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Why do you think Serenity failed at the box office ?

Friday 14 July 2006, by Webmaster

I’m going to say: because it was episodic. There were something like four self-contained episodes in the story. Each resolved almost completely, leaving just enough plot to ignite the next episode. So the movie didn’t feel like a coherent story. It felt like a bunch of television episodes rammed together.

Also, Joss’s cast of TV actors didn’t exactly ignite the screen. They just didn’t feel larger than life.

That’s why I think it failed.

Now, a couple of caveats: did SERENITY fail? After all the DVD sales are in? And the foreign sales? I don’t know. It cost about $40M. Made about $25M box office and $15M overseas. Those are box office numbers so the studio gets, say, half. But then it probably made another $20M easy on DVD sales and TV, not to mention any merchandising. I doubt anyone on the show was entitled to gross points, so the studio got to keep more of the money than it would have on a $150M Harrison Ford picture. I would bet the studio’s internal accounting shows a slight profit.

More importantly: I don’t know why the hell it failed. Movies with terrible scripts hit. Why did My Big Fat Greek Wedding make $100M at the box office instead of oh, say, $5M? Was it twenty times better than the next charming indie romance? My memory was it had almost no plot, and was stunningly short on obstacles. I’m sure I could have fixed the script, made it a better movie, and turned it into much less of a hit. Was Blair Witch actually a good picture? Would it have made $100M the summer before? Or the summer after? Or would it have disappeared into the cut-rate DVD bins?

People watch for stories, but they also watch for characters and spectacle, and because other people are watching. And movies with good scripts fail. As a writer you have to believe that a good script is better than a bad script. But there are other factors at work, so don’t get too big a head on behalf of us writers...

4 Forum messages

  • Why do you think Serenity failed at the box office ?

    15 July 2006 21:58, by Cliff (myspace.com/scific2507)

    I think the problem was the advertising and the title of the movie. I didn’t realize it until I first saw the commercial on television, and then it hit me immediately. A movie called Serenity, a word that evokes a certain feeling and state of mind, and then visuals, clips from the movie, that show exciting action; it created a feeling of discontinuity, and I’ll bet that a lot of people, experiencing that, didn’t go to the theater to give the movie a chance.

    I loved Serenity. I ended up seeing it three times on the big screen, and multiple times since then on DVD. I think that with either a different title or a different kind of advertising campaign, members of the general public would have given the movie a chance, word would have spread among them about how good a movie it is, and it would have been a hit.

    Just my opinion...

  • Why do you think Serenity failed at the box office ?

    17 July 2006 08:57, by Call me Joe

    I would say it was because it wasd too famous to be a sleeper hit and not famous enough to be a blockbuster.

    The TV show may have got it made but it also defined its likely audience. Those that knew next to nothing about it knew it came from a TV series that had failed. They had already had their minds made up.

    For those that go to see the blockbuster Sci-Fi spectacular didn’t get a star-war that looked huge, or an obvious "end of the world" plot, or characters that were easy to like or lothe (just ones you’d come to love). And there were no stars - no simple way to hang the film.

    And I have to say that in the UK I saw two or three adverts/tie-ins in the weeks up to its launch - i’m still seeing stuff for Batman Begins!!!

  • All I can say is that the film was showing only 2 weeks in theaters in Paris and even less in the rest of France. "Firefly" is still not available in DVD so I guess marketing never gave the movie a chance. "Serenity" DVD has been promoted a bit though. Everyone I know who’s seen the film loved it so I’d say it’s just a pity that no distributor believed in it in my country.
  • Why do you think Serenity failed at the box office ?

    18 July 2006 08:17, by martheev(Jason)

    I think Serenity’s main problem was the fact that the articles on it couldnt get past saying it was based off of a "canceled tv show Firefly". People heard that and instantly thought, "Well if the show sucked then the movie’s gonna suck too!" They weren’t willing to put out money on something they had already judged before walking in the door. Now we as Firefly fans know it didn’t suck at all. But people coming from outside didn’t have that connection to it that we did. They just assumed the show getting cancelled was proof that it wasnt any good instead of just a very big mistake.

    Or maybe there’s the people who DID give it a chance when it was on television and they just couldn’t connect. Now I must admit I wasn’t an instant fan of Firefly. It was an odd concept. Space western? Huh??? It took a bit for me to realize the characters were the strengths of it all. Sure there were good scripts when I went back and reminded myself with the dvds. But the good scripts revolved around these great characters. I myself didn’t realize that until the show had already been cancelled. Some of the criticism of the film is that we didn’t get enough time with each of the characters as we did in the show. The ensomble cast became more focused on these few with sprinkles of the other mixed in. Which weakens one of Firefly’s greatest strengths.

    And, in part (and I’m probably gonna get jumped for this one.....) I think it was the fault of the rabid fans. People who didn’t understand saw people going to these crazy lengths to get the film produced. That isn’t to say I don’t appreciate these efforts if they helped in any way (although my belief is the dvd sales were the one and only thing that actually mattered). But this made some of even the most casual sci fi fans go, *eye roll* "Oh, it’s one of THOSE kinds of cult fandoms!" Can you imagine how it must have looked to the people who weren’t sci fi fans at all? I know people have said that they were turned away from seeing the movie because they got sick of thier friends pestering them to go see it. I suppose whether these people would’ve went to see the film anyway or not might be brought into question. Perhaps this was just thier excuse. But when someone’s pushing hard enough that you have to make up an excuse just to shut them up, you may be pressing too hard. I knew my friend was into sci fi so I mentioned the series to him one day. I told him he could borrow my dvds and one day when he stopped by I handed them over to him. Whether he actually wanted them or not he’d never said. He took it home and watched it and got instantly hooked. He eventually brought his wife along for the ride and, after giving the dvds back to me, he decided he needed them back to loan to his dad. I didn’t push, I just suggested and then gave the opportunity to experience. Sometimes people are more willing to chance listening to the lamb than possibly get eaten by getting too close to the lion.

    As a fan I myself felt something was missing from the movie. A good script? The great characters? I think it might’ve been a bit of the both of them. But I still loved it and I’m glad we got a finish to our unfinished masterpiece. Those that missed out missed out big. Maybe one of these days they’ll come around. I’ll be here to suggest and lend out my dvds any day. :)