Friday, July 22, 2011

A possible miscalculation

Remember last Friday, when I tried to discuss the effect of a geographically limited real-world phenomenon -- LA's closure of the 405 freeway -- on possible box office for the movies opening that weekend?

Well, I'm back for Week 2 of that kind of flawed cause-and-effect thinking. Ready?

I'm sure that Marvel would have loved nothing more than to open Captain America on 4th of July weekend. The thematic tie-ins are obvious. But in terms of cinematic scope, Captain America is less like America than, say, Italy -- a solid mid-level producer, but not a giant on the world stage. There was already an American-sized movie, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, opening on 4th of July weekend, and who wants to go up against a movie like that?

If they didn't get their first choice of a themed release date, perhaps they got their second: the Friday of Comic-Con. What better time to release a movie based on a comic book?

Except, it isn't a great time, really. Because all the geeks are busy in San Diego.

As much as Captain America will be getting a push at Comic-Con because it's opening right now, it'll be getting held back by the fact that its intended audience will be otherwise occupied.

Only geeks from Southern California, Vance. Which is only a small percentage of the geek population.

Not true. Comic-Con has risen in stature to the level that people travel from all over the country -- probably all over the world -- to soak in the sights of that convention center over the course of a long weekend, to wend their way through the Spock ears and the stormtrooper helmets, to rub elbows for a few days with their brethren.

That will still leave plenty of other geeks and non-geeks available to see the movie. Many geeks lack the necessary resources to travel to Comic-Con -- they have enough money to spring for an opening night movie ticket every week, but not enough to fly to San Diego. And besides, if there's any comic book movie that is attempting to push itself outside the normal geek demographic, it would be this one, with its inherent patriotism bordering on jingoism -- not a characteristic you normally associated with your average disenfranchised nerd.

But a movie like this is borderline enough, in terms of summer blockbusters, that it needs every dollar that opening weekend to create the buzz necessary to carry over to weekend #2 and weekend #3. Captain America was a bit of a fringe superhero in terms of my superhero world view when I was growing up -- there was something too earnest about his persona. Even then, when I was unacquainted with politics, there seemed something too unironic and conservative about a superhero wearing a spandex American flag. So this movie is no guaranteed success -- far from it. In fact, it could face the same type of struggles to reach an audience that Green Lantern faced.

So if tens of thousands of those available box office dollars are being spent on X-Men t-shirts and replica lightsabers in San Diego, they won't be going into Captain America's coffers when it needs them most.

As for Comic-Con itself ... I'll get there, some year. I'm only two hours away by car, so travel is not a consideration. I've got some friends who go every year, and the tales they bring back are always entertaining.

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