Well, the final weekend numbers came in, and it seems Kick-Ass DID win the weekend box office after all. But only by the slimmest of margins, and over a movie entering its fourth week of release. So why has one of the first ‘highly anticipated’ movies of the year had such a weak showing in its first few days of release?
When you write on the internet, it’s easy to get caught up in hype, and internet marketing becomes the centre of your work. When a trailer is released, and the hits go nuclear, it’s only natural to assume the movie is going to be big. What we forget is that the internet movie fans only make up a small corner of cinematic audiences, and in general it tends to be a fairly specific audience – a geek one.
The kind of people who frequent internet movie sites are the ones that tend to enjoy comic book movies the most, that look forward to humorous action movies, and that can appreciate the kind of work and thought that has gone into a project like Kick-Ass. The story of Kick-Ass has been heavily documented from the first clips at last years Comic-Con. We have followed the problems that Mathew Vaughn has experienced looking for a distributor, we have read all about the way the movie has been developed in parallel with the comic, and we have seen every second of footage of every trailer and TV spot. The problem is, of course, that the mainstream movie audience have never even heard of it.
The mainstream, or casual audience, or whatever you choose to call it, don’t get too involved with internet marketing. Yes, the internet is now present in a large percentage of homes, but the vast majority don’t use it to trawl through movie news, they don’t take films as over-seriously as people like me, and the most exposure they have to online promotion is flash adverts on the Google news page. Most people who go to see movies make their choices through print and television marketing. Billboards on the street, trailers between tv shows, and the occasional full page splash in a national tabloid. Then there are those that just turn up at their local Vue or Odeon and choose which poster looks good.
Look at it from the point of view of this audience. They see a makeshift superhero, in a shoddy looking costume, and don’t recognise any of the names on the poster. What is going to draw this audience in to a movie like Kick-Ass? The trailer combines the puerile humour with over the top action sequences, sketching out a movie a million miles away from the Dark Knight model of comic book adaptations. With big effects movies like Clash of the Titans and Alice in Wonderland drawing the eye with cutting edge CGI, big star names like Johnny Depp, and the promise of 3D, Kick-Ass looks cheap in comparison, and today’s popcorn audiences want blockbuster movies.
Compare Kick-Ass to Iron Man, and you can see why Iron Man is going to challenge box office records, and make more money on its opening night than Kick-Ass is likely to do in its whole run. The huge, big budget special effects sequences, explosive action scenes, the star power of Robert Downey Jr backed up by Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, Scarlett Johansson and Don Cheadle. Add to this the recognition that now exists in the mainstream for the character, and the fact that it is a Marvel property, the most widely known comic publisher, and there really is no contest.
It is a great shame it has to be like this. More thought will probably have gone into one scene of Kick-Ass than the whole plot of Iron Man 2. And the same problem will probably hold for the forthcoming Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. The internet went into meltdown when the trailer was released online, with millions of hits within minutes. Again, because of this, it appears the movie will be huge. But it is a virtually unknown property away from the online crowd, and much like Kick-Ass, the ridiculous amount of hits is in part down to the scores of people that watched the trailer multiple times.
You never know, though, business for Kick-Ass might pick up, and Vaughn’s film could end with a respectable run. For the sake of the potential sequel, we have to hope this is the case. As it stands, the worldwide box office gross will be enough to cover costs and afford the smallest of profits, but in order to make a sequel a financially viable endeavour, word of mouth will have to be strong enough to allow a second weekend total similar to the first weekend.
This isn’t impossible, the run of How To Train Your Dragon is proving this. Many people have seen it multiple times, and it is increasing its gross by an impressive percentage week on week right now. There isn’t a great deal of competition at the coming weekend, so we’ll have to wait and see if Kick-Ass can begin to do the same. Here’s hoping. I’d love to see a sequel, and i think Mathew Vaughn deserves success for the gamble he took on the project, and the hard work he put into securing it a theatrical run in the first place.
Bazmann – You can follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/baz_mann