An interesting article appeared recently in the Christian Science Monitor about how the Internet has made Hollywood’s job of making a profit from a turkey even tougher than before. Now in the world of Everybody’s A Film Critic And Has A Personal Site To Share His Thoughts (cue Victor looking around innocently), test scores are finding their way into the public domain more easily. The speed of the Internet also means that word-of-mouth basically can now develop even before a film has opened, and by Sunday, a film can have received the kiss of death — “Loser.”
I can certainly can confirm that an attentive civilian could now know *even before the film was released* that HULK had bad word-of-mouth and probably wouldn’t be worth his (my) while, though *my* interest was probably marginal to begin with. Typical of my snobbishness, I haven’t been to see any of the action blockbusters this summer, though comic-book movies like HULK, X2, LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN rarely interest me as a noncomic geek. The only summer blockbusters that I haven’t seen but really want to are 28 DAYS LATER and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN.
But compare it to last year, when SPIDER-MAN had good advance word (but not a notably more-prestigious or -interesting director-stars team than HULK — Sam Raimi/Tobey McGuire/Willem Dafoe vs. Ang Lee/Eric Bana/Nick Nolte). I went to see SPIDEY and liked it moderately. I dismissed HULK sight unseen.
I’m somewhat ambivalent about this kind of pre-buzz buzz, however much it might do the Lord’s work against a bad film, because it so traps the film in the self-fulfilling prophecy cycle about its box office (it’s a turkey, therefore nobody goes to see it, so it must *really* be a turkey … etc.).
The film doesn’t get a chance to overcome 1) bad prebuzz or 2) disappointing early-audience response. In the case of (1), it often occurs for reasons having nothing to do with what’s on the screen — need I remind anybody [I probably do] about 1998 and the same “turkey” tag sinking BABE: PIG IN THE CITY, a very good film that deserved better than it got. In the case of (2), most films probably wouldn’t overcome them anyway, but a few do need time to find their audience or shrug off initial marketing mistakes — need I remind anybody [I certainly do] about 1983 and THE RIGHT STUFF, a masterpiece that carved out its popularity via video after flopping in theaters.
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