Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Quora, in answer to the question, “Why did ‘The Edge of Tomorrow’ bomb at the box office in the U.S.?” We have republished the answer with permission from the author.
Determining the root causes of box office failure or success is complicated. If it wasn’t, only successful movies would be released. There will likely be a lot of discussion about this, both in Hollywood and at water coolers everywhere. Let’s take a look at a few of the factors that might be mentioned.
The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) annual demographics study reveals the following:
Edge of Tomorrow is PG-13. That doesn’t restrict parents from taking their kids to see the movie, but it does give an edge to one of the two films that beat Edge of Tomorrow, that being Maleficent.
It’s still early, so the numbers being released are weekend estimates, but they show Edge of Tomorrow‘s demographics to be 61% male, 11% under-18, 27% under 25, and 73% over 25 years old.
Those numbers indicate the film did not attract the large teen/young adult female audience. Instead, they were drawn to The Fault in Our Stars. That film was the number one film of the weekend, opening at $US48,200,000 in the United States.
Edge of Tomorrow had a rather high percentage of its opening weekend audience be over 25 years old. That might say something about the age of its star. Although the man doesn’t appear to age like normal human beings, Tom Cruise will turn 52 in less than a month.
TOM CRUISE AS A BOX OFFICE DRAW
The star system is not what it was. It used to be that the name on the poster was a safe indicator of a film’s fate. People would go to the theatre knowing nothing more about a film other than it starred Clark Gable, John Wayne, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Tom Cruise. That’s not really true anymore. But let’s look at Tom’s box office record.
SCIENCE FICTION AS A BOX OFFICE DRAW
Over the last 10 years, it’s pretty clear that in the US, to approach $US200 million in box office, for a science fiction film, your film has to be tied to a known factor. Three of the five films to exceed $US200 million were franchise films. One was a Pixar film (all Pixar films exceed that number). The fifth was a James Cameron film and a brilliantly marketed phenomenon.
So, unfortunately (very unfortunately for us sci-fi nerds), it is an uphill battle to get a new sci-fi movie to succeed. And, since sci-fi movies tend to be very expensive to make, that pretty much dooms the genre.
Take a look at these posters. Don’t they all look like they could be advertising the same movie? The trailers tend to be even worse. They’re big summer popcorn movies so the people that produce the trailers feel they need to emphasise the bigness via the explosions and incredible CGI artifices. That makes them look similar. And then put them all into a mildly dystopic world (which as we all know means they must use a blue-tinted palette) and they all still look alike.
If I thought Prometheus, After Earth, Pacific Rim, and Elysium were all disappointments, why would I rush out to see Edge of Tomorrow? I was pleasantly surprised with Oblivion, but I also waited until it came to iTunes.
Edge of Tomorrow (gah what a boring title) is a smart film. But the trailers don’t indicate that. They indicate it is another “men in robot suits bang into each other” film. Pacific Rim convinced me I never need to see another “men in robot suits bang into each other” film. The trailers do hint at an interesting idea – a man keeps reliving a day until he gets it right. But I think in the fast cuts and booms of explosions, that goes over a lot of heads.
I almost wish the trailer had just been a black screen like this:
That sounds cool.
THE FADING ALLURE OF THE CINEMA
Ken talks about the magic of the cinema experience. I’m with him – it can be a great experience. There are films I have to see in the theatre. The immense screen, the thundering sound, the amplification of a shared experience. The event that can’t be waited for.
All of that is great. But, with that often comes: The arse-hats texting on their cell phones. The outrageous cost. The talking arse-hats. The chair-kicking arse-hats. The awful stench of artificially buttered popcorn and synthetic cheese nachos. The having to get there 45 minutes early to get a decent seat. None of that happens in my game room.
That means films do have to work to justify seeing them in the theatre. Edge of Tomorrow didn’t work very hard to make that case to the audience.
SUMMER BLOCKBUSTER FATIGUE
I love blockbusters. But it’s only June and it feels like we’ve had a full summer worth of them.
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