What makes success? We have always wondered that question, what makes ‘me’ a success? At times it is the drive that you have within yourself. Sometimes it is propagated through the outside factors like marketing and media. At times there is no control, it is imaging towards third parties and they make sure that you are the popular choice to make. I have been to the movies 3 times in the last two months. One I paid for, the other two was a free double pass that I converted into two tickets. So let’s take a look at the three movies. The first was Black Panther, it was awesome to watch, I was curious because it is one of the Marvel comics I never saw. I played him on Marvel: Ultimate Alliance on the Xbox 360, which was basically a comic book revamp of the legendary game Gauntlet, now with the option to evolve certain powers. Black Panther was unlocked by finding his 5 statues. So I knew that little on Black Panther and I was curious to see him in action (beside the scenes in Captain America: Civil War). It was an awesome movie and it was no surprise to see the movie become the 9th most successful movie on the planet reeling in well over a billion dollars. It is still grossing cash, so there is a chance for the movie to get to 8th place before the end of May (I reckon in 2-3 weeks). The movie has so far made $1,323,739,011. So with a budget of $200,000,000, it made well over a billion, it is making some serious real cash.
The second movie in this is Ready Player One, an absolute diamond by Steven Spielberg. It blew me away! I grew up in the world we see (partially) depicted, so every second I saw more and more references towards gaming, movies and even books. Some were clear references to other games (like JRPG) and some Manga characters I knew existed, but never watched the cartoon, so there were question marks for me in that regard. The movie had that approach that the movie Paul had (a Simon Pegg gem), part of the fun is seeing the references and I am certain that is what I will be doing for days after the Blue Ray and 4K edition is released. So here we have the legendary Steven Spielberg, who was born 36 weeks after the British government nationalised and took control of the Bank of England, after 252 years. It was in 1975 when he completed Jaws, the man became a revered god of cinema. His movies were a direct expectation of awesome film watching and his stature grew even more with the movie Close Encounters of the third kind, the movie that followed Jaws. The list would not stop for decades and he went all out in Ready Player One and it was awesome! He started the Jurassic Park, Jaws and the Indiana Jones franchise; he was involved as a producer/executive producer in so many other successes. So when I went to see Ready Player One (RP1), I expected to see a good movie and I was blown away, it was that perfect. Yet financially it merely made a little over half a billion. It surprised me that it had not caught on to such a degree. As we look at the $523,175,886 it made, we also need to realise that it merely made 25% from domestic US viewing, making it an interesting setting. The entire US culture of gaming and movies is a lot more appealing on the international field. When we consider that the production budget was $150,000,000, we see that the Domestic side does not make it a ‘success’, the international sales did that and it should be seen as a success as well.
Now, as per yesterday I saw the Avengers: Infinity War (my second free ticket), and again I was blown away, watching that movie was ‘perfection’. It was like watching a real life comic book with all the massive fights and superpowers in action. The Stan Lee medium of the now! For a second I was worried that so many super heroes and villains would clutter the screen, but it did not. Like watching a mix of goofy, cool and mental explode all at the same time worked, it made it a symphony of sorts. It gave the width of the Secret Wars (or Infinity Wars) comic books with the action of a level of heroes we have never seen before. It was overwhelming and absolutely amazing, with the mandatory extra scene at the very end that will make the people in the know (when it comes to comic books) go: ‘Are you fucking kidding me?‘ and that is how it felt, part one is a mega spectacle that is merely the introduction to the second part which will now expected to be even more overwhelming than the first part was. I have not felt that was since I had to wait for the second Lord of the rings movie (being a Tolkien fan for decades). Blown away three times in a row!
I expect that Infinity War will bring the profits in on a scale almost never seen before; it should have no issues surpassing Black Panther, upping the ante by a lot. The question is why does it matter? I never cared for how much a movie made, it was good enough that it made a real profit and since when is half a billion not a real profit? More important, both RP1 and Infinity war are extreme examples of excellence, entertainment and awesomeness. So why are we watching the numbers? I never cared for that in the past. I actually started watching that around the Dark Night. For some reason the passing of Heath Ledger, the most amazing Joker ever, made me wish that the Dark night would surpass the billion dollar mark and it did in the end, yet I am not getting any of those coins, so why would I care beside that it was a financial success? You see, why is it about the cash? For a part we know that when it is a success it will give us optionally a sequel, or optionally we will see those actors again, and whilst we know that there will be more marvel movies, Steven Spielberg is all about new and different. So why does it matter, because we know it does, we have seemingly become that Americanised. It is no longer about the art, it is about the return on investment, we set ourselves in that light, we are set upon KPI’s that demand we become a return on investment. When did we lose the need to be that awesome technical support agent, and moved into merely to become the most profitable one? Because being the most profitable one is not a scale of excellence, it is merely the rubber stamp that we are allowed in our workplace the next quarter. It is merely a sliding scale of monetary excellence. So even as we see that Avengers: Infinity War will be heading towards an easy $2 billion, optionally surpassing the present number 3, the 2015 movie Star Wars Ep. VII: The Force Awakens, who made $2,058,662,225 globally, should it not be about being the best and most awesome movie ever made? Because the RP1 results do not support that, even as it was as awesome as a movie could be, it was not heralded as such. Now we can blame that none of us are nerds, you merely have to see the 2.2 billion gamers many of them online, who could all identify the Planet doom scene, splattered with millions of avatars, groups all looking like the Master Sergeant of HALO, to see that we will identify. We will identify many characters and we should realise that they have references to the creative excellence of Atari Interactive, Bandai Namco Entertainment, Bethesda Softworks LLC, Blizzard Entertainment, Capcom , CBS Television Studios, Disney Enterprises, Electronic Arts, Gearbox Software, Hasbro, The Jim Henson Company, Kodansha, Konami Digital Entertainment, Mattel, Microsoft Corporation, Mifune Productions, Mojang AB, Nickelodeon & Viacom Media Networks, Paramount Pictures, Rare Ltd., Sanrio Company, SEGA Holdings Co., Sesame Workshop, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Columbia Pictures, Square Enix Holdings Co., Legend Pictures, Tatsunoko Production, Toho Company Limited, The Topps Company, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Valve Corporation and Wizards of the Coast. This is merely a grasp because there was so much more to see, so many more avatars and characters. A list this large and if you played anything even more than an hour, it is likely to be in the movie. A movie that is a three decade reference to gaming, gamers, movies and the buffs they have. The movie is sheer excellence and I wished everyone had watched it, merely because there is something in there for us to identify with, a mere moment when we were introduced to a moment of awesome, delight and/or amazement. So as we realise that the revenue does not reflect that, I started to wonder why that is.
One source told me that gamers do not care, but with 2.2 billion gamers and a fair amount deep into multi-player gaming, I am not able to accept that. I think we do care, we care a lot, we aren’t all into movies, so there is that, but I think that it has something to do with the marketing. Digg (at http://digg.com/2018/spielberg-carls-jr-ready-player-one-feud) gave their view and even as I have not been confronted with it, I am uncertain how it should be perceived. Yet, they are not the only source. Screen rant (at https://screenrant.com/ready-player-one-movie-trailer-marketing-wrong/) gives us “Warner Bros. Have Been Marketing Ready Player One All Wrong”, which shows it all a little better with “all set to a rousing cover of the classic song from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, “Pure Imagination.” It is, in no uncertain terms, a great trailer. Why hasn’t the marketing been like this so far?“, so did marketing create a $400 million plus shortfall? If that is so, I should have been in marketing and take 10% of the optionally delivered $400 million (it would solve a few problems for myself as well). with “Proof of this lies in the second trailer, which, while a significant improvement over the first, lacks the impact it could have had because of the damage done by the initial teaser“, that would be cruel and revealing all at the same time, so the excellence of Steven Spielberg got undone by the marketeers they trusted? That would be a new level of Cruel and it required some extra life option to reset that. It does add up as the trailers of Marvel have been utter perfection in many ways and all of us expecting and seeing Stan Lee, the generalissimo himself in a cameo moment is always good for a laugh and a check-mark to make when watching any Marvel movie. There is no denying this and the fact that the one expected line missing in the first movie is still hopefully made in the second movie. The moment that Iron Man (Robert Downey JR) and/or Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) state (optionally in unison) “No shit, Sherlock!” will certainly give cheers from the audience, that same audience when everyone in the cinema literally cheered when Thor entered the battle scene. People care that much, they are that connected to the movie, and as such I believe that people would be that connected to Ready Player One on near similar levels.
So ask yourself, when does the lack of revenue set the stage for ‘less successful’, it should not, but it does and that is literally a crying shame because Ready Player One is every bit a result of excellence as Black Panther is and Infinity War will prove itself to be. So I believe it should also be financially as successful (just go with it). I accept that my expectation is warped, but should it be? Art and excellence are their own platform, setting this scale to a metric dollar scale is dangerous, I accept that because true excellence is not set in $ signs, it is set in amazement, a currency of its own and we do not always get that currency depicted, it gets depicted less and less which is a shame, because we optionally deny ourselves access to truly great achievements.
That would be a much larger defeat than merely being seen as ‘less successful’.