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A season of summer flops

By Bert Ehrmann

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Fort Wayne Reader

2014-08-14


I've been a follower of films in this column for a decade and on my website for 16 years now. And while there are things I know -- like the summer movie season will be full of action and things that go "boom" while the winter one will be full of Oscar contenders -- for the life of me I can't figure out why some movies are flops and some are hits.

It's obvious why some movies flop, like last years RIPD or this year's Need for Speed -- they looked terrible. But why do movies like RoboCop from earlier this year or even Edge of Tomorrow from this summer flop when they actually looked interesting?

Is it all marketing related? Do people genuinely form their opinions around movies based on how they're marketed? Were people concerned with the ads for RoboCop but liked the ads for Dawn of the Planets of the Apes and made that film a score?

Is it all based on who's in the movie? Is it that Tom Cruise has a bad reputation that people stayed away from Tomorrow? Is it because Godzilla didn't have any real stars in it, other than the big green meanie, and that was the reason it was a hit?

Honestly, I don't know.

To me a movie like RoboCop doesn't seem that different in marketing than a movie like Iron Man. Yet one of those movies flopped and the other was a massive hit. And a movie like Edge of Tomorrow to me seemed to have all the elements one would need to have a successful summer blockbuster — a star? Check. Vaguely sci-fi? Check. Lots of action? Check. Lots of booms? Check… but it was rejected by the audience at the box office.

With movies like RoboCop and Edge of Tomorrow there seemed to be a conscientious with the movie going public that those films weren't worth seeing while others like Captain America: The Winter Soldier and X-Men: Days of Future Past were. Now I'm not arguing that RoboCop, Edge of Tomorrow OR Captain America: The Winter Soldier or X-Men: Days of Future Past were or were not good films, just that at some point people decided to go see some of those films and not others.
And having seen both RoboCop and the latest Captain America I'm left scratching my head as to why.

Looking back, though, it is interesting to see what films people did go see in the theater and which ones they stayed home for but only discovered later.

True Romance was a flop when it was released in 1993, being beaten out by such films like Super Mario Bros. and Cliffhanger. But 21 years later people are still talking about True Romance but Super Mario Bros. is only mentioned today as to how bad it was.

A flop from a 1994 was The Shawshank Redemption, which after being discovered on VHS is still receiving accolades today. And 20 years later does anyone still talk about The Santa Clause, a mega-hit from that year?

I suppose the success of failure in movies has more to do with the timing of their release as much as how good the film is. If True Romance was released after Pulp Fiction and marketed as "written by Quentin Tarantino" then I'd guess that film would have been much more of a success. And maybe if Edge of Tomorrow was released after Jerry Maguire it too would have been a hit.

While I can understand that no matter what some films are just not going to find success at the box office, what I can't understand is when people dismiss them without having seen the movie themselves. I can't tell you how many times I've read or heard people talking about the problems of Prometheus or why TRON: Legacy isn't a good film WITHOUT HAVING SEEN THEM. It's like people read a review of the movie and don't actually checkout the movie themselves to form their own opinion.

And while I might be guilty of this at times too, I do try to go into movies with an open mind and love being surprised when what I thought was going to be a stinker turns out to be a real gem. I won't let what other people think of movies warp my own personal experience of them.

Visit me online at DangerousUniverse.com.

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