Scott Pilgrim vs. the Box Office

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It’s got it all: a huge cult following, a great cast, an A-list director, and a massive marketing push. So then, why, oh why, did Scott Pilgrim vs. the World bomb big time at the US box office last weekend? After all, its opening weekend competition was washed-up 1980s action heroes in The Expendables and more typical romantic schlock from Julia Roberts. But Scott Pilgrim finished fifth, losing out to the two week old The Other Guys and the month old Inception as well.

That’s rough, no doubt.

So what happened? I think this is a case of a rather misleading marketing campaign. I know that you’ve seen Pilgrim ads and coverage plastered all over the sites you visit, including here at Broken Frontier. SDCC had a pretty decent Scott Pilgrim showing, and the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, both from film critics and comic book fans alike. But that’s sort of the problem, in this case. The marketing for the film has been essentially preaching to the choir, and the result is placing #5 on the weekend box office.

Putting ads on sites that are geared towards comic book fans that have likely read Scott Pilgrim and are fans of it is essentially wasting money that could be invested elsewhere. Fans of the book are going to go to the film regardless; they’ve decided to buy their ticket when the movie was announced. It’s everyone else that needed convincing. To those that have read the series or at least know of it from browsing through their comic shops, Scott Pilgrim isn’t a hard sell. But for the rest of the world, the concept of the movie was never accurately conveyed through the trailers or TV spots. Quite frankly, if you had no idea about Scott Pilgrim as a comic or previously existing property, it looked absolutely stupid.

Universal may have gotten a bit cocky when it came to this film, forgetting that Comic-Con does not represent the be-all and end-all of moviegoers, and that the majority of America was in the dark on Scott Pilgrim. Basically, they treated the property like it was Harry Potter when it’s actually Percy Jackson. Giving this property the star treatment is great; it deserves it. The problem is that marketing it to the minority that are already in the know isn’t going to help anything in the long run. Scott Pilgrim needed more of a presence on MTV Networks, Nickelodeon, and mainstream talk shows, with less of a focus on geek-centric media. More importantly, the trailers should’ve been cut differently, showcasing perhaps less of the ADD-insanity and more Michael Cera awkwardness. Sick of him or not, that’s what sells.

It’s unfortunate that we’ll likely never see a sequel, unless word catches on and the DVD spreads like wildfire. But let this be a lesson to movie studios snatching up all of those comic book properties like candy: if you want to continue mining the comic book industry with the floodgates open, making the film good enough to appease the nerds isn’t good enough anymore, you’ve got to position it right as well.

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  • JoeMD

    JoeMD Aug 23, 2010 at 9:49pm

    I agree with what the writer says, apart from the two big SDCC trailers everything I saw made the film look like a bad teen romcom. A bloody shame. However, I remain hopeful and predict that Pilgrim will do a Donnie Darko - word of mouth will get out and it'll be rediscovered on DVD. It deserves it too, it's an absolutally amazing film!

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