Why Movies Succeed And Fail

Drew McWeeny on why you shouldn't give Universal crap for deciding not to finance Guillermo Del Toro's newest film:

There are so many reasons good movies fail to find an audience, and it is myopic to claim marketing is the only key. I've seen good movies that were marketed well die. Just plain die. And you can sift through the ashes of a disaster and proclaim this and assert that, but all you really know for sure is that people did not want to see the movie in the theater. Maybe the movie was misrepresented to them, and they would have loved it, and they will kick themselves years later, a la "The Shawshank Redemption" or "The Iron Giant." Maybe so. Or maybe the general audience just plain didn't want something. And no matter how good it is, no matter how sure you are it deserved an audience, it just wasn't meant to be. It happens. Sometimes it's about timing. Harry kept telling me how "The Thing" was mismarketed back in 1982 today, and I'm afraid I don't agree at all. That was the same summer "E.T." came out, and if you look at what did well that year, there was an optimism that was embraced, and it simply looks to me like audiences wanted their aliens sweet and cuddly that year, instead of shape-shifty and nightmarish. It happens. You can't control that. You can't make the audience go see something. There was 100% nothing anyone in 1982 could have done differently to make "Blade Runner" into a $300 million grossing hit movie. Nothing. Absolutely no trailer or poster would have changed that movie's fate. You take Han Solo and Indiana Jones and you put him in a movie where he's an emotionally vacant "hero" who murders one woman in cold blood, gets his ass beat by another, and who has one of the most ineffective final showdowns possible with a bad guy who wins and who chooses to spare his life. I love that film, but I can understand why it failed.

Universal's been on a pretty spectacular run lately, and I don't necessarily mean that in a good way. They've made some pretty ballsy moves and when I read about the box office returns in the news, I see more misses than hits. Nonetheless, I agree with McWeeny's overall point: at least they're trying. Movies like State of Play, Land of the Lost, Paul, Duplicity and Your Highness might not all be your cup of tea, but they are all, to a significant degree, different than the big studio pap that they are shoving into our faces. Universal deserves our support.

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