Thursday, August 11, 2016

Ghostbusters' Lesson: Don't Insult Your Potential Audience

The first industry piece labeling the Ghostbusters reboot a failure comes from The Hollywood Reporter, noting the film's $70M loss, and rescinding an earlier commitment to a sequel (emboldening mine):
As of Aug. 7, Ghostbusters had earned just under $180 million at the global box office, including $117 million domestic. The film still hasn't opened in a few markets, including France, Japan and Mexico, but box-office experts say it will have trouble getting to $225 million despite a hefty net production budget of $144 million plus a big marketing spend. The studio has said break-even would be $300 million.

Sony hardly is alone in suffering from audience rejection of sequels this summer. But film chief Tom Rothman and his team, along with partner Village Roadshow, had high hopes for launching a live-action Ghostbusters "universe." Now they are preparing for steep losses (think $70 million-plus) and an uncertain future for the franchise.

Sony won't comment on whether it has banished a sequel to the netherworld, but perhaps tellingly, a rep says the studio actively is pursuing an animated Ghostbusters feature that could hit theaters in 2019 and an animated TV series, Ghostbusters: Ecto Force, which is eyeing an early 2018 bow. Both are being guided by Reitman, who firmly is back in charge of the Ghostbusters empire via Ghost Corps., a subsidiary with a mandate to expand the brand across platforms. (It was former Sony film chief Amy Pascal who first embraced Feig's vision for the live-action reboot, not Reitman or Rothman.)
Given the early marketing heavily rested on highly politicized narrowcasting, is anyone surprised by this? It's significant that, in recovering its losses, Sony now expects other, ancillary markets (foreign box office and licensing) to take up the slack, and moreover, has handed the franchise reins back to original creator Ivan Reitman. The lesson here seems to be, take your licks and shut up if you drop a turd on screen. Given Reitman's track record, we can pretty safely assert he won't act on Reporter writer Caryn James' analysis that Ghostbusters wasn't feminist enough, i.e. alienating and loud.

Update 2016-08-14: Brad Torgerson:
Wagging your finger at people is never, ever a winning marketing strategy. Wagging your finger at the crowds is liable to have the crowds showing you a collective finger of their own — and it ‘aint the index finger. Because people like what they like, and they don’t like what they don’t like. De gustibus. You want to freight your product with all kinds of social justice ornamentation? Fine. Just be aware of the fact that you’re putting a stone around that product’s neck. Don’t be shocked when it sinks to the bottom, never to rise. It’s not the audience’s fault. It’s your fault for thinking the audience wanted or needed you to shove your politics up their collective ass.
This, also, is the problem with a good number of religious films and other sorts of crank-ery.

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