Live By The Sword…Die By The Sword: Star Wars And Social Media

Movies in many ways are about bringing people together and which promotes the sharing of ideas. We as the movie going public watch trailers, share our impression with our social networks, and then after we have seen the movie we share our experiences again. Before the rise of social media tools like Facebook, the much sought out word of mouth was the only true method of ensuring the true impact of movie going. Now the jungle drums of the word of mouth have been re-invented into social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Millions are connected and have almost a religious devotion to the platforms. Social networks are the prime venue now in which to promote and attach to an audience.. Social media was what made it possible for the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer to garner over 1 million views in the first 23 minutes. Like the old quote goes live by the sword….die by the sword.

The Last Jedi, and it’s requisite box office performance has show the world that the following the patterns that Hollywood demands for theatres is a dangerous thing. Theatres who decided not to commit to the 4 week require run and are most likely mopping their forehead, in realization that they just dodged a bullet. It may out of the norm that a movie that has earned nearly $400 million in domestic box office receipts is perceived to be such a giant problem but that the box office performance is seen as a huge shortfall relative to expectations. The $400 million box office only looks good only if we ignore the results of every previous Star Wars movie. But a closer look at the numbers reveals what a box office mess The Last Jedi is.

It’s not just The Last Jedi’s 69 percent 2nd weekend plummet that underscores its troubles. In the scope of box office analysis its a herculean decline, but a dozen other big-budgeted, intensely marketed studio tent-poles movies have seen like percentage declines. These movies include Fifty Shades of Grey, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and three of the Twilight Movies……but this is Star Wars and because it’s Star Wars …. it’s more than significant.

It’s the dollars plunge that really staggers, $151.5 million sinking $220 million debut to its performance of $68.5 million second weekend, that is blowing analysts away. In the the past only a few movies like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, and Batman v Superman have seen a reduction of $100 million or more in box office from one weekend to the next. Scores of former die-hard fans have publicly sworn off (on the internet) seeing any future Star Wars installments . And with a 52 percent Rotten Tomatoes audience rating, it’s not good.

Now I saw the movie in the second and as a fan of the franchises I was very underwhelmed by The Last Jedi. The story line was a regurgitation of the first installment with plot holes you could drive a truck through, awkward performances and a lack of proper character development primarily in the instantaneous realization of Jedi powers of Rey, where as Luke Skywalker took three movies to fully develop his skills. In many ways it was an empty vessel.

I would say that many other fans feel the same way. They drummed out their disappointment over social media and the tent-pole that is the Star Wars franchise began swaying in the the gusty winds of contrary opinion. It will not recover from the perceptions now embedded on the many social media platforms out there.

A couple decades ago, marketing a brand new sci-fi film could take huge research in order to determine the best market focus our outlook determine where and when to market it. Jump forward to today and Social media groups, categories, and hashtags allow movie studios and filmmakers to target a certain demographic with a shared interest. It’s a simple method, connect to your audience and provide compelling content for them to share. A Pew Research Center study has shown that the average Facebook user is connected with 338 friends. Broadcasting a movie trailer across that old Social network achieved than a word of mouth could ever do. A a grassroots marketing campaign can spread like wildfire if the right demographic embraces and runs with it. Attract the online fanbase and they will come.

The problem is that it is truly a double edged sword. Daisy Ridley in an interview, star of The Last Jedi was quoted as saying “ That social media was bad for your mental health”. I think she is right but by her making such a statement she is kind of biting the hands that feeds her.

Initially the fan praise was huge and the studio fanned the flames of that fandom. The problem is that dissenters jumped on that train and quickly hijacked it. They start vocalizing their disdain and issues and as a result he second week performance quickly was diminished. Box office collapsed and hopefully Hollywood learned an important lesson. The most important factor in a movie’s marketing ecosystem is the community. I have made this point before but unless you are into community building then you are doomed to sit in the doldrums.

Now Disney is not the only victim of the social media sword, Bright produced by Netflix was soundly trounced. A wave against the $90 million movie rose quickly and crushed the movie quickly. Here is a quote from a denizen of Social media.

I can finally tell everyone that you should avoid Bright like the plaque. The dialogue is horrendous, the acting is piss-poor, and the direction is incredibly lazy. Netflix needs to hire someone who knows film to run their film division because #BrightMovie is just embarrassing. Scott Wenzel

Now I saw the movie,not the worst movie of the year but it was tepid. In face of Social Media movies will rise and they will fall. The studios have unleashed a beast in which they have no ability to control or constrain. Theatre owners should take deep note of the community which impact them on social media, being a dialog and understand how to partner in order to sustain the movie going experience.

It is solely about the community