What do The Circle and Collide have in common? Not much, you'd think. But for one, both films bombed at the box office. Secondly, both featured high-profile actors: #EmmaWatson and #FelicityJones, respectively.
The most notable similarity between the two films, though, is not that they were bad movies with A-listers in the mix. It's that both were released around the same time as other successful blockbusters starring Watson and Jones.
Back in the day, studios forced theaters to show B-films (cheaper, sometimes bad movies) if theaters wanted to screen the big-ticket movies, a term known as "block booking." These days, for many bad films like the aforementioned movies, it is stars' brand recognition that brings (a few) people into the theater ... if those bad movies open around the same time as good movies.
Felicity Jones's Collide Opened Soon After Rogue One
No filmmaker wants to make a bad movie, but no one has control over public and critical opinion. Luckily for #Collide, the studio could piggyback off the Rogue One fame of Felicity Jones and the X-Men background of Nicholas Hoult, winning some viewers when the movie premiered in the U.S. Sir Anthony Hopkins and Sir Ben Kingsley even had prominent roles in the film.
Collide released in February to unwelcoming reviews, and its box office performance suffered, with revenues of $4 million against a reported budget of $21 million. Still, as evident by its box office numbers, some people paid money to see Collide. Why?
Simple: Because of Jones and Hoult’s recognition among the general audience.
If a movie can't finance an extensive marketing campaign, an A-list actor’s brand recognition can be enough to fill some theater seats. Actors' fame alone won't do the trick, but studios are releasing their high-risk bad movies in close proximity to the same actors' guaranteed blockbusters.
Collide released just two months after Rogue One hit theaters on December 16. That brief time gap was enough to convince general audiences, and even the Star Wars fandom, that Felicity Jones’s Collide was worth seeing in theaters. By January 18, Rogue One had already earned a staggering $980 million at the box office, and by the end of that month, it had already surpassed the $1 billion mark. Chances are that if you knew who Felicity Jones was after seeing Rogue One, you’d be more apt to see any of her new movies.
Even Jones’s previous 2016 movies earned a small box office boost after the quick success of Rogue One. Ron Howard’s Inferno, in which Jones also starred, released in October 2016 and was a box office disaster. The week after Rogue One became a worldwide sensation, Inferno tripled its weekly earnings. Having an A-list actor in your film's cast can really come in handy ... even if they're just about to become an A-lister.
Emma Watson's Name Marketed The Circle — And So Did Beauty And The Beast
We just saw a similar Hollywood stunt transpire with another #Disney star: Emma Watson. The techno-thriller The Circle released on April 26, a little over a month after #BeautyAndTheBeast premiered on March 17. This allowed #TheCircle to successfully inter-market itself with the Disney blockbuster — trailers and TV spots for both films would be reaching audiences at the same time.
The desired effect in this inter-marketing tactic is essentially to make both films indistinguishable from each other — studios hope that audiences will just want to see the new Emma Watson movie, whatever it is. In other words, if audiences go see Beauty and the Beast, then perhaps they'll also have interest in seeing Watson’s other movie that also happens to be in theaters.
Indeed, some viewers did go see The Circle (it's earned $17 million on an $18 million budget, not including marketing costs), even though — like Collide — it received generally negative reviews. The studio may have known it had a stinker on its hands, but they used the hype of Watson's surefire hit Beauty and the Beast to recoup their expenses.
The movie, it seems, did not spend a large sum of money on marketing, as promotion for the film was rather obscure; its Facebook page has only accumulated 63,000 likes and its Instagram page has only 6,236 followers, a small amount considering the movie’s premise is centered on social media.) Emma Watson's brand recognition — in combination with Beauty and the Beast's positive reception — was essentially The Circle’s most powerful marketing tool.
Hollywood's Secret Trick
Hollywood used to force theaters to show bad movies if the theaters wanted to screen quality blockbusters. This made the Hollywood studios huge amounts of money, as even their bad films would fill seats.
Now, it's a little different. Studios aren't trying to create mediocre films, but some movies just don't pan out. By putting A-list talent into low-budget fare, studios can release their misfires at the same time as their bullseyes — all in hopes that the actors' recognition alone is enough to make you buy two tickets instead of just one.
Do you care more about a movie's reviews or its cast? Let me know in the comments below!