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Wednesday, September 26, 2012 

The sloppy marketing for the Dredd movie reveals a potential error made by Tinseltown

So the new movie based on Judge Dredd has tanked. Not that I care, really, because I was never impressed with the premise used by Britain's 2000 AD depicting the USA as a totalitarian police state. But Box Office Mojo's report about why it may have failed has something to ponder, suggesting the marketing efforts weren't all that different from how the comics medium itself does it:
In sixth place, comic book adaptation/remake Dredd bombed with just $6.3 million from 2,506 locations. That's less than one-third of Kick-Ass's $19.8 million, and only a little over half of the original Judge Dredd's $12.3 million (and that movie was considered a flop 17 years ago!). It's at least up on Shoot 'Em Up ($5.7 million) and about on par with April's Lockout ($6.2 million), though those comparisons suggest Dredd is on track for less than $20 million through its entire run. The audience was predominantly male (75 percent) and older (69 percent were 25 years of age or older) and they gave the movie a "B" CinemaScore. A 3D share is not currently available.

Dredd's awful performance is the latest example of how the Comic-Con/online fanboy crowd just doesn't make up a large portion of the moviegoers in this country. The movie came out of its Comic-Con screening in July with tons of online buzz and very strong reviews, and it maintained a 100 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes through at least its first 25 reviews (though it ultimately wound up at a more-reasonable 77 percent). As a result, the fanboy audience was very aware of this movie ahead of release, and anticipation seemed to be pretty high among this group as well. Ultimately, though, it's just not a big-enough group to drive strong business. For a good dissection of the hazards of targeting fanboys, check out this piece from earlier this year in The Hollywood Reporter.
Now it's true that the autumn release date was but one dooming factor. And the 3D effects could amount to another one. But it's also telling if the filmmakers saw more fit to promote this first and foremost to the comics fan crowd, rather than to market it to everyone and anyone who enjoys action fare. I think the error was that they had to market it based mainly on its being a comic book adaptation, rather than as a sci-fi action adventure; they could've sold it as "Assault on Precinct 13 in reverse". Why they chose to target the comic fandom audience more than the general crowd is puzzling. Then again, maybe they did so because the movie ultimately doesn't have much to offer beyond the apartment building it's set inside?

Regardless, this ought to offer a lesson to filmmakers that if they're going to adapt a comic into a movie, they shouldn't base their marketing campaign along the same lines as the comics medium, who do little or nothing to attract a wider following from people who don't officially read comics and graphic novels. Besides, the Comic-Con has long been less about comics and more about other forms of entertainment in the past 10 years, like movies, music, and computer games. So it's not like they're even marketing the movies to comics fans to begin with, since the comics fans might not even make up a sizable portion of the visitors to San Diego anymore. Just market the movie as an action fare, on its own terms, and not based solely on its being a comic adaptation. Will Hollywood get that message?

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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