All that online fanboy hype can’t save Pacific Rim

Rotten Potatoes: Tara Brady on the big screen

Fri, Jul 19, 2013, 00:00

Sigh. If anyone tells you that the internet is changing how movies are sold and received, try to remain calm, back away slowly and call in the crazy police. Simply dial 999, type in Snakes on a Plane and wait patiently for the men with giant butterfly nets to arrive.

It’s all too easy (and lazy-minded) to look at a movie such as The Hardy BucksBucks 2 has just secured funding and a greenlight – and declare it an internet sensation. But that claim belies the hard work and thousands of euros lavished upon the title by its distributor, Universal. It’s all too easy to imagine that movie publicity is now entirely dependent on tweets and likes.

That, however, is a big, fat lie. Movies are still bought and sold as they have always been: with street posters, costly TV spots, positive reviews, star-based interviews. Anyone who says otherwise needs to stand in the corner with a dunce hat and have a long hard think about Pacific Rim.

If internet hype were measured in ones and zeroes, then Pacific Rim would easily translate into the most hotly anticipated title of the summer. Mecha fans cheered from the sidelines. Manga buffs roared their support loudly and often. In the real world, however, Mecha fans amount to me, my cat and those two Cosplay addicts you see at everything Japanese.

In the real world, real audiences weren’t all that interested in Guillermo del Toro’s homage to the Evangelion TV series. Last weekend the $190 million-budgeted film (and you can add on more than $100 spent on advertisements and whatnot) debuted to $37.3 million in the US – well behind the sequels Despicable Me 2 (taking the top box-office spot with $43.9 in its second week) and Grown Ups 2 (second spot and $41.5 million).

On this side of the Atlantic, Pacific Rim took €161,124 in the ROI, second to Monsters University (top of the chart with €234,698). Unless there’s a major turn- around in Pacific Rim’s fortunes, there seems little possibility that the film will make much of a profit.

Across the Atlantic, The Lone Ranger is facing a similarly gloomy future. Having racked up an underwhelming $74,531,313 in the US marketplace after two weeks (the production budget was $215 million plus marketing costs) the film will need something like a miracle if it’s going to make money in regions where the brand has no traction. Hands up who remembers the original western serial? Anyone? Anyone?

For all the minute studio calculations involved, tent-pole films aren’t an exact science. The public crave novelty (see the relative success of World War Z), but that’s not the same as craving new potential franchises.

Good notices still translate into good business for smaller titles: see The Act of Killing with its €4,351 from just one site, see the mediocre screen averages for the poorly reviewed The Bling Ring. Big TV campaigns still translate into ticket sales. And Adam Sandler is a law unto himself.

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