Onward And Downward

Another big Disney (Pixar) branded movie just soft landed this weekend. About a 40 million haul at the box office (likely a bit lower but 40 sounds a lot better than 39 doesn’t it? That’s no accident).

Onward is the film in question. The lowest Pixar opening ever is now it’s claim to glory. And yes it had a weird, confusing plot to advertise – but so did Up (68M) and Wall-e (63M), and those opened much higher.

Cue the excuses!

This is the fun part. Because the real story is the blame game that will play out on the Disney lot tomorrow. Oh a lot of it will be quiet, some of it behind closed doors. Some of it will be spun through the press. Some Disney brass will try to ignore it and move on quickly.

But there will be excuses aplenty.

Coronavirus, yeah it was that. Marketing failed to give it hook (or make it look very engaging). Pixar finally just missed (never mind the 86% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes). Streaming keeps chipping away at us cause they’re a bunch of meanies. Kids are too stupid with their entertainment choices these days. Or not stupid enough!

Yeah everyone over there will do everything except look in the mirror. Never their fault. But when the movies succeed it’s all because of everything they did. See how it works? It’s an easy game. And some people in Hollywood are really good at it.

Thing is, history doesn’t give a shit about excuses. You can have all the asterisks you want, all history looks at are the numbers. Box office results have been compromised many times before by world events (mass shootings, etc) or poor marketing, or shitty looking CGI, or female Ghostbuster backlash – or whatever.

But when anyone goes back in time for reference, all that matters are the numbers. You were involved with Onward? Oh, did you win or lose? 40 million opening? Ouch, you lost. Wall-e and Up crushed that number and ticket prices were cheaper then.

In Hollywood, you’re only as good as those numbers. Comps get dragged out all the time, never with asterisks. Remember that movie from 2008? Yeah it opened to 75 million. Never mind that it was a 4 or 5 day weekend instead of 3, like the current movie you’re comparing it to. Or never mind that it was a 3-day opening while yours was basically 4 since you started shows at 5pm on THURSDAY yet somehow added those numbers into your 3-day weekend total.

Or holiday weekends vs regular weekends. Or marketplace competition. It’s NEVER apples to apples. It’s never fair. And it never matters. At the end of the day all the fudging, cheating and finger-pointing doesn’t matter. The numbers are the numbers.

Which is exactly why all the fudging, cheating, and spinning began in the first place. Because smart execs realized that those numbers will make or break their careers, so the simple APPEARANCE of beating expectations is all that matters – whether it’s a 10 million opening or 100 million. Hit that number at all costs. Who cares about reality (like if the movie was actually profitable)? Who lives in reality? Look who our President is.

That’s how Thursday night screenings started counting as part of the 3-day weekend. Or how an extra 5 million gets thrown into advertising just to buy another 2 million in box office – to hit that 20 million opening instead of a much worse-looking 18. Or reporting to the press that the opening was 20 even though distribution knows full well they will fall short. This kind of stuff really happens.

But the excuses are the best. And they all make them. This is everybody’s fault but mine.

And then they wonder how Donald Trump gets away with it.

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