If you're a major movie studio and your Spring/Early Summer releases don't have the words "Avenger" or "Marigold" in the title you're probably disappointed. Just about every release outside of Marvel's The Avengers from Disney, and Fox Searchlight's Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has failed to meet the expectations of the producers, studios, and box office analysts when it comes to ticket sales.
The latest disappointment is Men In Black 3 in 3D starring Will Smith in his first starring role in 4 years, Tommy Lee Jones, and Josh Brolin as Tommy Lee Jones. So far Men In Black 3 has raked in an estimated $202 million worldwide by some reports so far which should make the studio happy.
However, they're not.
Well, allow me to explain.
Why the studio denies it, most outlets say the budget for MIB3 is over $300 million, and probably another $100-$200 million has been spent marketing and preparing the 4,000+ theatrical release. That means that the movie needs to literally set Avengers level records, and as quickly as possible, just to break even once you take into account the expenses, and the pieces of the pie taken by the theaters, foreign exhibitors/distributors, and the major players with "dollar one" back-end deals.
However, the studio should have seen that the odds of breaking those records were slimmer than they thought, and that they should have hedged their bets so they didn't have to be a record breaker to break even.
What were the signs?
1. THE FIRST SEQUEL
MIB2 was a disappointment when compared to the first movie, both critically and commercially. MIB1 made almost $600 million on a $90 million production budget and had a 91% "Fresh" rating from Rotten Tomatoes. MIB2 made under $450 million at the box office on a $140+ million production budget, and got a 39% "Rotten" rating from critics via Rotten Tomatoes.
That means the movie left a pretty bad taste in the mouth of audiences, the ticket sales showed it, and they should have seen that any third entry would run the risk of a bad case of rising costs and diminishing returns.
2. THE THIRD FILM'S IMAGE
They waited 10 years before making the third installment. That meant that the first movie was now considered 90s nostalgia, and the second movie considered short-hand for disappointing sequels. It also comes after Will Smith's extended hiatus from acting, and Tommy Lee Jones' extended tenure as the Grand Old Man of indie movies and smaller dramas, and probably needs to buff up his bank account for his inevitable retirement.
That makes the whole thing look like this illustration.
You see, there's no creative impetus behind the third film. No important conclusion to the saga to made, no grand story just begging to be told. It looked like an attempt for all involved to just cash in on the first film's legacy.
That's not a good image for a movie to have if they really need to break records to break even. The collective mass consciousness of the audience can smell fear, and they can smell pointless greed on the part of the studio and the stars.
And stuff like this doesn't help:
Having a star's trailer being bigger than the house I grew up in, does not make it look like he's doing the movie for love. It looks like blind greed by a spoiled brat of a star, and that no one involved is really going to burn any calories trying to make it a great movie.
It could have been avoided, but that would have meant the studio being willing to risk passing on a movie guaranteed a number one opening weekend. Too many executives can't see past that opening weekend, and put all their eggs into that basket, not realizing, or willfully ignoring, that their movies have become so expensive, they need legs capable of carrying them further, sometimes weeks further than that.
Will Hollywood learn anything from this situation? Will they try to be more efficient, cost-effective, and know when their greed can turn off audiences?
Probably not. After all, it did make it to #1 on its opening weekend.