ByJoseph Aberl, writer at

I confess that quite a handful of articles I wrote are inspired due to the recent release of Ant-Man, but I cannot deny it has given me a plethora of ideas about topics that would be interesting to talk about. While I have already reviewed the marketing campaign behind it and even questioned if there even was a point to the usage of TV spots in the digital age, another aspect of Ant-Man’s current Box Office has brought something to my attention. Does a brand truly sell a film? Considering that many have talked about the Avengers or Marvel effect that sells films, it simply has come to my attention that there might be more to the topic than one would think of at first. If brands truly sell the film then wouldn’t that mean that Disney would never have a Box Office flop?

Off the top of my head I can already think of two considerable flops that have occurred in the recent years for Disney alone. The Lone Ranger was probably one of the most notable flops in recent years even though it had the name recognition of Johnny Depp, who was certainly pushing the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise into quite a Box Office machine. However, even though it had quite a massive production budget of $215 million and quite an extensive marketing campaign, the film only opened to around §29 million and in total made $260 million worldwide. Considering that a production company only makes around half of the Box Office, as the rest goes to the cinemas, which is quite a steep drop. What went wrong? Isn’t Disney a strong brand that everyone knows about? It even had Johnny Depp, who has a considerable name recognition all on his own.

The Lone Ranger
The Lone Ranger

Where did it go wrong? Well, one could easily point out that the film had suffered from quite a production history, which ranged from the issue that the main American Native character was being portrayed by a Caucasian actor, which is a considerable race issue in general in Hollywood at the moment to constant re-writes from the script that once included CGI werewolves. Yet, the general audience probably has no interest in such elements, which could hint at the fact that there simply was no interest for this film. While The Lone Ranger is quite a nostalgic character to some, the concept wasn’t able to sell itself well enough so that people are interested to see it. Maybe it had nothing to do with Disney and other films would sell much better.

Sadly, Disney had another considerable flop this year with Tomorrowland, which only made around $200 million with a $190 million budget. There are many smaller films that also suffer the same fate and couldn’t sell anyone on the concept. So maybe the “brand” of Disney isn’t the main selling point. It may build some trust with the company, but in the end is it all about how the film is sold and even if there is someone who is interested to see the film? Even some Indie projects that act as if they aren’t necessarily trying to sell, but show their artistic value, can find an audience. Take a look at (500) Days of Summer that had a production budget of $7.5 million, but managed to make around $60 million worldwide. Quite a surprise hit even if the main goal was to sell the artistic value and tell a story.


Let us take a different look and away from Disney or Indie films, but try to look at this years surprise hit. Jurassic World was quite a monster of a movie in the box office by not only making a $208 million Box Office Opening, but also managing to pass $600 million domestically. It even managed to pass The Avengers’ spot on the Top Ten list of most successful films in the Box Office and is officially the third highest grossing film worldwide. Looking at this film it probably isn’t the name Universal that sold it, even if they also had quite a success this year with Furious 7, but maybe the brand name of the film itself i.e. “Jurassic World”. Many people have memories connected with the original Jurassic Park film so seeing a sequel after all of these years is certainly something that would draw people back into the cinema. Yet ironically Terminator Genysis was only able to manage a $27 million opening weekend even though the franchise holds a lot of nostalgic value.

So, what exactly do we learn from all these aspects. Well, Disney certainly tells us that a well recognized brand in the industry does not necessarily sell a film. Even if everyone still talks about “Disney films” it does not mean the film will automatically be a Box Office success. Yet the Indie industry also teaches us something about how luck can also play a big role, but maybe the right story at the right time. (500) Days of Summer was quite an interesting depiction of modern relationships that may at the time was just the right kind of movie everyone needed, something that might have even influenced the success of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Jurassic World’s success even teaches us that nostalgia can play a role, but does not necessarily have to if you look at Terminator Genysis. I know that in the end all I am stating is that these films prove one thing, but another shows the opposite. Isn’t that normal with almost any industry? It is difficult to pinpoint the true “success factor” that leads to Box Office results, but maybe in the future this could be researched further in detail.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Leave a comment below and maybe what you think could influence a film’s success?

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