Are moviegoers becoming more discerning and therefore affecting box office sales? According to Jake Coyle from the Associated Press, the answer is “yes.”
“For films that aren’t ‘the movie to see,’ moviegoers are increasingly staying home. With word-of-mouth traveling at the speed of Twitter, quality has become a more vital currency.”
Coyle is referring to the fact that the Disney/Pixar film Finding Dory is expected to lead box office sales for the third week in a row despite the fact that it faces new competition in the form of The Legend of Tarzan, The Purge: Election Year, and even Disney’s own The BFG. While it could be said that those interested in seeing The Purge may not be the same as those wanting to see Dory, the word-of-mouth about the other three films (including the family-friendly BFG) are not creating much buzz and moviegoers are posting their opinions on social media faster than ever before.
— Box Office Mojo (@boxofficemojo) June 30, 2016
Today, more often than not, movie studios are encouraging audiences attending movie screenings to post their thoughts on Twitter and Facebook even though movies critics must refrain from doing so until the embargo has been lifted. This can have a huge effect on how successful a movie performs at the box office, the most recent causality being Independence Day: Resurgence.
Independence Day: Resurgence did not screen in advance for movie critics which usually is a sign that the movie studio does not have enough faith in the movie to stand up to harsh criticism. However, in this case, Fox says that they wanted fans to speak out first.
— The Mary Sue (@TheMarySue) June 30, 2016
“We wanted the movie to stand on its own,” said Chris Aronson, head of distribution for Fox. “Look, we’re in the 30s on Rotten Tomatoes which unfortunately is one of the barometers that moviegoers use to decide whether to go or not. We would rather them discover it on their own and let the moviegoer decide whether they like the movie or not, not have somebody else tell them.”
Unfortunately, the result did not work in the film’s favor as box office ticket sales were lower than expected. “There used to be this disconnect between critics and audiences,” says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore. “Well, now we’re seeing that they’re pretty much in lockstep on most of these movies. If you look at Zoolander 2, Ride Along 2, Alice Through the Looking Glass, you could name probably five others — by and large, the movies that didn’t perform also did not get good reviews.”
Ironically, even Will Smith, star of the first Independence Day movie (but did not make an appearance in the second film), agrees. “Smoke and mirrors in marketing is over,” Smith said at this year’s Cannes movie festival. “Back in the ’80s and ’90s you had a piece of crap movie you put a trailer with a lot of explosions and it was Wednesday before people knew your movie was (expletive),” said Smith. “But now what happens is 10 minutes into the movie, people are tweeting, ‘This is (expletive), go see Vin Diesel.'”
While there are many factors why a film may perform badly at the box office, social media certainly is a factor. Years ago, the only way for audiences to judge a film before attending it was from reading the reviews from critics or listening to the word of mouths from friends who have seen it. Social media has changed all that.
Coyle does point out though that the cost of box office movie tickets may also be playing a large role in low attendance turnout.
“Going to the movies is also, for many, a more considered night out. Not only have the alternatives on television grown more enticing, higher ticket prices have put more pressure on movie choice. Ticket are 50 percent higher now than they were when the first Independence Day came out. And if you’re paying for premium formats, seating and other amenities that can push a night at the movies past $50, you might not want to throw your money away on Warcraft.”
And the truth of the matter is, they didn’t.
[Photo courtesy of Disney]