Friday, March 4, 2016

Common Wisdom is Often Wrong

I'm just going to give you a couple of bits of common box office wisdom that have turned out to be wrong in the last few months.

First off, everyone knows that you want to release a big blockbuster in summer, right?  Although summer has been getting farther and farther from actual summer, to the point now that big movies are being released in March like Batman v Superman.  Yet May is still the coveted month, with studios racing with each other to plant their flag on select dates first. 

This common wisdom persists despite that the three biggest movies were not released in May.  Or June.  Or July.  Not August.  Not April either.  Nope.  Titanic, Avatar, and Star Wars Episode VII were all released in December and went on to make about a billion dollars each.  (Of those Titanic is probably the most impressive as you didn't have 3D or fake IMAX and the global marketplace wasn't nearly as huge in 1997-1998.)  The "biggest movie of 2014" was technically American Sniper and again it was a December release, albeit in only limited markets.  It made its over $300 million mostly in January, which is usually a dumping ground for shitty horror movies and the trash projects studios didn't want to waste a real release date on, ie Mordecai

Last month Deadpool broke two bits of common studio wisdom.  First that February isn't really much better than January in terms of the quality of movies released.  Second, for a superhero movie to make it, you have to make it rated PG-13.  R-rated movies never make any money!  R-rated superhero movies like Watchmen and the two Kick-Ass movies didn't really help to dissuade that common wisdom.  So none of the so-called "experts" really pegged the movie to make back its relatively small budget, let alone turn a profit.  And yet the movie opened huge, breaking records for R-rated movies and topping every other X-Men-related movie before it, all of which were rated PG-13.

Almost right away Fox announced the next Wolverine movie would be rated R.  Which seems pretty ridiculous.  It's not about ratings.  It's not about release dates.  If you make a movie people like, they'll see it no matter what rating it is or when you release it.  I give a lot of credit to Ryan Reynolds for relentlessly promoting the movie for months, which I think helped prime the pump for people to want to see it.  That's not something I see working for a lot of other properties.

Anyway, if you want an inspirational thought for the week it's that when people say "this is how it's always done" remember that's there's always an exception to the rule.  The common wisdom might be right 99 times out of 100, but there's always a chance that you can be that 1 who makes it.  Isn't that what our whole American Dream is these days?


  1. I can see why they try to go for certain months, trying to predict what might be the best month, but the movie theaters closest to me are packed every weekend. Especially if there is a new release. Going to the movies is more popular than ever. Plus some places have added reclining chairs and in general the best in sound and video. People love it.

  2. The problem with "summer" months is that the big movies crowd out each other with a new big-budget "blockbuster" coming every week or two. Star Wars and Deadpool also had the benefit of "pent up demand" on their side; people were wanting to see those films because of the subject matter. Titanic, Avatar, and Star Wars all did great because what competition do they have at their level? They're basically plying opposite all the Oscar contenders and a few family releases. I do agree December may be the new May, but I worry that someday someone will figure that out lol. Didn't they just move Episode 8 of Star Wars to December? Maybe Disney is taking notice.

    Even during Titanic's run, movies were more about the total box office...E.T. played for over a year in theaters back in the day. There were less films and more opportunity for films to have "legs" and I think in some ways that helps the December films since January is so bleak; whereas the summer films are all about opening weekend; that's where they have to make most of their money is in the first weekend, maybe the second and after that, they are relegated to the scrap pile as the next big film debuts. Maybe we need a return to yesteryear of less movies each week; less is sometimes more.



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