It’s all over the movie and entertainment websites recently: 2016 Summer Revenues down 22%, Who’s to blame? Sequels? Critics? Bad Movies? and many more websites spelling out that the 2016 Summer movie season was a disaster. Alot of people want to blame stuff like critics knee-jerk responses to movies like Suicide Squad as the cause, or that the internet isn’t ready for progressive leads like the recent Ghostbusters movie. But there is more to this then we know and it’s time for me to put my College education to the test.
EPS or the “Eliest, Popular, Specialized cycle” is what basically a cycle all media goes through. The Circle of life for all media to put it simply. It starts off as an Elitest product, something that the early adopters can call it’s own (“Ever hard of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure? it’s rad!”). The Popular is when the piece of media is caught on and is more accessible to people to digest (“Holy crap! did you see this week’s epidoe of Jojo!? how will Jotaro beat this Stand user this week?”), and Specialized is when the media is once again spread out to certain pockets who enjoy certain aspects of the media (“Battle Tendency is the best Jojo series”) and from these specialize pockets, the cycle starts again (“I know Diamond is Unbreakable isn’t your thing… but have you gone back and watched Battle Tendency? that still holds up”).
A more current and less Jojo-esque example is what we are seeing on TV and places like Netflix and HBO: Taking huge risk on genre shows like Game of Thrones and Stranger Things and it becoming a success, shows that are more niche and specialize for Sci-fi, fantasy, and fans of certain 80’s movies in the case of Stranger Things. Hell, even the current crop of DCTVU shows like Arrow, Flash and the like are in that mold: Arrow is more Popular as it focus less on the comic stuff and more on Oliver Queen’s life, Flash is more Elitist/Popular as it tackles with Comic issues, but also handles more human drama, Supergirl is Popular/Specialized because of it’s female lead, but also goes deep into the comic stuff, and Legends of Tomorrow is an Elite Status show as it tackles whole-ham Comic stuff with no regard to it’s viewer, where as Arrow is more digestible to the public, a show like Legends of Tomorrow is a love letter to the comics and it shows as even fans of these shows find it hard to get into it for whatever reason.
That’s the VERY basic explanation of things, like all things involving communication, there is more to this then whats being presented such as the concept of Noise such as Psychological noise (pre-concived notions, stereotypes, biasis, ect. Anything internally mentally that will influence your opinion), Physiological noise (Flashing banners that blind your eyes, people screaming on the TV to buy something that may not be pleasant to hear, watching food commercials while your hungry ect. Anything that’s physically done to you positively or negatively to cause influence), Physical noise (screaming above others to get attention, having others interrupt you or others do the talking for you, ect. The very definition of noise as it uses verbal communication for influence), and Semantic noise (the most basic way to explain this is if a used car salesman uses so much gobbledygook made-up words to convince you to buy a car and you are influenced by what he is saying because it sounds appealing without really knowing what the words really mean). For this article, we are only focusing on EPS, the influence of Noise is more complicated cause it’s now in the realm of specifics to each individual instead of a broader focus like this article is about.
EPS AND 2016 SUMMER MOVIES BY THE NUMBERS
(All Numbers provided by Boxofficemojo with numbers rounded out to the nearest million)
With these examples in mind, let’s go and discuss whats going on with the current crop of movies that we saw this summer. We started off HUGE with Captain America: Civil War as that opened to $180 Million it’s opening weekend, but not huge enough to break Age of Ultron‘s records that it held the same time last year at $191 Million, and not enough to topple Avenger‘s $207 Million it made in 2012. This can be attributed to the movie being more of a Captain America-focused movie and Cap’s last solo outing netted him $95 Millionin it’s first week released. It was expected because of it’s inclusion of other Avengers in the movie it would do equal or more than Age of Ultron, but it was just shy of that mark, but in comparison, Civil War did WAY better than Winter Solider did, almost doubling what it made in it’s first week alone, so it was able to capitalize on being a movie with a specialize character as it’s main focus
But lets go into the next example: X-Men Apocalypse. In it’s first week, it made $66 Million, which is not even remotely close to X-Men Day’s Of Future Past which made $91 Million in it’s first week. Despite having most of the cast of First Class and Days of Future Past in it, it could not capitalize on it due to them re-casting roles to fit the timeframe of the movie. Not just that, but the script was poor and everyone speaks in exposition as if it was written by 90’s era Marvel Comics, thus, it did not capitalize in a movie transitioning between going to a Popular mass media model to a very specific Specialized cycle for hardcore fans of the franchise. It’s not that people are sick of X-Men movies ether, a movie that stuck it gold with specialization that’s also part of the X-Men meta series was Deadpool which earned $132 Million first week earning earlier this year. Granted too, that movie was the perfect storm in terms of what the fans wanted: An actor hungry for the role and nailed it, a small team who loved and respected it’s source material, and had a Cinderella story behind-the-scenes around it.
Now we go into Ghostbusters, the big issue of measurement is that while it’s part of a franchise, the franchise it proceeded was in a very different era for movies where budgets where much lower than budgets today and returns where only measured in domestic markets, so it would not be fair to prop this new movie against the other movies; with that in mind, Ghostbusters has name recognition alone and it already had a pre-existing uphill battle with the internet’s most rabid fans. The movie did $46 million and it was attributed to the fact that was tailored to be “Passable” and the movie not impress, a movie specialized to appeal to a certain demographic, instead of making a good genre movie, making the movie Elitist as it appeals to a VERY specific audience and the audience that enjoys it have more of a “you wouldn’t understand it” mentality; meanwhile, Suicide Squad made $134 million in it’s first week and was a result of much mangling from the studio who was afraid of the results after Batman V Superman failed to deliver in the box office earlier this year. While still “Good enough”, behind the scenes drama with 2 to 3 cuts of the movie floating around and Kevin Tsujihara afraid of the returns after BvS failed, had the movie spliced together from all 3 cuts and presented a mess to a mass audience that did more to alienate audiences expecting a good movie and moving it from from a Popular model to an elite model where it’s fans are trying their hardest to defend the movie.
EPS AND FIXING YOUR MOVIES
So whats the difference between a movie like Civil War and Ghostbusters? Civil War embraced alot of what what the specialized audience wanted and even transcended to becoming Popular by using characters in unique ways; While still a Captain America movie and the movie is highly focused on him, we had Iron Man play a huge role and had cameos by Vision, Hawkeye, Scarlet Which, and even Spider-Man giving something the audience wants to see more of and seeing it done in a way that doesn’t insult their intelligence or shows them in a negative light. Ghostbusters on the other hand was more of an issue that it was aimed to appeal to a VERY specific audience who like certain aspects of film, certain aspects such as how directions and writing goes, that can clash with the audience. I had no problem with Kevin in the movie, I liked him for being a stupid dolt, but I am in the 15% that feel that way, where the general public or the public who want to see movies like these feel like he was annoying, to which I will agree too seeing it from other people’s perspective. The main issue is that a movie like Ghostbusters should not have aimed for such a very specific target audience, it should of been much broader in scope and tighter in it’s script than it is. This is also true for Suicide Squad: It had a very narrow target it needed to hit and instead of focusing efforts on making aspects people will enjoy more like the characterizations of Harley Quinn and Deadshot, instead, it took 3 cuts of one movie and made a bigger mess overall instead of letting the director’s vision, while test audiences didn’t respond to it, would of worked better as a Specific than aiming for a catch-all Popular and end up with an elitist movie instead, worst yet, glimmers of a better movie are there in the movie and the movie shows these better scenes from time to time. as if it wants to throw a bone to the audience, but takes it away when the movie forces you to like something the audience have no interest in or haven’t set up to make it interesting (see: the Joker).
Simply put: We have been blinded for too long by genre movies that instead of asking ourselves how to make the movie more appealing to the audience at large, we instead want to focus on what certain individuals want from a movie, narrowing our views of a movie and thus, a movie fails to appeal to anyone because it was gear towards a very specific audience. Ghostbusters numbers wise did well for it’s audience it’s appealing to, but in the grand scheme of the numbers game, it’s a failure and while people want to claim it was one or the other’s faults, it in reality, it was a movie that was made by Hollywood to appeal to a very narrow audience to produce a 3 out of 5 movie instead of honing in the movie more to actually go into the specifics and actually produce a better movie.
Re-Evaluating what your doing and re-think your movies in a different way to appeal to the audience you want is needed more now than ever as more movies feel being made by committee that don’t really understand what makes specialization of genre movies appealing and demanding more from your movie instead of being satisfied with whats being presented is the first steps into making better movies overall.