Sometimes clichés are clichés because they are true. No news is good news. A penny saved is a penny earned. Any publicity is good publicity.
No news is usually good news — unless you’re the editor of a newspaper with blank pages to fill — and the math behind a penny saved is a penny earned isn’t so hard to figure out, but recently the veracity of any publicity being good publicity has been put to the test.
The Sony hack and ensuing commotion that swirled around the Seth Rogen movie The Interview garnered headlines around the world, moving the story off the entertainment pages and into the news sections.
Stories, some true some not, and reviews, some good, some not, lit up social media.
The brouhaha surrounding the film lived at the very heart of popular culture for several weeks and even President Obama weighed in. But notwithstanding the endorsement of the most powerful film critic in the world, the movie is unlikely to actually make money.
The Guardian suggests The Interview’s total cost sits somewhere near $80 million in production and marketing costs, and at the time of this writing has only earned $36 million in digital rentals, purchases and traditional theatrical receipts. The Guardian also says Sony could be facing “damage north of $1 billion by some estimates” as a result of the hack.
So, if this was all a massive publicity stunt, as asserted by certain outspoken twitterratti, it was a marketing failure of Titanic proportions and it could even hurt the box office of other films.
This weekend Blackhat stars Chris Hemsworth as the world’s best-looking computer hacker, now serving a 15-year sentence for internet crime.
Authorities give him a get-out-of-jail-free card because he’s the only computer whiz on earth geekified enough to stop a cyber terrorist from causing havoc.
You might think a hacking movie would be perfectly timed to take advantage of the hoopla surrounding the Sony situation and yet Universal made no attempt to connect the dots between real-life events and their movie.
Why? The New York Times, quoting unnamed sources, opined that “ticket buyers could be tired of hacking stories after weeks of media attention on Sony, and a film that is too topical might strike potential viewers as less entertaining.”
Perhaps Universal’s decision not to cash in on the publicity generated by real life events reveals there is no room for current events in a marketplace where two of the top 10 grossing movies of 2014 were based on toy lines (the rest were inspired by novels and comic books) or maybe that sound we hear is the swoosh of an old cliché swirling down the bowl.