I wonder about all those nervous ninnies out there who freak out when a movie doesn’t destroy the box office opening weekend. I’m sure their methods for predicting earnings after opening weekend is spot on after hundreds of films over decades of research, but maybe their approach to building new franchises should change.
Too Big to Build
Big companies tend to only know how to do things the way they’ve always done them. Once they hire a few brainiacs to tell them what makes the most sense statistically, their idea of taking risks means there’s only a 80% chance they won’t make their money back.
I’ll likely hate on large companies and their inability to be truly ground breaking until I have one of my own and I become too conservative to take risks. (But now that I know that, I’ll build my company to be nimble and agile – ready for changes and new ideas!) If you had a machine that printed money so long as you pressed the same button every five seconds, you would sit there until you shriveled up like
That’s the corporate motto – “Go with what we know.” But that’s where the opportunities arise for the artists and independent film makers to show the big boys how the new kids do it. New stories and new ideas need to grow organically. Of course Warner Bros. did their due diligence and vetted their screenplay for Jupiter Ascending across all of the story developing wonder kids they have access to, so I’m confident that the story checks out as having the potential to compete with the biggest franchises out there. (Most of this I wrote before seeing the movie. Having seen it, I would say that story has promise, the screenplay was over-the-top Hollywood).
New products need to grow their followings from the ground up and new movie franchises are just that, new products. Throwing a baby into the ring with lions is (insert aggressive insult here). But that’s essentially what Warner Bros. did, as have many others. Franchises need followings and word of mouth and positive press to succeed, so placing a baby into play-pen surrounded by mothers, grandparents, and nannies is a lot smarter. If anyone NEEDS to categorize something associated with Jupiter Ascending as a flop, it should be on the execution of the marketing – in that they went with a traditional approach instead of something more thought out. Of course Warner has the money to wait for a product to incubate and grow – but their ultimate parent’s shareholders (who have so much knowledge on how entertainment companies should be run) don’t.
Jupiter Ascending should have been shared with the sci-fi and comic fans and all of the other markets they knew would be interested first. Then, they should have built a website to engage the genre diehards so the audience would get to know the characters and begin to build those connections that make us feel for them. Short films, cartoons, on-line or printed comics; all of these devices would have been more cost effective to produce in order to test the market and build a following before they created a $176 million Baby Huey and told it to sing and dance with the super heroes.
We’re seeing super heroes everywhere because they had built in followings when their movies came out and they received so much positive acclaim from those fans that others had to go watch as well. The movies were made well by talented film makers, and the end results are billion and near billion dollar blockbusters. Warner may not have ten to fifty years to develop new characters in the same way as the comic book comic book companies, but things move quicker these days. Six months to build some early testers, three months to leak some rumors about a pending movie and some teaser footage, and after nine months (infant innuendo), you’ve got enough ammunition to demand a stupid amount of money to make a movie.
Start small, think big. The Paranormal Activity series serves as one of the best examples in recent memory of a group that set out to please a large audience, but started by pleasing a small audience first.
Haters Gonna Hate
Having delved slightly deeper into this pool of everyman intellectualism, I wonder if the reviews, especially the negative ones, come from the competition. What if Warner’s competitors saw an opportunity to pounce on the wounded animal that is Jupiter Ascending and had as many of their affiliates rip into the film until they tore down Warner Bros., the Wachowskis, Mila Kunis, and Channing Tatum? A few blogs can lead to a general sentiment, and all of the sudden, heart throbs lessen in popularity (Well, Channing will likely bounce back later this year with Magic Mike XXL), The Wachowskis and film makers everywhere will lose their opportunities to make anything major that isn’t overly scrutinized by corporate worrywarts, and TWC takes a minor hit in stock price that freaks out a bunch of bankers who aren’t known for their creative insights which leads to hammers getting dropped at Warner Bros.
The Wachowskis did an amazing thing with Jupiter Ascending. They get it. They went all Weinstein on the sci-fi/sci-fantasy world. They showed us a level of art we began to think was impossible. Everything we ever asked for (action, visuals, historical exploration with purpose postulation), they delivered. A flawless spiderweb of one-up-manship. They will bare the burden of criticism for the decisions they made on this project (as all artists must), but I say they nailed it.
What I don’t get is why they seemingly opted not to develop this story beyond a theatrical experience. Some of the primary elements would be abused if needed too often. I’ll elaborate in a later post about capitalizing on storyverses. I am however intrigued on how the story will continue. This family squabble is just heating up. I will spare you my predictions, as to avoid spoilers. But I hope I’m wrong and they don’t do anything clichéd… Overall, an A-.
It all comes down to mass perception. Persuading the masses to feel a certain way about anything only takes a few strategically placed key words. Take The Lone Ranger. This movie was better than its box office numbers and better than the reviews it got. While criticism may be better geared toward the defense of the film rather than at the execution of its release, it still grossed a profit from theaters according to Box Office Mojo. I doubt I’d rank it in my top 250 movies, but Johnny Depp did not deserve to be thrown under the bus for it.
Honestly people, we go to the movies to be entertained. Sometimes we’re in the mood to cry and sob on an emotional roller coaster. Sometimes we want an adrenaline rush and to scream our heads off. Sometimes we just want something pretty to look at while we stuff our faces with overpriced snacks. I get that movies are expensive and we only have the time and money to see quality films, but if movies really were that expensive, we wouldn’t go so often; to the point that theaters get away with raising prices.
I love movies and I’m guessing you do to. We love to be entertained. For thousands of years, people have loved hearing stories while they sit on their butts. Heck, people used to stand for hours just to watch a good show. Box Office numbers prove we still love the theater experience, while Netflix and Hulu and all of the streaming developers are providing us another way to experience stories. So there’s only one thing to keep in mind: Unless you want to be spoon-fed un-/less than original stories until you become the consumption zombie that big business wants you to be, support the artists that try to surprise you or the word “surprise” will die out like the (insert intentionally lame cliche here).