Total Oblivion

"A fast-paced, suspenseful dystopian picaresque, part Huck Finn and part bizarro-world Swiss Family Robinson..."



Order online...

Skinny Dipping

Long-listed for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award and finalist for the Crawford Award. Title short story listed for the 2000 O. Henry award.

Get the fun-sized edition.

Order online...


Goblin Mercantile Exchange

Futures, Options, and Swaps (the weblog of Alan DeNiro)

Thoughts on Serenity Box Office

So the numbers for Serenity have been pretty underwhelming. I don’t think there will be a full-length Serenity 2 because of this. Sure, the DVD sales will more than make up for production costs but I think everyone was hoping for a little more buzz and build. My prediction is that if Serenity 2 does appear, it’ll be as a movie on the SciFi Channel, which is better than nothing?!?

But the larger point about all of this is that Firefly is really like MIA or Annie or LCD Soundsystem-or any number of other musical acts-which are post-record label acts. They garnered attention from the Internet (with singles and leaked tracks) to gain a kind of “shadow career”, before any paid promotional support or, for that matter, a geographically cohesive fanbase. That is to say, Firefly and all of its attendant content was all post-multiplex anyway. Its “shadow career” will continue, at times, to lurch out into the open. At times, not. But does it matter? The main engine for its continued growth and success won’t be some 30 second commercial on E!, but rather the handselling of the box set by dedicated fans. And I don’t see any reason for that abating. Because it was a fucking good show.

Update: Oh, and one other point. I thought I’d never say this, but…did the incessant advance screenings actually hurt the take of the film? That it made the actual release of the film kind of a colophon to the “actual” event (letting the rabid fans in on the action)? If David’s review is right, and the film was a somewhat hermetic dialogue with the fans, then I would say that the advanced screenings didn’t help, which was the intention.

Tue, October 11 2005 » Movies/TV

12 Responses

  1. David Moles October 11 2005 @ 5:52 pm

    The way I think Wheedon must have seen it, he had two choices — make a movie for the fans, or make a movie for people who never saw the show. If he’d gone for the latter maybe the numbers would have been better, but he went for the former. (Which also, I suspect, meant less compromise of the story he wanted to tell.) I happen to think the latter would have made for a better movie, but hey, it’s not my project, and I can’t say the former was an invalid choice.

  2. David Moles October 11 2005 @ 5:53 pm

    (Not to say, by the way, that those were the only two choices. The obvious choices, though.)

  3. Alan October 11 2005 @ 6:30 pm

    Definitely-and it’s an interesting gamble, and a fine balancing act, to be able to recoup the investment from the former choice to convince someone to give him funding for future Firefly projects. Which is I guess why I’m about worrying about financials in the first place, b/c the surface of this world has barely been scratched.

  4. Ted October 11 2005 @ 10:42 pm

    I think Whedon was trying to satisfy both audiences, but that’s a very difficult task. I don’t know of any more successful attempt. The X-Files movie, for example, was more disappointing to both audiences than Serenity was to either.

  5. Ted October 11 2005 @ 11:32 pm

    Oh, and regarding the comparison to post-record label acts: the primary difference, I think, is that movies cost a lot to make, generally much more that an album costs to record. The cost of movie-making will probably go down over time, but I suspect that making an effects-laden movie will always be more expensive than recording your own album. Whether hand-selling will be able to offset the need for investors up front remains to be seen.

    As for whether advance screenings hurt Serenity‘s box office take: I doubt that many people who saw an advance screening opted NOT to buy a ticket to the movie when it opened. But as has been noted, the fanaticism of the Browncoats was probably not as helpful as a broader word-of-mouth campaign would have been.

  6. Gwenda October 12 2005 @ 6:37 am

    I’m apparently in the minority, but I actually think the film entirely capable of finding a huge audience on non-fans. I think it’s well crafted in that respect.

    HOWEVER, I do think the screenings ultimately hurt. There were too many and I believe they may even have started a little too early. More importantly, the marketing campaign focused almost exclusively on that (the pictures of the browncoat guys!) and wasn’t compelling. The poster looked blah and the ads were mocked my several members of our write club that hadn’t seen the original series. They should have been more boom-bang and not so insidery. IMO.

  7. Dave Schwartz October 12 2005 @ 11:27 am

    I will agree that the ads were terrible, mostly because they didn’t stand out. I mean, the blue-y painting thing with River foregrounded and Mal backgrounded is kinda beautiful, but not at all eye-catching. I walked past such ads several times. The TV ads were also pretty easily lost in the rest of the commercial noises. So they did well with the viral marketing, I think, but not the traditional stuff.

    (One genius ad I’ve seen was this, from a London tube station. And the movie went to #1 over there. Hm.)

    I do think that Joss made a heroic effort to try and open up the universe to non-fans. But it’s a tightrope to walk; how to explain what’s already happened AND tell a story? I thought the opening was genius and should have caught up everyone who was paying attention (or wasn’t still buying popcorn). But the built-in challenge of juggling nine characters, even with Book and Inara figuring only peripherally, made it tough to flesh them all out for the non-fans.

  8. Ted October 13 2005 @ 1:49 am

    Gwenda, when you say that the screenings hurt, do you mean that they didn’t help as much as they could have, or do you mean that they actually caused people who might otherwise have seen the movie to avoid it? If the latter, can you elaborate on how?

    I agree that the ad campaign was poor, but I can understand why the movie would be hard to sell. Serenity has no big-name stars, and no easily expressed, high-concept premise. Then consider a movie like Flightplan; its reviews have been relatively poor, but it has Jodie Foster and the “mother is told her child was never on board the plane” premise, and so it practically sells itself. Serenity required some actual creativity on the part of the marketing dept, and didn’t get it.

  9. Gwenda October 13 2005 @ 9:53 am

    Ted: The first, that they didn’t help as much as they could have. I think there were too many and that they should have started them a little bit closer to release — buzz is a fragile thing. Although, having said that, I do think in general the screenings were a great idea and the best thing the marketing people did for the movie. (I can think of several interesting ways to approach this — since it’s such a character driven piece and both fans and nonfans could be intrigued there AND there are no stars, some sort of print campaign that focused on different members of the crew might have been fun. Riffing on the River ad from the UK.

    Speaking of which, that is a beautiful ad. Much more striking than the (frankly) Sci-Fi Channel cheesy-looking posters that we got over here.

    It’s really odd, actually, because I think in general studios in Hollywood know what a sci-fi campaign needs to look like in order to at least open a movie… I can’t figure out why the execution of the traditional elements was so off.

  10. Alan October 13 2005 @ 1:19 pm

    As an example of the overextension, they were offering tickets for advanced screenings in multiple cities on Talking Points Memo about a week before the premiere. Great blog, but not exactly a Browncoat haven.

    It would have been interesting if they went really viral for the marketing, aka ILoveBees.

  11. Gwenda October 13 2005 @ 8:18 pm

    Absolutely, or even Blair Witch.

  12. Niall October 15 2005 @ 6:39 am

    Well, they went kinda viral with the 416 sessions, but it never really caught fire.

    There were a whole series of those River posters, not just the ceiling one; River peeking out from behind corners, River climbing up from under the floor. They were very cool.

2 Pings

  1. homeowners insurance northern kentucky May 25 2008 @ 11:33 am
  2. arizona home owner insurance June 1 2008 @ 4:10 am

Leave a Reply