This question originally appeared on Quora: Why did "Edge of Tomorrow" bomb at the box office in the U.S.?
Answer by Ken Miyamoto, Produced screenwriter, former Sony Pictures script reader/story analyst
Marketing and some of the audience's unwillingness to move on.
Let's be straight up here. I'm let down and a bit pissed off by the box office numbers for Edge of Tomorrow. It's hit a nerve beyond this film as well. I pretty much called it in my review as well when I wrote, "The trailers do NOT do it justice, by any means. The trailers give us nothing but eye candy with some naysayers rolling their eyes saying, 'Oh, another Tom Cruise saves the world movie.'"
And also when I wrote, "My only fear is that the recent stigma of Tom Cruise may keep audiences away. Friends, it's been nine years since the Oprah couch incident, and most people only remember the Youtube parodies and remixes when in fact he was only on that couch for 15 seconds, playing up to the crowd of screaming women. And then yes, there are the Scientology critics, and rightfully so in regards to the Church of Scientology, as well as Tom's remarks about Brooke Shields and her personal choices. Even those remarks have been overblown throughout the years. Here is an amazing article to read in regards to all of that...
This film deserved better and I hope that word-of-mouth and its f***ing 90% Rotten Tomatoes score will drive the numbers up! Sorry, yes, I'm a bit perturbed.
I'm pissed because I love science fiction. I love it bad, I love it good, and I love it great. And Edge of Tomorrow is that unique, great science fiction film that isn't just about special effects and explosions (As the terrible trailers will make you believe). And its not a sequel, prequel, remake, reboot, or comic book superhero movie.
That's what pisses me off even more.
Audiences bitch and moan about the studios not making original blockbusters anymore. They complain that it's all sequels, prequels, remakes, reboots, or comic book superhero movies. But when an original blockbuster like Edge of Tomorrow comes out, they don't go see it. And here's the deadly pattern after that.
The current mass audience think they know the film industry. They blast the industry so much but don't realize that they make their decisions just like the industry does... i.e. Opening Weekend.
They don't go see it opening weekend because they want to see the opening weekend box office. If it bombs, according to what the media tells them, then they say, "See, I knew it would suck."
It's BS. And they are part of the problem. They don't want the sequels, prequels, remakes, reboots, or comic book superhero movies, but they don't show up for the few chances that studios take on original concept blockbusters.
And what that causes is a ripple effect within the studio system because the executives won't greenlight more original concept blockbusters, instead going with what audiences DO show up for... sequels and comic book superhero movies.
You can blame the studio marketing for the terribly one note trailers that didn't showcase Cruise's excellent performance as well as Emily Blunt's and the overall story arcs, tone, and atmosphere. Instead we saw Cruise running around in a metal suit over, and over, and over, and over. And if you've seen the film, you know that this is NOT the majority of the film at all.
But then again you CAN'T blame the studio marketing alone because they cut those trailers knowing for a fact that audiences all too often don't show up for original concept blockbusters, so they instead decide to bet on the summer tropes that audiences like... big effects, explosions, and mayhem for summer movies.
I'm sorry audience, studios aren't the problem. You are. Not always, but all too often it begins with you. And these habits that have been forming, these obsessions with film industry business terms like opening box office numbers, budget, advertising costs, and whatever else, all of these habits are dictating what studios will release. Enough already. What happened to the magic of cinema? Sure, we can blame the corporations that own studios, but again, each and every year great films come out and disappear at the box office because audiences didn't go see them. The few calculated risks studios take all too often prove to be fatal. I wouldn't take those risks either if I was in their shoes.
Friends, 35 some years ago, give or take, Jaws and later Star Wars (two original blockbusters) opened in just 100 theaters (give or take). Only 100 theaters, as opposed to the 3,000-4,000 most blockbusters debut in now!
People sought them out. They heard rumblings of how good they were. They waited in seemingly endless lines to see them. And the buzz grew and grew. Soon enough, these films were added to more and more theaters because back then audiences didn't know anything about opening weekend gross, budgets, advertising costs, etc. They didn't care. All they wanted to do was be entertained. All they wanted to do was experience some magic storytelling in that local theater.
But here we are, 35 years later, and with audiences saying that there aren't any great films anymore and complaining endlessly that studios make nothing more than sequels, prequels, remakes, reboots, or comic book superhero movies, and here we are with an original concept blockbuster, non sequel, non prequel, non remake, non reboot, non comic book superhero movie, and nobody shows up.
And I also blame an audience's trust on trailers too. That's a huge part of the problem. My generation grew up on "Don't judge a book by its cover." Where did that wise concept lose its luster? I want to know because it's KILLING cinema as we knew it. It really is.
Here we have a great film with lackluster trailers that fails at the box office because audiences judged the "book" by its "cover", instead of taking a chance and "opening the book" to experience the story.
Trailers, headlines about opening weekends, and even critics and Rotten Tomatoes score (At least this film has been doing great critically). This is what is killing cinema.
And trust me, this goes far beyond Edge of Tomorrow.
Listen, I've heard it all. I've heard how we don't like the theater experience because of people talking, making noise, texting, etc. I've heard how our home theaters are high tech with great sound and HD bigscreens with comfortable seats. I've heard how we feel about expensive concessions at movie theaters. I've heard that these are the reasons we don't go to the movie theaters as much as we used to, if at all.
Bulls***. I call bull**** on that.
There's nothing like a cinematic atmosphere. Comedies are funnier in a theater setting. Horror films are scarier in a theater setting. Action movies are more exciting in a theater setting. You may have trained yourself to think otherwise, or perhaps you have a social disorder that dictates otherwise, but the magic of cinema has lasted for over a hundred years. It survived the threat of television, of VHS, of DVD, of Blu-ray, of Streaming, etc.
I go on this tangent because I want the magic to remain alive in peoples lives. I don't want it to be hindered by laziness, excuses, the media's interpretation of the film industry definition of success or failure, etc.
We are living in a corporate, conservative, and conformist world that, I'm sorry, WE created. We blame government. We blame corporations. We blame movie studios and companies. But we started this all. The habits they abide by, adhere to, and cling onto, are derived from our behaviors. They can point at a chart and say, "You see, the numbers don't lie."
Right now, executives are putting a full stop on some "risky movies" because Edge of Tomorrow opened at number three with $29 million. Which means they are going to make less original concept movies because nobody showed up.
"So, Ken, are we supposed to go to every movie that comes to the theater?"
"So we should see movies we don't want to see?"
All I ask is that we take SOME chances. If the audience takes some chances then collectively, we'll see different outcomes.
Even more on point, we need to specifically avoid giving up on films so quickly. We need to not judge a "book" by its "cover" so quickly. And we need to stop pretending that we know a damn thing about budgets, advertising costs, weekend box office numbers, etc.
I just wish we'd bring the magic back to the theaters. Those times when just stare up at the screen in wonder, not really knowing what's about to happen because we didn't read reviews or headlines about budgets, box office gross, etc.
35 years ago was another time, sure. We didn't have the media we have now. We didn't have the access we have now. We didn't have the internet that we have now. I get that. But we don't have to be a slave to those things like we so often are now.
To come full swing from all of these tangents, Edge of Tomorrow deserves better. We deserve more of these types of films, even if its just for two hours of magic, entertainment, and/or escapism.
So go see this film and others. Don't let the box office numbers make you say, "Well, I'll just wait until Netflix has it." Don't let the trailers make you feel that way. Don't let a near decade old handful of headlines and Youtube clips about the star make you feel that way.
You may love the film or you may hate it. Or somewhere in between. But that's the beauty of cinema. You never really know until you get there. And even then, at least you gave it a shot. At least you turned past that "cover", opened up that "book", and escaped into that story.
Let's try to bring that magic back a little more.
I'd like to focus on a few key factors that I think were the primary reasons Edge of Tomorrow had a soft domestic opening.
1. Younger audiences didn't attend, because the Internet tells them Tom Cruise is bad/crazy/etc. Even young people who aren't part of the whole Anonymous movement and who don't otherwise obsess about Scientology are still exposed to a great deal of online rhetoric that paints Tom Cruise in a very unflattering light. He has become a lightening rod for criticism and general animosity or at least dislike among younger viewers, as the anti-Scientology sentiments largely converge on Cruise while for the most part leaving other famous Scientologists alone.
2. The marketing portrayed it as a generic sci-fi action popcorn film. I've seen many folks in entertainment journalism praising the film's trailers and marketing, but I'm perplexed by that praise since I think very little of the film's strong characterizations or terrific wit came through in the advertising. Had the marketing instead demonstrated more of the storytelling and characters, I think there's a chance it could've resonated better with viewers and made them more curious about the film.
3. The release date put it on the heels of several big tentpole releases and just a week before more big tentpole releases, giving it little breathing room. The schedule clearly hamstrings Edge of Tomorrow with families and female audiences, while also making it compete for some of the male demographic against other summer action films. I strongly suspect this movie would've opened much better domestically in April or November, two months that lately have shown room for strong performances if studios schedule the right sort of fare with good marketing.
4. Audiences are being bombarded by so many tentpole "must-see" movies nowadays, they simply cannot afford to go back out to the theater every time the new weekly blockbuster arrives. If you are a working parent, for example, how many $13-15 3D tickets can you spring for every weekend? Price absolutely matters, when it comes to multiple films every single month that your kids or spouse want to see. In May and June, parents face a string of films that included The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Godzilla, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Maleficent, Edge of Tomorrow, How To Train Your Dragon 2, Transformers: Age of Extinction. If you have to buy one ticket for a parent and one for a child, that's a total of 14 tickets, without accounting for maybe a drink here and there as well. If we add just one or two movies for the parents to see alone once in a while in those two months, we're talking about more than $150 in movies in just eight weeks. Whenever I talk about film with my family and friends, they always remind me that I get to see a lot of movies for free at press screenings and they personally can't afford to go to all of the films releasing each year anymore. There's so much, people have to make choices about what to see in theaters and what to watch at home.
5. Pacific Rim didn't perform as strongly in North America, and for some reason (which I don't get, since it was a terrific film) it only seemed to get mixed reactions from critics and audiences here. Audiences, faced with a huge number of movie choices and nonstop marketing in their faces 24/7, can be forgiven for seeing the Edge of Tomorrow marketing and using standard "that reminds me of X, and I didn't like X, so I probably am not interested in this new thing that reminds me of X" judgment to more quickly sort through their options. "People in robot suits fighting monsters" was the marketing, and I think the Pacific Rim effect took hold. Then people likely also saw "Tom Cruise in story about aliens taking over Earth and causing mass destruction so he fights back" and thought "wasn't that the plot of Oblivion?" It seems like lazy thinking, and to some extent obviously it is, but as consumers faced with the endless array of marketing and "must-see blockbuster" summer hype, sometimes people have no choice but to resort to shortcuts -- the same as studios and the Hollywood industry relies on constant shortcuts to assessing new properties, screenplays, filmmakers, actors, etc. We all do it, we just tend to not do it as much in the areas that matter more to us personally. I love film, so I avoid such shortcuts in assessing movies, but most people rely on shortcuts like that a lot of the time in deciding what to see or not see. There's so many options in theaters and TV and online etc, people need shortcuts or they'd spend all day doing nothing but watching trailers and reading reviews etc to figure out what's likely to be good and what's not.
I personally loved this film, and I wish more people would go see it. And with all the positive press about it and all the articles etc expressing surprise over audiences not giving it a chance, I am hoping maybe it'll pick up some steam or at least enjoy a more successful home entertainment run (where profit margins are huge). And I am hoping it has a strong overseas theatrical run, too. But despite my love for the film and frustration that it's not performing better, I can see the reasons and feel that the studio -- and Cruise's PR folks -- should be doing a better job at addressing the problems so it doesn't happen again, and to help on the eventual home entertainment market. There's no good reason for such strong material from such a big-name, talented star to be suffering this sort of low level of domestic public interest, primarily due to public impressions and biases and PR/marketing problems.
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