*Editors note – My apologies guys this one got published while incomplete and has since been revised. Completely my fault and apologize for the inconvenience – Anthony
Well, its official. Many signs point to “Dark Shadows” as the first box office casualty of summer 2012. Some might argue this could be premature, but a B- CinemaScore rating is very low for the weak mis-marketed horror-comedy especially with the aggressive May lineup nearby. And just think; “The Dictator” was worried about competing with “Dark Shadows?”
With an anticipated opening gross of upwards of near $50 million plus a production budget of $150-$175, ‘Shadows’ opened below $30 million! ‘Disappointing’ is a nice way to put it. The Tim Burton-Johnny Depp collaborations are wearing thin and overstaying their welcome. A grueling sign is when ‘Shadows’ underperformed below 1999’s R rated “Sleepy Hollow” released when ticket prices were significantly lower then today. Warner Brothers can blame sharing IMAX screens with “The Avengers,” but people typically do not watch movies at 10 AM and 10 PM (the normally scheduled showtimes for The Avengers where I live) I knew things were so bad for ‘Shadows’ that Matt Drudge featured a picture of Depp from the film above the headline ‘Anemic.’ Ouch!
Based on the product, the second weekend in May appears to be dumping ground for so-so to bad summer films such as “Speed Racer,” “Van Helsing,” “Poseidon,” “Robin Hood,” “Troy,” “Priest,” and “Georgia Rule.” All underperformed or flopped at the box office. And the king of box office bombs “Battlefield Earth” opened this same weekend in the shadows of “Gladiator!” Now “Dark Shadows” joins the collections of these productions. Besides Halloween would’ve been a more ideal release date for Tim Burton’s brand of pale faces, the ghoulish tone, and gothic set design.
All the mentioned movies from the previous decade appear to be an obvious trend; the second weekend in May is a vote of no confidence from the studios. It’s starting to remind me of the first weekend in December. Hollywood needs to understand the second weekend of May isn’t an ideal weekend to open a big expensive action/superhero movie. The first weekend in May is a huge event and space is needed for another blockbuster to open.
Like all financial risks, a big budget Hollywood film is a gamble. Investors will feel less confident if they knew the lack of thought behind a release strategy. Currently, the second weekend in May can hinder the performance of a tent pole movie. A Johnny Depp-Tim Burton film is a well-known, reliable brand. To me, the winning combination is bigger then the second weekend in May.
Maybe to open successfully, the audience should be more niche with successful targeted campaigns. As I mention on numerous occasions, studios need to have creative marketing plans with specific demos for success. Hoping something will grab the attention of consumers just doesn’t apply to the 21st century virtues. There was a bright spot for the 2nd weekend in May: “Bridesmaids” opened this time last year and did very well because it wasn’t competing for the same audience as “Thor.” “What to Expect When Your Expecting” was originally scheduled to open this past weekend and would’ve provided excellent counter programming to “The Avengers” (not to mention a more ideal movie for Mothers Day then a Tim Burton horror film).
Films need room to breath, yet aren’t getting time to find an audience. Another trend that has bothered me is the short run of some movies in IMAX theaters. Moviegoers aren’t aware of the new norms of blockbusters being on the screens for a one-week engagement. Friends and acquaintances are disappointed to know when films only play in the high quality format for a week or two. In a shortsighted industry where nothing is allowed to find the audience, studios shouldn’t be shocked when their films get lost in the crowd.