The New Math

MovieBob

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The New Math

Television has jumped onto social media like a life preserver, but movies have been slower to catch up. The question is, why?

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SonicWaffle

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Maybe not a great change. Look at something like Sharknado; it got those ratings by being ridiculous, not by being good. With studios paying more attention to things which go Big On The Internet, we end up with movies about memes, and that's just a big barrel of "fuck that".

The problem is that what the internet likes is just too random and fast-moving. You can't predict it, you can't spot trends, you can only run to try and keep up and by the time your movie is made, nobody cares anymore.
 

WiseBass

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Minor nitpicks, but The Lone Ranger hasn't earned hundreds of millions. It's earned about $123 million worldwide, against its $225 million budget and likely nine-figure marketing costs. Somehow, I doubt it's going to be a big earner in Japan or China (neither of which are running it yet).

As for Pacific Rim, we're basically stuck hoping that word-of-mouth and the East Asian markets will float it more. Part of the problem is that the US public seems to be less forgiving of "geeky"-looking movies unless they're either super-hero movies or famous fantasy/SF books.
 

MovieBob

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WiseBass said:
As for Pacific Rim, we're basically stuck hoping that word-of-mouth and the East Asian markets will float it more. Part of the problem is that the US public seems to be less forgiving of "geeky"-looking movies unless they're either super-hero movies or famous fantasy/SF books.
Don't underestimate things like DVD sales as far as Pacific Rim goes. I see it being a similar story to Dredd. Not very many people went to see Dredd in the cinema, but it reviewed well, was made for a niche, and has a devoted fanbase(of which I am a proud member) that have made so much noise that the studio "leaked" they were going to be looking at sales to guage sequel potential, and a single Facebook group led a charge which saw Dredd jump to number 1 in the UK DVD charts on Amazon and up to like 25 on the US one, that hundreds and thousands of spaces on the charts respectively.

And Firefly fans made Serenity happen.

Just saying, a booming box office does indeed appear to be meaning a bit less these days...
 

shirkbot

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I'm still not sure what to make of the analysis of social media. It seems logical: nearly instantaneous feedback from a broader base than traditional ratings. The problem is, well, this:

SonicWaffle said:
The problem is that what the internet likes is just too random and fast-moving. You can't predict it, you can't spot trends, you can only run to try and keep up and by the time your movie is made, nobody cares anymore.
Capturing the Zeitgeist is always a challenge, but in the age of the internet it's possible to have several, simultaneously, and sometimes counter to one another. In essence, the internet IS pop-culture, and it's pop-culture at an insane pace. Is it really rational to be basing large decisions on something that whimsical?
 

Something Amyss

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On a pair of slightly smaller scales, Disney's Lone Ranger reboot is being described as a failure across the board, even though it was a #2 opener and earned hundreds of millions. That's what happens when your film is prohibitively expensive and opens to scathing reviews and accusations of racism.
To be honest, I doubt the latter mattered. The former? certainly. An expensive picture requires more money to break even and even more to be seen as a success. But racism? I doubt that bugs many people to the level that it would prevent them from seeing the movie even if things like "Johnny Depp is in it" didn't dissuade them.

Good change? Bad change? We'll see.
Bad change, unless you WANT to see cynical attempts to pander to social media through forced Twitter #douchetags and the like. In which case, AWESOME change.

SonicWaffle said:
Maybe not a great change. Look at something like Sharknado; it got those ratings by being ridiculous, not by being good. With studios paying more attention to things which go Big On The Internet, we end up with movies about memes, and that's just a big barrel of "fuck that".

The problem is that what the internet likes is just too random and fast-moving. You can't predict it, you can't spot trends, you can only run to try and keep up and by the time your movie is made, nobody cares anymore.
This is a MovieBob column, so I somehow doubt being a good movie is necessarily a requirement. That's not even a slam to MovieBob, before anyone goes out of their way to defend him. I enjoy some pretty bad stuff myself. I've just gone on a spree of watching almost every season of Power Rangers. It's stupid, it'd ridiculous, I enjoy it most when it's at its most stupid and ridiculous. Bob has a pattern of liking stuff that is stupid and ridiculous. It doesn't hurt his cred as a critic or a film buff (even if I do disagree with him a lot), it just is what it is.

The latter part, of course, won't stop people from trying. You may have noticed the frequency with which TV tries to capture lightning in a bottle through social media and the interwebs. And while not necessarily their MO regarding the interwebs, this is the thinking that got us The Lone Ranger in the first place. And Battleship. In gaming, this is hwy everything is slowly becoming a brown FPS. "X Was successful," they say, "how can we replicate X?"

WiseBass said:
As for Pacific Rim, we're basically stuck hoping that word-of-mouth and the East Asian markets will float it more. Part of the problem is that the US public seems to be less forgiving of "geeky"-looking movies unless they're either super-hero movies or famous fantasy/SF books.
And even then, only because it's become "cool" to like that sort of thing.
 

RatherDashing89

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With sequels and franchises being such a significant part of the landscape, I think that marketing your version of a character is just as important as selling tickets. That's a problem Man of Steel could face--it made its own money back, but it also has to function as a commercial for Justice League--and if people don't like this version of Superman, they won't go to see more of him.
 

Malisteen

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Sadly, I doubt positive internet buzz and doing 'slightly better' than the abysmal projections is going to save Pacific Rim, or the reputation of del Toro, among studio execs. Even if it makes up its budget eventually via DVD sales, that's still not good enough to matter. The international box office might, though.

As for whether the accusations of racism hurt the Lone Ranger - make no mistake, they did. You personally may not have run into people who cared, but a lot of people certainly did. I myself avoided the film on that ground alone - I'm enough of a fan of Depp to have seen it otherwise, even if it was terrible, and my family back home ended up not seeing it as well after discussing the issue over the phone, a scene that played out in many households. And Bob wasn't the only reviewer critical of that aspect - in fact, he was quite mild on the subject compared to many.

No, I don't think it was the biggest factor in the Lone Ranger's failure to live up to studio hopes, much as I wish it was, Far from it. But it was certainly a part of it, and contributed to the film's negative press, and was a major aspect of the social public discussion of the film. "Is this movie racist?" isn't the main thing you want people to be asking about your big budget family movie, and more than "is it safe to take my kids to it"?
 

eric.miller356

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I think the increased look towards social media, audience feedback, and thinking of profit in the long-term (hopefully), is a net positive change. I am as uneasy with the production of art by marketing departments as the next person, but if consumers act in mostly predictable patterns, then having more data on those patterns will lead to products that will satisfy more consumers. If, in the pursuit of good business, our films are lessened from an artistic standpoint and still satisfy us, then this problem lies with the audience not with the industry. I have a bit more faith in the movie-consuming public, so for me this is a net positive change (redundant statement is redundant).
 

MovieBob

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Zachary Amaranth said:
Good change? Bad change? We'll see.
Bad change, unless you WANT to see cynical attempts to pander to social media through forced Twitter #douchetags and the like. In which case, AWESOME change.
It's already happening in the music industry. There are a buncha crappy songs and videos slapping the obnoxious hashtag everywhere in desperate attempts to garner Twitter shares.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGIgXP9SvB8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oe1wtkkt9-E
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyDUC1LUXSU

The third one has to be the most egregious example...and the one that worked the best since it's currently #1 one the Billboard Top 100 charts -_-
 

vid87

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SonicWaffle said:
Maybe not a great change. Look at something like Sharknado; it got those ratings by being ridiculous, not by being good. With studios paying more attention to things which go Big On The Internet, we end up with movies about memes, and that's just a big barrel of "fuck that".
That's honestly baffled me - where was the hype for similar garbage like "Sharktopus" or all the other crap Syfy churns out? I've seen some gifs and jpegs that did slightly endear it to me (the "samurai chainsaw chop" is my favorite) but I can't for the life of me figure out what was the magic moment that made this more special than the others. And who the hell still thinks Mia Farrow matters?
 

TiberiusEsuriens

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I like the new math. It sounds like Hollywood is slowly realizing that if you make movies that are both stupid and fun people will go see them. The catch is they learned the key is calling it as it is.. if it's stupid (like Sharknado) then just drop all pretense. I doubt most people going to see Pacific Rim care about its ecological message, they just want to see robots punching monsters in the face. Just like MovieBob pointed out last week.

I'm having a party with a drunk Sharknado viewing specifically because it's so dumb. Did the same thing with the likes of Mega-Shark and Megalodon (bad movies have a thing for sharks I guess).
 

MovieBob

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Unfortunately Twitter still hasn't stopped from letting Adam Sandler and M Night Shabamalama make movies.
 

RandV80

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I suppose if you look at a movie like Pacific Rim and this 'new' way of thinking it could help for getting a sequel out the door. While it may be as successful at the box office as a Marvel movie, as long as you're not losing money if you attract a fanbase that really really liked it then that's a guaranteed sale for the next one and a very powerful and absolutely free marketing tool.
 

Tanis

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I think Pacific Rim is going to KILL in the dvd/bluray release sales.

I've also read that the action figures, or whatever it is you kids call them these days, are SOLD OUT.

They were selling so far beyond expectations that they had to start a 2nd run BEFORE the move was released, and will end up having to do a 3rd or 4th run before the end of the year.
 

thetoddo

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RandV80 said:
I suppose if you look at a movie like Pacific Rim and this 'new' way of thinking it could help for getting a sequel out the door. While it may be as successful at the box office as a Marvel movie, as long as you're not losing money if you attract a fanbase that really really liked it then that's a guaranteed sale for the next one and a very powerful and absolutely free marketing tool.
I really hope they don't do a sequel. I view Pacific Rim the same way I view the first Matrix movie in that it was a bunch of sci-fi tropes mixed up and presented in a new and entertaining way. We all know what happened to the Matrix after that. If Pacific Rim taught me anything it's that I'm actually really tired of gritty sci-fi, something that 5 years ago I'd have never thought possible.
 

Korskarn

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Tanis said:
I think Pacific Rim is going to KILL in the dvd/bluray release sales.

I've also read that the action figures, or whatever it is you kids call them these days, are SOLD OUT.

They were selling so far beyond expectations that they had to start a 2nd run BEFORE the move was released, and will end up having to do a 3rd or 4th run before the end of the year.
The problem for DVD is that the market is a fraction of the size it was 10 years ago. Back then, when Family Guy was saved from cancellation twice by DVD sales, being #1 meant you sold maybe 10 million copies. Now it means you sell maybe 1 million copies - and when your budget is 200-300 million, that just ain't going to cut it. (ETA - For something like Dredd which has a budget of 20-30million, that may be enough to put it into black ink though)

For the action figures - it depends how many were produced. Certainly consumer merchandising is A Thing (I think Cars is actually the most profitable Pixar movie based on several billion dollars worth of toy sales), but it's MUCH harder to gauge. But, to give you an idea of the scale, in 2012 Warner Bros reported $1.9billion dollars in box office revenue from their film division... and only $208million in revenue from merchandising (and bear in mind this was a year that included Dark Knight Rises and The Hobbit).
 

Paradoxrifts

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The single best way to put out a fire before it turns into a raging firestorm is to deprive it of fuel. Just because the movie studios are not deliberately going out of their way to aggravate and antagonise butthurt Superman fans, does not automatically mean that they actually give a shit about them, or their opinions. Sometimes the easiest and simplest way to win a fight when you hold all of the cards is to chose not to start one in the first place with people who desperately want to have a go at you..