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King Arthur is a historic bomb, so what does that mean for Wonder Woman, the most important superhero movie of our times?

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I’ve been tracking the woes of Warner Bros. for a while. Every year I make a pilgrimage to Hall H early on Saturday of Comic-Con to see what the Superheroes are up to and every time I’m forced to sit through agonizing previews for surefire turds like Pan, The Man from UNCLE and Skull Island. (Granted I did also get to see George Miller talking about Mad Max Fury Road and the Fantastic Beasts presentation, but those were the exceptions.) Now we can add King Arthur to the list of terrible, soul-crushing bombs from WB, as it flopped big time, coming in behind a movie starring Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn and making only $15 mil in its first week. And oh, it cost $300 million to make and market because someone thought that was a very good idea.

While now departed studio head Jeff Silverman is a convenient scape goat for this string of failed IP relaunches, everyone is doing a post mortem. IndieWire points out that director Guy Richie (who also made Man from UNCLE) doesn’t connect too much with the all important female quadrant:

The King Arthur legend has multiple elements, but among them is a love story involving the king, Guinevere, and Sir Lancelot. This version followed what most of director Guy Ritchie’s films focus on: men, and otherwise male interactions. Guin hardly exists.

So, we had a story that incorporated fantasy, swords, sorcery, and FX, but didn’t bother with romance or significant female characters. Sometimes you can get away with that in Marvel epics, Star Wars, or the J.R.R. Tolkien universe — but those are properties that are far better known and beloved. (And even they’re wising up.)

The domestic audience is increasingly driven by older females. But “King Arthur” relied on younger male viewers — and there weren’t nearly enough of them.


IN a world where women love Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, marketing manly men bashing each other with swords is not a hard sell, but King Arthur had some kind of gloomy, boy rises form the mud story line. Blerf. Will no one ever make a movie out of Kullwch and Olwen? That’s got talking trees, salmon and derring do.

Although this string of Silverman led disasters seems to be at an end, that leaves WB with what it always had: superheroes. And as Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad showed, although marketing and intense fan interest carried those over the profitability finish line, they were still awful movies.

And that brings us to Wonder Woman, perhaps THE MOST IMPORTANT SUPERHERO MOVIE EVER. Not only is it the first female led film in the modern superhero (post MCU) history, it’s a character that no one at the studio had any confidence in for decades and decades. Given their antipathy for the character and discomfort with female led films (former studio head Jeff Robinov didn’t believe in female led films, and you can be sure he wasn’t the only person who had that notion) fans have gotten antsy over a perceived lack of marketing for the movie.

Wonder Woman finally gets her own movie and the movie marketing machines for DC and Warner Bros. haven’t seemed to have chugged to life.
We’re less than six weeks out. There’s been more advertising for Justice League than the movie that’s supposed to kick off the whole JLU film arc. On Warner Bros.’ YouTube Channel, Wonder Woman has only three trailers to Justice League’s six. Where are the TV commercials and product tie-ins (yes, I know about Dr. Pepper, other ones please)? Batman and Supes both had their own breakfast cereal, so where’s my Wonder Woman cereal, General Mills? I’ve seen toys but no toy commercials.

It’s been pretty quiet out there, regardless of the fact that people have reacted positively to the little advertising that’s been released. The few trailers Wonder Woman has have garnered close to 60 million views. Imagine what would happen if the trailer were embedded on major entertainment sites and there were stories out there about the film?


While this lack of confidence in WB’s commitment to Wonder Woman is justified, given the ice cream slumber party history of the character’s handling, other outlets are saying, no this isn’t Suicide Squad, where that trailer was crammed down your throat for endless weeks because they knew it was bad. According to Vanity Fair, the marketing is on track:

So… is Warner’s really burying Wonder Woman? Five weeks is a long way out in movie-marketing land. Especially during the crowded popcorn season we’re entering. Let’s look at some data: according to iSpot, which tracks TV advertising, W.B. has spent $3,043,212 so far on ads for Wonder Woman. At five weeks out, the studio had spent $2,645,643 on ads for Suicide Squad. Wonder Woman ads aired during the Kids Choice Awards and the N.C.A.A. finals, and there were promotions for the film at South by Southwest and Wondercon. On Thursday—perhaps hearing the call from fans—the studio dropped two new trailers for the film, one heavy with action and another with wit.

So far, at least, Warner Bros. seems to be giving Wonder Woman a fair deal. But if the studio falters in its release, it’s clear there will be an army of braceleted fists shaking about it.


Screen Rant has an even deeper dive:

As it turns out, Wonder Woman actually has a larger marketing budget than Suicide Squad. The reason the marketing doesn’t seem the same is because… well, it isn’t. WB/DC has learned a lot about marketing these movies through the last few releases and even collected data about fans of female heroes from marketing Supergirl on CBS and CW.

The timing and placement of Wonder Woman’s marketing initiatives are intended to maximize return, meaning people who are already likely to see the movie aren’t going to see as much marketing. Obviously, that’d be a waste of money.

This newer marketing strategy isn’t the only way Wonder Woman is different from what we’re used to with every other comic book movie. Forgetting concerns over the timing and abundance of advertisements and simply looking a the posters and trailers for what they are, something becomes very clear: Warner Bros. is not remotely concerned with the marketability of a female-led superhero movie. Look up any poster for Wonder Woman and you’ll notice a trend. When the industry seems obsessed with cramming as many marketable names and faces as possible into every single movie poster, Wonder Woman does the opposite, exclusively featuring the Amazon hero front and center.


While I’d like to see a viral, bouncy trailer for Wonder Woman set to a Heart song as she slices and dices foes, WB is taking a more serious approach. Because, I’ll tell you one thing, the studio knows they can’t fuck this up. They need the DC Cinematic Universe to work. They need some good reviews after the BvS and Suicide Squad debacles, and they need people to like Wonder Woman.

WB is known for having a fantastic marketing department, and if Wonder Woman is a bit out of their comfort zone, they do seem to be making a sincere effort, atleast from where I sit. (I should note that this whole post is just me ranting based on my observations – no hard insider knowledge.)

Finally, they have a couple of other things going for them. Director Patty Jenkins has been a strong advocate for this film; she’s smart and passionate and comes off very well every time I’ve seen her speak.

More importantly, Gal Gadot has committed to this role. I was skeptical when her casting was announced, but she’s made it her own. She’s physically arresting, and in all the materials I’ve seen, she strikes the right notes of compassion, strength and general willingness to kick ass. It may work.

But it won’t work without you. Everyone who ever complained about there not being a Wonder Woman movie had better see this opening weekend. There are no excuses this time.

How’s it tracking? Well, kind of all over the place, but it ranges from $65 mil (ok) to $105 mil (not bad at all!)

The numbers come from a variety of reports published Thursday in the Hollywood trade press, including THR and Deadline — which have it on the low end — and TheWrap, which cites one “outlying” tracking service putting it at $105 million.  (Going purely on instinct here, I’d call that a lowball. Put me down for something creeping up on $110 million, a prediction I feel pretty confident about after years of playing this guessing-game.)

Keep this in mind: Early box office tracking is not meant to predict a film’s outcome; it’s meant to guide a studio’s resource allocation in the late stages of movie marketing. If the bosses at DC/Warner Bros. don’t like what the numbers say today, they can amp up their efforts to goose the result for its June 2 release.


So we just don’t know yet. But I’ll say this, the box office figures on June 4 may well be the most important numbers in the history of superhero movies.

17 COMMENTS

  1. I understand the importance of a female lead film doing well, but here are my problems:

    1) It reminds of the first Captain America film too much
    2) I don’t like the Snyder handling of the DCU and this film’s success reinforces it
    3) I don’t think it looks entertaining – who is the villain?

    I am not going to see it opening weekend, but I will probably see it the next.

  2. Since the first Captain America movie was awesome and did really well I like that it looks like that. I understood that the villain was going to be Mars, The God of War. It looks great and I will be there opening weekend. This will be the first Snyder film I have watched since Watchmen which I also thought was great.

  3. Bad movie is bad and it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with it having developed romance plot or not. Bigger factor was probably that plots about middle ages knights have largely gone out of fashion in last decade or so.

  4. While Snyder’s style, influence, and writing will be found on DC’s movies going forward, he did not direct Wonder Woman, which is a reason to see it. If it is successful, here’s hoping DC will think differently about its movies going forward.

  5. King Arthur didn’t bomb because it failed to appeal to the female viewer, though it pretty clearly did ignore that demographic. There are enough dudes out there to rack up more than $15 million at the U.S. box office.

    The movie bombed because the trailers looked like absolute garbage. They basically said “Here’s a movie with literally everything people complain about in action films.” Maybe the movie is so bad there’s nothing the trailer people could do and maybe King Arthur lacks cultural significance today, but King Arthur didn’t bomb because women didn’t go see it. NOBODY went to see it.

    Mike

  6. “here’s hoping DC will think differently about its movies going forward.”

    As someone who not only watched the same bunch of people spend over a decade driving TV Star Trek into a ditch it still hasn’t gotten out of but saw John Nathan Turner destroy a British TV icon, I’m not holding out much hope.

    Mike

  7. If they want to make Arthur work, they should adapt the best Camelot story ever: The Mists of Avalon. Would make an amazing film trilogy or prestige TV series that would knock the crap out of GoT.

  8. I’m a sucker for Arthurian adventures (even a took Medieval Studies class in college) so, of course, I saw the movie. I kinda enjoyed it – and my big takeaway was that I thought it was a commentary on the “Frat Boy Start-Up” culture. You know, bad boys doing things THEIR way, eschewing the establishment, and then winning big- just like they were “destined to’ . Like the guys from Uber or Zappos…or perhaps even a little bit of bad-boy Steve Jobs. I was surprised how little marketing there was behind the picture, tho. And to Rob Salkowitz – let’s get some financing and make that Mists of Avalon trilogy.

  9. This is strictly a Wonder Woman Origin story, so they may as well have called it Wonder Woman Begins. Knowing who the villain is would detract from her story. Everybody knows Superman and Batman’s origin, you’d actually have to pick up a comic book (god forbid) to find out about hers.
    (Still so angry about the legend of wonder woman).

    The King Arthur thing is frustrating because even though it’s failed, nobody is ever going to say that male led films just DON’T WORK.

    We could probably thank the Hunger Games for Wonder Woman, honestly. Mad Max definitely helped too. Though nothing beats Kill Bill.

    I don’t even like that Snyder was a scriptwriter on this – Heinbergs’ really short run was fine but surely they could have tapped Gail Simone for this- who did an excellent job on the DC animated film. There was even a symbolic fight in a shopping mall – that’s cinema.

    There’s really no reason outside of the movie being really bad that this film is going to fail. It has a sensible budget, and the film makers seemed commited to actually telling the story of one character. Some of the CGI is pretty cringe – but on the whole they way she moves in those action scenes are really different because of her lasso.

  10. Psst… here’s the big secret about Wonder Woman in the DCEU…
    She appears during World War I.
    She predates ALL the other superheroes by DECADES.
    She’s the first superhero to appear, and sets the bar for all other heroes who appear afterward in that timeline.
    Of course, it also appears that The Powers That Be scrubbed her from the historical record afterwards, until BvS. In which case, she’s like Logan… appearing here and there over the years covertly.

  11. Rob Salkowitz – There is a Mists of Avalon miniseries (Hallmark?) of 15-odd years ago. I doubt that a new series of movie will be made – Marion Zimmer Bradley’s name is mud since details about her abusing her daughter came to light.

  12. At least we’ll be spared the five sequels that KING ARTHUR was supposed to spawn. Unless, of course, the movie is a huge hit overseas (i.e., in Asia), in which case there will be sequels, even if nobody in North America wants them.

    Warner should have just re-released 1981’s EXCALIBUR, which I’d pay to see on a big screen again.

  13. “Unless, of course, the movie is a huge hit overseas”

    I’m old enough to remember when foreign films had the reputation of being classier than American flicks. That pretension wasn’t able to survive the expansion of U.S. films in to the global market and the undeniable evidence that foreign audiences love garbage blockbusters even more than us Yanks.

  14. And I remember when independent movies were usually lowbrow exploitation flicks that played drive-ins and grindhouses. (DEEP THROAT was an “independent movie.”) Major studio films were still classy in the ‘ 70s. Boy, has that changed! Now indie films play art houses and the studio product is aimed mainly at 13-year-olds.

  15. King Arthur is a thing that didn’t need to be done again and had bland white male actors at the helm. On the other hand, you get all the hype machine with every single geeky lady for Wonder Woman and DC fans who are giving it a shot since it looks like a good movie after so many disappointments with all of the DC live action films. It also helps that most college students are done with their spring semester so they have time to watch the film.

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