Saturday, August 14, 2010

Demographics for dummies

The usual goal, with any film that gets released, is to reach as many different types of viewer as possible. That's the way you make the most money. And that's also why you sometimes see several different TV campaigns that are distinctly different in tone -- one that might push the romantic side of a movie, one that might emphasize its funny parts, one that might make it look like a thriller. It's all just a matter of cleverly editing the available footage.

Considering this, can you remember a weekend that was more packed with new releases that didn't give a damn about appealing to anyone outside their target demographic?

The three major new releases this week -- Eat Pray Love, The Expendables, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World -- are each basically the prototypical example of the type of movie they are. Eat Pray Love -- adapted from a self-help book, starring Julia Roberts, and featuring dozens of exotic locations -- is squarely aimed at women age 18 to 49. The Expendables -- a testosterone-laden gathering of everyone who's ever starred in an action movie since 1984, and directed by the king of that group, Sylvester Stallone -- is intended purely for the men in that same age range. And Scott Pilgrim vs. the World -- starring teen icon Michael Cera and based on a graphic novel -- is for everyone under 18, of both genders.

So, pretty much everyone will have something to see this weekend. Those over 49 will probably go see Eat Pray Love. Which I'm predicting will be the weekend's box office winner. Hey, it's Julia, after all.

However, it will be interesting to monitor the performances of the other two, as they are each something of a test of the viability of a certain type of movie.

The Expendables is the one I'm most interested in -- not in terms of wanting to see it the most, but in terms of how it will fly with audiences. As I wrote last year when 12 Rounds came out (check out the post here), the "action hero" as such is something that doesn't really exist anymore, like he did in the 1980s -- except in this movie. In fact, this movie is giving some seriously out-of-work actors (Dolph Lundgren, anyone?) another chance at glory -- which may be either a brilliant move or an extremely stupid one. There's a reason guys like Lundgren, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal don't appear in movies you've ever heard of anymore -- the audience simply stopped wanting to see them. At least Stallone didn't go that far down the list to Van Damme and Seagal, and smartly hedged his bets with some guys who have current box office appeal, such as Mickey Rourke, Jason Statham and Jet Li. But even Stallone himself is a total relic these days -- the man is 64 years old -- so it will be really interesting to see if audiences buy a movie in which he is basically the star, and basically playing the 1982 version of himself.

As for Scott Pilgrim, that's the one of these three that I would probably see, but only because I'm still trying to hang on to that 18-year-old version of myself. Actually, I know it could be really good, but I also have my doubts, in part because of my well-documented case of being over Michael Cera. (There's something about the earnest way he's rocking out on the guitar in this poster that just rubs me the wrong way.) But I did discuss the possibility of seeing it a couple weeks ago with a friend, so that may transpire. In terms of being an observer of the film industry, I'm interested to see just how much box office clout Cera actually has. His roles have been steadily increasing in profile in recent years, as he's been breaking out of ensembles and starting to really carry movies himself. This is the first summer release he's had since last year's Year One, in which Jack Black did at least as much if not more of the heavy lifting in terms of trying to bring in audiences. This time out, he has no co-headliner, so it will really serve as some kind of gauge of Cera's ability to sink or swim. Let's hope having Edgar Wright as director can only help.

Eat Pray Love? I will see it on an airplane sometime.


Fletch said...

Your overall point is solid, but I would say that there's a bit more overlap than you're giving credit for, particularly as it relates to Pilgrim. Surely, there's a large chunk of Pilgrim intended for any and all gamers, potentially going as far back as NES players, who are at least in their mid-to-late-30s right now. In addition, you've got your Edgar Wright fanboys/girls, the bulk of which I'd imagine are in their 20s.

If anything, I'd think the age range for The Expendables is more like 30-55, so maybe there's still a line, it's just shifted a bit.

Vancetastic said...


Excellent point of course -- and I admit to a little ignorance in terms of my knowledge of Scott Pilgrim as a previously existing entity. I think I may have muddied my argument a little bit by throwing in the age ranges -- I used 18-49 because that is an exiting demographic that people always refer to. What I really meant was the movies could be categorized as MACHO MOVIE, CHICK FLICK and SLACKER MOVIE, in capital letters each.

Thanks for the comment!

Mark said...

I was reading over the weekend that Stallone did attempt to recruit both Van Damme and Seagal, both of whom turned him down. The former doing so because Stallone refused to tell give him any information about his character!

Vancetastic said...


Wow, what else could those guys have going on? Actually, I was shocked to see Seagal's recent output -- it's frankly huge. Could he really be so satisfied with sleep-walking through straight-to-video actioners?