You know those thrillers where you see a mysterious, black glove hand coming from behind a corner, putting ipecac or arsenic in people’s drinks? And not until the end of the movie do we know who was wearing the glove? Someone…or someTHING….is doing that right now with PACIFIC RIM, Guillermo del Toro’s giant robots vs giant monsters movie which opens on July 12th.
It is the FIRST original tentpole of the year—and yes, I know Transformers vs Godzilla isn’t all that original but it is a film not based on any previous comic book, movie, soft drink theme park ride, breakfast cereal, or Twitter account.
Someone—Travis Beacham— made up the story all by himself and someone else—Guillermo del Toro—filmed it in living color.
Guillermo del Toro, one of our most imaginative, active directors, the nerd king of nerd town.
You’d think that everyone would want this movie to succeed on some level. I mean, it may be all about giant monsters hitting each other, but it’s no worse than the 75 other cgi films about monsters hitting each other that have come out to fair to great success in the last few years. But the word is out: PACIFIC RIM is tracking to be a flop.
The news started Monday in an article in Variety about how Legendary Pictures is poised to split from Warner Bros. (I’ll explain what that means in a minute.) In the middle of the story, Variety’s Marc Graser dropped this little bombshell.
Timing is key for Legendary as it looks to broker a new pact. Tull’s company has a lot riding on the success of Guillermo del Toro’s “Pacific Rim,” a more than $200 million-budgeted tentpole, which is facing some hurdles in exciting moviegoers before its July 12 release despite getting a major promotional push since last summer’s Comic-Con in San Diego.
Early tracking for the film is so far disappointing with audiences showing more interest in Sony Pictures’ sequel “Grown Ups 2,” which also opens that weekend. Some are comparing “Pacific Rim” to Saban’s “Power Rangers” kids franchise or Japanese anime. As a result, expect a last-minute marketing blitz from distributor and 25% investor Warner Bros. to try to turn around those numbers. While the studio is advancing the film’s P&A costs, it risks losing a lot of money if the movie does not perform.
Grown Ups 2? You know the sequel to that most horrific movie where Adam Sandler, and co. all peed in the pool?
Talk about the cruelest, cruelest blow. Whoever leaked that little bit of info knew that it would be as devastating as Godzilla’s radioactive breath.
But not content with that, Variety let all the dogs of war out two days later with a piece mildly titled Is ‘Pacific Rim’ Doomed to Be This Year’s ‘Battleship’?:
With less than two weeks to go, but approximately 70% of the film’s marketing budget yet to be spent, early tracking suggests “Pacific Rim” is more likely to become the latter — a troubling outcome given the film’s $180 million budget, according to Warner. (Some industry insiders say the budget is closer to $200 million.) Regardless, Warner is responsible for only 25% of the film’s production cost, with Legendary Pictures having funded the rest.
Tracking for the film could pop as early as tomorrow and build through next week as Warner continues to spend more of its marketing budget. “I think we were a bit off base, but I think we have a real shot at turning the ship around,” said Warner domestic distribution prexy Dan Fellman.
Just in case you didn’t get the picture, there is a more neutral story about the film’s marketing with the still rather negative title ‘Pacific Rim’: Legendary faces marketing challenge for Del Toro Film:
For “Pacific Rim” to be the kind of phenomenon Legendary is banking on, the picture must draw on an audience beyond the core fanbase of Kaiju and Gundam aficionados. Jashni says “Pacific Rim” is aimed at “all quadrants.”
Warner’s marketing strategy has been to rev up core fans first, then expand from there. Del Toro’s appearances at last year’s Comic-Con and this year’s Wondercon, and the action-oriented trailers, have stoked the fanboys. Sue Kroll, Warner’s president of worldwide marketing, told Variety, “We have the benefit of strong reaction from the core, but we are also enjoying an outstanding reaction to the materials from general consumers.”
With this level of tut tutting and fretting, no wonder it is impossible to launch anything new in Hollywood! I mean yeah, it IS incredibly risky to make something without “pre-awareness” in today’s tight climate, but it’s nearly impossible to avoid zombies, too and that doesn’t stop Glenn from making a run to town for tampons or toilet paper or bullets every once in a while on The Walking Dead. Once in a while you gotta bust a movie and try to outrun those movie tracking zombies! It’s called creativity, people.
I tweeted something to this effect yesterday, and Bob Calhoun reminded me of something:
@Comixace I remember an article 2 yrs ago about how Hollywood power brokers hated Inception because it wasn't licensed….
— bob calhoun (@bob_calhoun) June 27, 2013
@Comixace … Therefore Inception was outside their predictive modeling despite its star and director. They Haaaate that. (1/2)
— bob calhoun (@bob_calhoun) June 27, 2013
It’s true–everyone though Inception would be a big flop, too. Warner didn’t want to make it, but Christopher Nolan had one “this is my movie” he got to make after The Dark Knight and it happened to be brilliant and trailblazing and gave the movie going world a whole new sound for trailers.
(WB also had the same deal for Zack Snyder and he made Sucker Punch, so it doesn’t always work out.)
Everyone also thought Avatar was going to flop and that James Cameron was nuts. Well, he is nuts, but he also set out to make the biggest movie of all time…and succeeded. King of the world.
What really amazes me about the bad tracking for Pacific Rim is that so many people I know are way psyched to see it! Far more than any other movie this summer, in fact. Granted, my tracking audience is a bit specialized, but this is pretty much across the board. So yeah, they reached the core audience of people who want to see giant robots hit giant monsters.
So why? Who has the black glove? I’ll note that the Pacific Grim stories only started coming out when the “Legendary is leaving WB” stories did. Oh yeah, I promised I’d explain that. Legendary Pictures was founded in 2000 by self-made man Thomas Tull, who got Wall Street equity firms to give him $500 million to invest in movies. Luckily those movies turned out to be things like 300 and The Dark Knight and The Hangover. In 2005, Legendary signed a 7-year, 40-picture deal with Warner Bros to co-produce and co-finance these movies and more. You could say it has been a profitable partnership, but the deal is up and Legendary—according to the trades—has many annoyances with WB. According to Deadline:
Overall, Tull wants a much improved deal over his present one at Warner Bros. “He feels he was paying too high a distribution fee at Warner Bros for Pacific Rim and Godzilla which Legendary is making,” another source tells me. ”He’s paying over 10% fees for those movies. That’s high relative to what’s usually given the people who put up the money. He wants to pay 8% for the 10 to 12 films Legendary will be fully financing.”
I’ve also learned that “Tull is looking to keep certain rights for the movies he finances, like his own Netflix deals”. And that Tull “also wants a producer deal for himself so he gets compensated from the studios separate from paying a distribution deal to the studios”. For movies he’s co-financing for the studio, he wants more involvement in the development process through shooting, post-production, marketing and distribution.
Okay, so that part was boring, but now the kiddie pool where the pissing contest is taking place is beginning to emerge. People here peeved, people there annoyed.
Meanwhile, Del Toro is working to counter the bad buzz:
“We just need to keep working. Our numbers are going up. Not in a minor way. Significant. We are on the right track,” del Toro wrote on the forum of Deltorofilms.com, which bills itself as the official fan site of the filmmaker. The thread was under the topic “Buzz and ‘Word of Mouth’” and followed Wednesday’s posting of a Variety article, the headline for which blared, “Is Pacific Rim Doomed to be This Year’s Battleship?”
“Whatever sequel opens will have, by definition, higher awareness and numbers across the board, but we are moving strongly in the right direction,” he writes.
Of course, Pacific Rim could stink. Maybe the people who want to see it are the same people who were counting the seconds until Scott Pilgrim opened. And I’m among those who have apocalypse fatigue. (Although after seeing Grown Ups, I wanted the world to end, quickly.) But I really liked the Hellboy movies, and Pan’s Labyrinth was a disturbing, haunting masterpiece. So I’m going to give it a shot. Here are two recent trailers and a poster by Sergio Grisanti. Decide for yourself.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.