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Box Office Baloney

Tuesday 5 April 2011, 15:21

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

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The much-publicised flop of the new animated film Mars Needs Moms begs an important question. Since when did the US box office mean so much to us and should we really care?

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    Comment number 1.

    That old adage, "there's no accounting for taste" should be taken literally with box office figures. The box office is at least a good barometer for how successful marketing campaigns are.

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    Comment number 2.

    I've never once taken the box office revenue into account before seeing a film. I find it meaningless that magazines and newspapers fret and go into extraneous detail about box office figures as if it actually effects a movie goers decision on what film to see.

    The only time I care about a film's financial performance is if a movie series or production comany I like (Pixar for example) tanks at the box office.

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    Comment number 3.

    First of all, it's a shame that box office figures affect people's opinions of films. However, it goes beyond that, because those figures also determine which films are successful and which are not. People are much more likely to see a film that has already had millions of showings than a film that only had hundreds. Avatar is a perfect example of it - people only went to see the film because everyone else had, even if thy didn't know it was directed by James Cameron or "revolutionised 3D" or whatever.
    Box office figures are also bad because they determine what films get made and what don't Pirates of the Caribbean made a ton of money and it got two (much worse) sequels. But some director's, because of a box office flop, don't get another chance to direct a film, even if it was good.

    Despite this, I think there is a need to see box office figures, even just as a reference. I would say that they should release that information a couple of months after the film has been taken out of cinemas, to give other films a fighting chance.

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    Comment number 4.

    On the few occasions on which I visit the cinema my choice is usually governed not by box office figures, but by your good doctoring self.

    I'm sure this is preferable to being influenced purely by how much a film's taken across the Atlantic, but it's also preferable to the feeling of coming out of a dire screening eight precious pounds poorer and feeling as though I should have known better.

    I still haven't quite got over going to see 'Money Train'.

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    Comment number 5.

    Box office figures are just a big 'well done' or 'try harder' to marketing. They have nothing to say about film quality.
    You have to remember if lots of people see a film on the opening weekend this is because they liked the trailer/posters/etc. When you pay to see a film you do not know if you like it yet! Maybe there should be system for refunds (I'm thinking about Pirates of the Caribbean) for bad experinces, I wold walk out of more films if it meant even 25% of the cash back.
    High bock office just means more people gave it a chance, not more people actually thought it was good.

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    Comment number 6.

    I don't think there is anything wrong with knowing the box office takings of films. I myself am a regular visitor of boxofficemojo and never once have I been influenced to go see a film by what it has taken.
    I just simply like to know...

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    Comment number 7.

    Mars Needs Moms.
    A) The title is really duff (I was going to use a stronger word).
    B) The concept is really duff.
    C) Marketing? Rango & Rio have been building over the past few months via virals, YouTube and sites like Twitch – Mars Needs Moms? Zilch, nil, nada.

    Trailer – Mars Needs Moms looks god@m awful (and no fun); and I’m an animation fan.

    Still it’s Disney that’s taken the hit. The worst that can happen is they inflict another dozen Pirates of the Caribbean movies on us to recoup the losses; won’t that please DR K? :-)

    Should we base our viewing habits on box office success? Certainly not. Raging Bull and Shawshank Redemption both tanked badly on their 1st releases.

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    Comment number 8.

    Box office stats should be considered, but not to gauge the quality of the film, or as a pre-screening judgement. They really should be thought of as the very general response to a film, as to how the whole world is responding, although less to the film and more to it's marketing and anticipation. This can all sound very confusing when considering your own personal view of how successful a film is when compared to it's official box office takings. Apparently, Scott Pilgrim vs the World bombed at the box office, even though ALLLLLLL of my friends went to see it in the cinemas and is a very highly spoken movie amongst us.

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    Comment number 9.

    I think the point is that these days movies take far more worldwide than they do in the states, I think most people will go and see a true blockbuster (and if its directed by james cameron they'll sell their grandma for tickets).
    However there arent that many true blockbusters around these days that really attract that much hype.
    Having said that the only films i go and see regardless is Bond and the last one of those did great at the box office but sucked wore than Sucky the Sucker fish the suckiest fish in the sea.

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    Comment number 10.

    I agree with Nikhil4. Box office figures has become one of the deciding factors in choosing which films to see, and also which films get made. These days films live and die by the first weekend U.S. box-office takings, shame the idea of the 'worthy flop' has gone out the window. Take for example Francis Coppola, he directed The Godfather and then he directed The Conversation, which didn't do well at the box office but was still considered a great film that went onto score a few nominations at the Acadamy Awards.

    These days you look at some film adverts in newspapers and the words
    No 1 U.S. Box Office Hit is written in big bold letters, above all the quotes from the reviews it received. This just further proves how much box office takings have become a deciding factor.

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    Comment number 11.

    Completely agree with jay, it's an absolutely dreadful title (perhaps the worst since Perriers Bounty.

    But giving the viewing public their credit, they do get it right sometimes (ok, lets ignore Transformers) but we did hear about the huge success of Dark Knight and Inception from the states. And this initially impacted on their success in the UK, followed by word of mouth and repeat viewings.

    Plus, lets not forget that box office means everything. You're only as good as your last film (in the executives eyes). That's why I'm waiting for a Terry Gilliam film to make a stack of cash, so he can make more movies – perhaps a long wait.

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    Comment number 12.

    I agree with lolaarcana above. I do, however, think that any information about a film is used by those unable to distance themselves from the the text itself, as a measure of value to support their own opinion - whether that be "box-office smash", a "Quentin Tarentino film", if it's reacting to certain social-trends, or even historical context. While we must pay attention to these factors, it is simply to understand what impact these have upon us and we must be able to detach oneself from all such contextualisations to judge a film's "true" value. Nice work Doc.

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    Comment number 13.

    I have friends, well aquaintances, who would only see a film they have heard someone else say is good. I'm always arguing with them that they are simply echoing some else's tastes, but on reflection, don't most of us do that, even if not so exclusively? And don't we do that in all sorts of ways, whether it be reading a book, watching a TV show, etc? If we weren't suggestible as a species, then people wouldn't spend such vast sums on advertising. We are weak Mark! WEAK!!!!!

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    Comment number 14.

    Should box office results anywhere matter? There are examples of true greats that have flopped, Blade Runner and Fight Club to name a couple of my favorites. I have also seen some massive box office winners that in my opinion should never have graced the screen (here I would reference The Blair Witch Project as great example).

    Not wishing to offer disrespect the great Mark, I sincerely value his commentary and criticism of movies, but I would never let a statistic, nor even a critic, dissuade me from going to see something. Liking or disliking a movie is part of the experience of being a cinema and film fan and the resulting debate and critical commentary is also part of the experience. Whilst Mars Needs Moms is unlikely to be on my list of must see films, I have often found myself sitting through the truly awful only to be surprised by others opinions and to have enjoyed the resulting debate. Opinion is personal, but expression of opinion can be enlightening, entertaining and revealing.

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    Comment number 15.

    Mark, Mark.

    As a man with a PhD in a literate subject, quick to complain about other people's use of grammar and idiom, could you be a little more accurate with using "begs the question"? Please?

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    Comment number 16.

    Box office figures don't count for much really in Hollywood if they did then Zach Snyder would have been out of a job years ago after his mega flop Watchmen.

    Speaking of his latest flop Sucker Punch.

    Chris Tooky, film critic for the Daily Mail, has declared that Sucker Punch is, "The Latest Nastiest Film of All Time", and, "Here, again, the BBFC has used the 12A certificate with a jaw-dropping lack of common sense."

    The link to his jaw dropping article down below.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1373437/Sucker-Punch-Our-children-films-X-rated-years-ago.html#ixzz1IfRdFQ90

    ...http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1373437/Sucker-Punch-Our-children-films-X-rated-years-ago.html

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    Comment number 17.

    Didn't all of this obsession of box office start with Heaven's Gate? The Americans were obsessing over its growing production budget and when United Artists fell under, EVERYONE had their pitchforks ready, regardless of the film's actual quality. Heaven's Gate is to blame for a few things but you know what? The 3 hour cut of the film isn't bad at all. Hell, I think It's pretty great.

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    Comment number 18.

    Suckerpunch got a bad Kermode review? Really? I didn't know yet... I was really looking forward to it as I was very enthused about the premise (seemed original and interesting) and the visuals were so striking to me... Hm. I'll have to check out the Radio 5 site to hear the review then.

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    Comment number 19.

    On the one hand, looking at box office figures is distasteful to the cineaste in me because it is to drop all pretence that film is an art form and ackowledge the uncomfortable truth that it is merely a business. That said, for lovers of specific genres, keeping an eye on the box office performance of films can be a good barometer of how far your obsession is to be fed in the future. An example: "Gladiator" surprised everyone (not least the studio that made it) by becoming a huge hit. Cue a whole raft of "Gladiator" knock-offs ("Troy", "Alexander" and the like), not one of which made tuppence at the box office. No big deal, perhaps, unless you happen to be passionately devoted to sword-and-sandals epics; in this case, the box office performance of those films was a matter of profound interest since it meant that your genre of choice was as good as dead from then onwards as a viable cinematic form. Box office figures, then, are useful trend indicators which give a good snapshot of what cinema-goers can expect in the near future. Coming soon to a cinema near you: many second-rate "Avatar" rip-offs...

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    Comment number 20.

    I think Box Office only matters in so much as nothing more clearly demonstrates "decisions made outside of your control". If you are a fan of a particular film/TV Series/Book/Game and wish to see it adapted for the screen (and you happen to live in the UK), you are at the mercy of the collective tastes of our North American cousins (in much the same way as the rest of the world is at the mercy of their presidential election results).

    I'm sure the Philip Pullman fans, perhaps staring longingly at a certain boy wizard's (nearly) full complement of adaptations and wondering what could have been, will remember with some bitterness the US box office drubbing meted out to "The Golden Compass" and it's effect on the sequels.

 

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