New Line Cinema's much-talked-about Snakes on a Plane seemed a sure hit. And while it did hit the No. 1 slot in box office rankings this past weekend, it raked in lower sales than most expected. What gives? Had the public "had it with these [bleepity-bleepin'] snakes on this [bleepity-bleepin'] plane" before the movie even came out?
Supposedly New Line, a unit of Time Warner
Given Snakes on a Plane's box office take of a mere $15.3 million on opening weekend (including Thursday sales), lots of people are wondering what went wrong. Although it seems clear that the movie will break even -- word is its production budget was about $35 million -- folks had estimated the movie would take in $30 million to $40 million in its opening weekend. Indeed, CNET
I can't help but flash back to another cultish August release, two years ago: Alien Vs. Predator, from News Corp.'s
My point is that you'd think Snakes on a Plane would fare better two years later, considering the niche-busting hype. Off the Internet, Jackson appeared on the Today show (on General Electric's
I've seen some theories floating around; for example, lack of TV trailers, or the fact that there was no advance screening for critics. My original theory was that maybe word of mouth backfired once people actually saw the movie, but critics gave it mixed reviews, so that doesn't seem to be the case.
There are a few other possibilities. Maybe some thought the movie would disappoint even their own low expectations (the movie's main attraction was always the fact that it was a campy B-movie, aiming for the "so bad it's good" genre) and decided that wasn't worth $10 admission. The most ironic possibility would be if the same geeky masses who hyped the movie decided to watch lower quality (but free) pirated copies being passed along through file-sharing services.
Why all the worry? For one thing, investors are certainly keeping a close eye on what variables help or hinder media companies in these days when disruptive influences are increasingly affecting the industry and the way it markets its products. I personally suspect Snakes on a Plane might keep up momentum in subsequent weekends better than many other movies have this summer, but it certainly would be ironic if a film that was so highly influenced by -- and even partially built by -- fans turns out to be severely lacking in audience.
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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.