Welcome to the latest edition of 24 Frames. Sahara Shrestha and Andrew Jamieson will be guiding you through the exciting, confusing and often brilliant world of 'film'. Expect news, trailers and plenty of opinion.

The latest edition is brought to you by Andrew Jamieson, who can be found on twitter over at @theghostwriterc.



24 Frames: The 'Box Office' Edition

This week I interviewed the US critic and blogger Kyle Pinion about some of the successes and failures during a crowded year at the US box office. Kyle is the owner and director of the website Geekrex.



Why do you think some major movies have made less at the US box office this year?

There's really not a clear cut answer to this question and if I had the correct response, I'd be the head of Paramount Pictures right now. But let's take the case of two major Box Office Disappointments within the US Domestically, Pacific Rimand The Lone Ranger as they're both emblematic of the kind of films that are unable to catch American audiences in droves.

Pacific Rim, despite my significant qualms with it, was a generally well received film critically and gathered massive raves across the internet from the "fanboy outlets" (not the most descriptive of terms, but those sites dedicated to reviewing sci-fi, horror, comic book properties and the like tend to fall in that category). Yet, it performed pitifully here in the States, debuting in third place at the Box Office behind the latest Adam Sandler vehicle Grownups 2 and what became a Box Office juggernaut in Despicable Me 2, and making just around 100 million in its final domestic gross.

It's hard to really nail down why Pacific Rim did so poorly and fell into the doldrums that affected films like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Cloud Atlas and John Carter over the past few years, but the go to reasoning has been two-fold:

1) A poorly structured marketing campaign by Warner Bros, which read as "for geeks by geeks".

2) (perhaps more importantly) no major stars within the cast that could be marketed to overcome the generally tough-sell concept.

Conversely, The Lone Ranger suffered from a completely different issue: it was a terrible film. Led by the team that was able to turn the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise into a money-generating machine, one would assume that the same would have been the case for The Lone Ranger. Again, this is a case of marketing failing to sell the product, with an unappealing trailer, a miscast Johnny Depp, and, much like Pacific Rim, an incredibly bland lead.

The Lone Ranger finished at 87 million domestically and a set a lot of heads rolling at Disney. It joined a long list of flops this year that included RIPD, Kick Ass 2, Elysium, The Smurfs 2, the aforementioned Pacific Rim, After Earth, and White House Down.

The more successful films this year have been tried and true familiar franchises. Yet, even the franchises struggled to keep pace with Star Trek Into Darkness and The Wolverine both performing below expectations. World War Z was the lone positive surprise for US Domestic Spending, and that was completely on the strength of Brad Pitt's name value and the familiarity and popularity of the zombie film as a draw, combine the two and you get a hit, regardless of quality. Because of these two factors, you end up with big name actors like Ben Affleck cast as Batman, with studios hedging their bets for their investors in hopes of securing their overinflated expectations for box office success. Older marquee names (Pitt, Affleck) and easily sellable ideas (Superman! Zombies! Robert Downey being funny and kicking some heads), and younger actors like Armie Hammer and Charlie Hunnam will be left on the sidelines.

When you look at some of the box office figures for these movies domestically why do you think that some of these properties make considerably more overseas? (I know that is quite a loaded question as the overseas market is naturally bigger but now marketing seems to be based on the international market rather than the domestic market)

It's a case by case basis for different movies. A year ago, The Amazing Spider-Man under-performed a bit here in the US, unable to secure more than 260 million but because of the shrewd casting of Irfan Khan and the popularity of the character in Asia, the film was able to make almost three quarters of its profit in the foreign marketplace. Iron Man 3 did equally well in foreign waters with its efforts to cater to the Chinese market, and even Pacific Rim had a tremendous showing there.

The one key thing to understand in relation to foreign box office takings are due to the increased marketing costs and the like. Studios only net about 45% or so of their overall profit from foreign dollars. But as I said before, foreign success is based around the property and the star's name on the marquee. A big mitigating factor though has been the increasingly shortened delay around the release dates of films in given countries. For years, the delay between a film's US release and its debut in other territories was massive, sometimes encompassing a 6 to 8 month gap. Now that Hollywood has noticed the significance of the growing Asian Market, and the relative strength of the Euro, the gap has been lessened to a month or two, or even less. The impact here is that American word of mouth's strength is greatly reduced, and any film that would have flopped in the foreign markets based on advanced word of quality are less likely to do so.

  • Brad Pitt in World War Z

Do you think the success of comic book movies helps or hinders the progress of original pieces in the studio system?

From an original filmmaking standpoint, it certainly hinders it. Comic Book films are the current bread and butter of studios like Fox, Sony, Warner Bros., and Disney/Marvel. We continue to predict that this bubble will burst, but it continually gets reinvigorated through innovations like the Nolan Dark Knight trilogy and the Marvel movie universe. As a long-time comic book fan, this is exciting from a personal standpoint. It also makes for somewhat frustrating summers as the paucity of original, adult-oriented entertainment continues to be a detriment to our collective film-viewing.

The release of The World's End this past weekend in the states is the first original, exciting summer film that I can remember since Inception was released. Sadly, these will continue to be the exception rather the rule, as Hollywood continues to get more and more conservative with its output rather than risk taking. While I'm generally a fan of Ben Affleck being cast as the next Batman, what I'm more excited about is that it will secure more of his films with WB for the foreseeable future. If more of the studios can make this kind of commitment to a gifted filmmaker, there may be some promise yet. I for one would love to see more Edgar Wright films at Marvel/Disney.

  • Jodie Foster in Elysium

What would you like to see happen over the next 12 months with the major studios and their output?

More originality, smarter marketing, and more risk taking by giving these massive tent poles to directors with greater vision. Stop making product and work towards film as an art form. It will never happen, but every so often there's something to savour. 2015 will be a very interesting year.


I would like to personally thank Kyle Pinion for his collaboration with 24 frames this week