Saturday, May 18, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness: How to Fumble Your Opening Weekend

The box-office totals are in for Star Trek's first two days.  Originally, experts were predicting the film would make somewhere around of $100 million over it's opening weekend.  This would be a significant increase over the previous film, that was around $79.2 million.

Simply put, the film has three big advantages over it's predecessor:

  • The previous film was following up a canceled show and a failed film. This film is following up a hit film with a high critical rating.
  • J.J. Abrams is an even hotter property, and there's much anticipation about the upcoming Star Wars film.
  • This film is being released in 3D.

So how did Into Darkness compare to Star Trek:
  • Star Trek's first day of release:  $30.9 million
  • Into Darkness's first day of release: $13.5 million
Current estimates now have the film's opening weekend falling closer to the previous films opening weekend.

What Went Wrong?

How does a film with momentum, rabid fan anticipation, positive buzz, and solid critic reviews fumble it's opening so badly? It's very simple, change your release date weeks before release.

Originally, they planned to release the film on IMAX screens on Wednesday night, and regular theaters on Thursday night.  Tickets went on sale and people started to order tickets in advance.

Then, without any explanation I've seen, they came up with the idea to open everywhere on Wednesday night.  

This is not a particularly good idea though, because:
  • First off, you greatly annoy people who bought tickets assuming the original release date.
  • Second, you confuse people about when your film is opening.
  • Third, you lose the impact of a BIG opening day.

The original strategy of releasing the film at two different dates was a strategy that Abrams used to release Mission Impossible 4.  With that film, the pre-release built anticipation and positive buzz. 

I suspect they started to balk at this strategy with this film because so much surrounding this film was based on mystery.  The writers, producers, and director were all very clear they wanted people going in with a fresh experience.  In era of social media, you can't release a film to the public on Wednesday in only one format and not expect the secret to get out very quickly.

I can speak from experience--  I bought tickets for Friday night, and then had a panic attack Thursday morning that I was going to read a spoiler. So, I left work to go watch the film.

All in all, I think the original strategy was ill conceived, and the changed release date was even worse.

Another Theory - People Don't Like 3D

While this won't account for all of the differences in cost, I think people are growing tired of 3D.  Abrams has openly stated he didn't want to do the film in 3D. He DOES like the IMAX format, and shot parts of the film with IMAX cameras.

The studios rational for releasing the film in 3D was to make more money.  Therefore, all the IMAX and XD theaters have the film in 3D. It's a trick to get as much money from the movie goer that is possible.

The problem is that not all of us want to see your film in 3D.  I want to see it in IMAX.  I want to see it in XD.  3D has no appeal to me.  If the film wasn't in 3D, I would have seen it at the IMAX.  

The studios and their greed robbed me of the opportunity to see the film in the best format possible. If I was Abrams, I would be a little pissed off. I know I am.

Yet Another Theory - Stars Wars Mania

Every interview with the cast or crew of this film has had a question about Star Wars.  Since the news broke that Abrams was directing Star Wars, people can't stop talking about Star Wars.  This is great for Abrams next film, not so great for his current film.

If that announcement hadn't been made, all the talk would have been about Star Trek. This certainly won't crush the film, but it can shave bits off Star Trek's earnings.

One Final Theory Not Related to Money - The Wrath of Abrams

This is entirely theory which I don't know I believe myself. I have no evidence.

Perhaps Abrams was somewhat more open to revealing his involvement with Star Wars because Paramount forced him to make his film 3D.

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