Rotten Potatoes


TARA BRADYon the idiosyncrasies of the Irish box office

HERE AT Rotten Potatoes, we have written before about the disturbing news that awaits any box-office analyst when she sets out to analyse which Hollywood movies perform disproportionately well outside their home territories. Put simply, “we” – as in the royal anybody-but-the-Great-Satan “we” – seem fonder of sub-standard American dross than the Americans are themselves. It was, alas, the good people of Europe and Asia who made Pirates of the Caribbean such a phenomenon. “Our” fondness for the Ice Age films, alack, knows no bounds.

Now the experts are accusing us of a fresh lapse of taste. Two years ago, everybody seemed convinced that murky, over-priced 3D was succumbing to fatigue. In 2010, films such as Shrek Forever After, The Last Airbender and Despicable Me all underperformed in their 3D incarnations.

When Avatar was released, 71 per cent of the audience opted for the plastic-spectacles version. Only 45 per cent of punters viewed Despicable Me in its enhanced incarnation. Ding, dong, the witch is dead (or at least she’s susceptible to water).

The fact that a sequel to GI Joe: The Rise of the Cobra even exists is grounds for wailing and gnashing of teeth. The fact that it will exist in 3D is even more maddening. If you find somebody who enjoyed the original action-figure adaptation, replete with “Scottish Gallic”, then you may wish to have them stuffed and displayed in a museum of curiosities between the Elephant Man and a two-headed snake. Yet GI Joe: Retaliation is, indeed, on the way. Almost. A report in Variety magazine tells us that the film has been delayed to accommodate post-production 3-D refitting. The trade paper explains that 3D is now seen as a “prerequisite for overseas success”. Huh?

Variety has also decided that, despite frustrating its own studio’s initial pessimistic prognoses and becoming a sizable hit, the likable Snow White and the Huntsman would have been even more successful “had 3D-shy Universal presented the pic in the international-friendly format”.

Can this be true? Are we really responsible for keeping this horrible format afloat? The evidence is, as always, pretty flimsy. The figures offer a Rorschach blot that analysts can interpret any way they feel inclined. The case for the prosecution is bolstered by the over-performance of the recent Titanic reissue in “Rest of World”. The 3D version took almost twice as much in the outer regions than it did in the US. Meanwhile, the useless Battleship, presented just in a flat version, floundered in the 1997 picture’s wake (add your own nautical analogy here). Titanic 3D was a particularly huge hit in the growing Chinese market. We loved it in Ireland.

Away from that anomaly, however, the evidence is less conclusive. Big, dumb films have done disproportionately well in Rest of World. But big, dumb films always do disproportionately well in Rest of World. Big, dumb films tend to be in 3D. Therefore, we favour the uncomfortable glasses.

It doesn’t really add up. The argument won’t last. One gets the uncomfortable sense that the voodoo analysts believe The Rise of the Cobra, whose source material had no resonance outside the US, underperformed in Rest of World because it wasn’t in 3D. Really? Because our chicken innards and tea leaves suggest its because GI Joe – the concept and the movies – suck.