top absurdity of Street Fighter, video game movies will always have a stigma of box-office poison. And if a studio spends a lot of money on the budget, it’s a guaranteed bomb.
Just look at Disney’s Prince of Persia movie, which cost a staggering $200 million and failed to make even half of that money back. Most of these films don’t even make their money back and the ones that do, like the Resident Evil series, just barely make enough to be called a decent investment. The only exceptions to this rule are the Tomb Raider movies (which were a success because of Jolie’s ass), the Mortal Kombat movie (a fluke as proven by its sequel) and the first Pokemon movie, which is an entirely different beast.
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