The dissappointing showing of SNAKES ON A PLANE continues to haunt Hollywood, and the Internet may not be our friend any more. Someone sent us this link to THR’s Martin Grovevery long and thorough analysis of why the film floundered, as opposed to, say THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT which also had a viral internet marketing campaign:

Why did the Internet work magic for “Witch” and leave “Snakes” writhing in the aisles? “Because there wasn’t a negative on ‘Blair Witch,'” he pointed out. “The tracking showed a huge negative (feeling about ‘Snakes’). It looked like a silly picture that people didn’t want to see. ‘Blair Witch’ never looked like a silly picture. ‘Blair Witch’ never had a high negative.”

Coming back to the damage done by making “Snakes” R-rated, he observed, “If you go out with a picture like this and you put an R rating on it and the biggest audience is teenage boys and you’re shutting them out in two-thirds of the country, you get what you deserve. It was a gross mistake. The director and Sam Jackson talked them into it. And they went heavy on the (very rough) dialogue and some scenes, which you could do without. I mean, you could approach the scene without showing the conclusion and that’s the way you get a PG-13. There’s no need for it. It’s over the top. It defies all the laws of marketing. You have to know who the audience for that (film) is.”

Now you may be wondering why The Beat is haunted by SNAKES ON A PLANE, a movie we never even planned on going to see. We’re a little bit fascinated by the cautionary tale of marketers who decided that giving a few vocal people on the internet what they wanted would be giving EVERYONE what they wanted. It was internet “buzz” that made New Line go back for reshoots which made the film more violent and more profane and moved it into R rated territory. It just proves — giving fans what they want doesn’t always make them happy.


  1. Giving a small, vocal group of fans on the Internet what they want makes that small, vocal group of fans on the Internet happy. It doesn’t do squat for the general public, apparently. The box office of “Serenity” would be the pre-SoaP movie that delivered the same lesson, but apparently nobody was listening. The Browncoats still aren’t.

  2. The box office of “Star Trekâ€? movies would be the pre-SoaP movie that delivered the same lesson, but apparently nobody was listening. The Trekkies still aren’t.

    Oh, wait. Sometimes, one-size-fits-all logic does not fit all sizes.

    BTW I loved Serenity, enjoyed some Star Trek movies, and don’t plan to see SoaP unless it hits 110 degrees here and I just want to get out of my non-A/C home and into an A/C-ed theatre.

  3. NOTE: The previous post is not disparaging the theory that business should be wary of paying too much attention to the most vocal of fans. It’s disparaging the theory that Serenity, a film based on a TV series that only a few fans watched, fits the creators-did-whatever-the-most-vocal-fans-desired scenario.

  4. I went to see SoaP last weekend with my wife and several of my wife’s friends were trying to talk her out of going to see the movie with me (she ended up enjoying it). You know you are going to have problems with a movie, when you have people who have no plans in seeing the movie but on top of that are trying to convince people who are going to see it not to go.

    As for Serenity, with the way the Firefly and Serenity DVD’s continue to sell (currently #22 and #56 respectively on’s top DVD’s) and the way fanbase continues to expand, it seems the movie was made too soon (or released) too soon.

  5. I think beyond the R rating what was more damaging was that there was what, over a year’s worth of buildup/hype online? That’s like 20 years in internet time, and anathema to the ADD of the medium. The backlash was inevitable given the timeframe. It gave enough people time to realize that the concept of the movie was a lot better in theory than as a fully-realized feature–it would have been more popular as a three-minute short on YouTube.

  6. All creators and fans have to do is come to a point of agreement: you will not appeal to ALL people ALL the time. Sorry, but there are some of us out here who just thought SoaP was lame from the beginning, an entire movie built around one stupid line – kinda like the Halle Berry Catwoman was built around one wet dream of seeing her in that suit. But you know what? The guys who say a PG-13 version would have been worse are right. Sometimes, you just have to accept that what you’re producing is going to appeal to a narrower audience and go with that. A niche appeal doesn’t have to mean failure, but you have to accept that it means you have to economize on the production of the movie.

    And you also have another situation. The problem with the Internet-driven re-tool was simply that once we all read about it online, there was no reason to spend $10 to see it – we all knew what this movie was about from Day One – and even the internet people have got to, at some point, admit, that when they’re the ones in the driver’s seat, there are very few surprises. It’s like getting everything you had on your Christmas list – and nothing else. It happened to me once when I was 11, and I learned a valuable lesson – it was NOT all that and a bag of chips.

    Gotta tell ya, when it feels like I could have written the movie I’m paying good money to see, it’s disappointing and I feel ripped off. It just gets too predictable when you put in all the fanboy comments ahead of time.

  7. I agree that SERENITY wasn’t obviously targeted to the whims of fans – they were existing fans of an existing product. But it IS a previous example of how the Internet can jump up and down and get terribly excited about something, only for it to turn out that the people involved just aren’t representative of the general public.

    I think part of the problem may be that people in the media really, really WANT to believe in all this “new media, web 2.0” stuff for the same reason that people in comics really, really WANT to believe that the stuff we’re talking about is going to change the face of the world. But while the people using the Internet are (relatively) representative by this stage, the people talking loudest on it certainly aren’t.

  8. Giving a small, vocal group of fans on the Internet what they want makes that small, vocal group of fans on the Internet happy. It doesn’t do squat for the general public, apparently. The box office of “Serenityâ€? would be the pre-SoaP movie that delivered the same lesson, but apparently nobody was listening. The Browncoats still aren’t.

    I disagree, there. The Serenity movie came about not because the studio decided to listen to a loud group of fans, but because that loud group of fans was able to grab the studio’s attention with strong DVD sales… I expect someone tried to project how many movie tickets each DVD set represented. They overestimated.

    Serenity had a lot of internet hype (mostly about free tickets for talking about Serenity online) but the lesson there says not to expect a TV series popular on DVD to easliy translate into box office gold.

    And the lesson has been learned from Serenity. There’s been no Wonderfalls or Futurama theatrical film, despite strong DVD sales for those series (all Fox/Recency properties, IIRC). Futurama, instead, is following the path Family Guy sucessfully navigated.

  9. Just as STAR TREK is an example of how a small fanbase can jump up and down and get terribly excited about something that had been unpopular in the past, only for it to do well.

    Internet excitement may or may not lead to success. Popularity is not easy to predict as we’d like. It’s just as fallacious to say that Hollywood should know that past failure proves future failure, as Hollywood is when it thinks that past success proves future success.

    I do now agree to Edward’s SoaP/SERENITY association. Thanks Paul, for helping me read his post from a different angle.

  10. Warner is taking a different lesson away from its strong BABYLON 5 box-set DVD sales: greenlit some direct-to-video stories with the original cast, which may also see television airing. Be interesting to see if there’s a financial success here where theatrical releases failed.

  11. I’m so sick of seeing Hollywood complain about how “badly” this movie did.

    This movie would have been a completely anonymous film that practially went straight to DVD if it wasn’t for the internet buzz. It would have made Ishtar look like Titanic without the buzz. Anyone who was expecting a b-grade airline disaster to become some massive cinematic event was deluding themselves.

    There’s only one thing worse than refusing to learn from mistakes, and that’s learning the wrong thing from your mistakes. Internet hype did not hurt this movie in any way — it saved the movie from obscurity. There’s only so much you can polish a turd, and the truth is most people didn’t think “Snakes on a Plane” sounded very entertaining.

    I went to see it opening night with a dozen friends, and the theater was packed with excited people. If we’d seen it without the energy in the room, we probably would have all walked out (truthfully, we never would have gone in the first place).

  12. What Nathaniel said.

    This movie was only made “famous” on the internet because of the BAD premise. I don’t plan on seeing it, and it only made me worry about Sam Jackson’s career.

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