Explaining why people do or don’t go to the movies is the ultimate pseudo science. We like to cite lots of numbers, because that helps us pretend that it’s not essentially a gut-level prediction. Numbers have the added benefit of giving studio people something to point at to avoid taking responsibility for any decision in case that decision goes bad. “Hey, man, it’s not my fault, I was just going by the numbers!” We Monday morning quarterback all the marketing when the numbers come in, but no one really knows.
This weekend, when After Earth brought in $27 million for a movie the studio was expecting/hoping to do upwards of $35 – 40m, and got beat by a magician movie, there was no shortage of explanations for its failure. The obvious one being that it was a crappy-looking movie, from a director who has made four or five infamously-crappy movies in a row, starring a guy who’s been dutifully squandering the goodwill he’s built up over the years by shoving his obnoxious kid in our faces every chance he gets. But hey, the internet is not a place for Occam’s Razor. So it is that a competing theory has been gaining steam, one that says that After Earth failed because the marketing didn’t emphasize that was an M. Night Shyamalan movie enough. Whoaooooahaooh. Up is down, cats and dogs, living together, etc.
From Forbes, which wasn’t the only place where I saw this theory, sadly:
We’ll truly never know whether Sony would be looking at a bigger opening weekend for the Will Smith/Jaden Smith vehicle After Earth if they hadn’t chosen to hide the fact that the film is directed by M. Night Shyamalan. I’ve argued for much of the last week that said decision was a marketing blunder, and I stand by that assessment. The idea that M. Night Shyamalan is ‘box office poison’ isn’t confirmed by the facts of his fourteen years in the Hollywood limelight.