Monday Morning Quarterback Part I
By BOP Staff
April 22, 2014
Kim Hollis: Transcendence, the Johnny Depp sci-fi flick that was expected to be the best of the new openers this weekend, finished in fourth place with only $10.9 million. The film's budget was $100 million. What went wrong here?
Edwin Davies: There are a couple of factors at play here, but the key one for me would be that the film was very badly marketed. Regardless of its quality - and by most accounts Transcendence is an awful, awful movie - it had a big star attached and an intriguing central hook, which should have been enough to get it at least a decent opening. However, the ads never really got across what the film was about in a way that looked interesting, and a lot of the time it came off as the kind of ridiculous "computers are magic" movie that was fairly popular back in the 1990s, i.e. before people actually knew how the Internet works. With nothing to compel people to rush to see it, I think a lot of people would have waited to see what the reviews and word-of-mouth was like, which pretty much killed it since both were poisonous.
On top of that, you have Depp's recent run of very bad form, which probably helped to foster a wait and see approach from a lot of prospective viewers. Depp's name used to be a signifier of quality, even when it didn't guarantee that a film would make any money, and hitching his wagon to the likes of Dark Shadows and The Lone Ranger probably turned off a lot of the people who a few years ago would have rushed out to see anything he was in.
Jason Barney: There is no question that Transcendence has had an awful opening and this film is not going to be an option in theaters for very long. With summer just around the corner, Transcendence probably has one more week in the top 10 and then it will be gone. That is an absolutely terrible result for a film with a budget of more than $100 million. To put things in perspective, to show just how insignificant this is, it opened less than last week’s horror flick Oculus, which wasn’t on anyone’s radar screen. It is so weak it will end up with Pompeii, I, Frankenstein, and the Legend of Hercules as the biggest bombs of 2014 so far.
Felix Quinonez: I think the bulk of the blame should be put on the marketing. A movie like this is always gonna be a little too weird for a lot of people so the commercials need to work extra hard to lure audiences. I remember the trailers for Inception had a lot of expository dialogue alongside the eye catching visuals. I think the commercials for Transcendence could have worked a bit harder to make things more clear to potential audiences. Another big blunder, in my opinion, was the exclusion of Christopher Nolan's name from the marketing. Nolan's career is red hot right now and audiences trust him like they used to trust Johnny Depp. It wouldn't be the first time a producer's name was used to sell a movie.
But it's also hard to ignore the fact that Johnny Depp's star is fading. After a string of flops he is no longer the draw he had become in the last decade. And because he is willing to shamelessly milk the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise for all it's worth, audiences don't trust him like they used to. His presence in a movie no longer adds a perceived sense of quality.