This weekend a movie called The Watch is opening in theatres. The Ben Stiller comedy was originally called Neighborhood Watch but the February, 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch coordinator in Florida led to the change.
In a statement, 20th Century Fox said, “As the subject matter of this alien invasion comedy bears no relation whatsoever to the recent tragic events in Florida, the studio altered the title to avoid any accidental or unintended misimpression that it might.”
The sad incident that prompted the name change was unusual, but title tweaking is commonplace in Hollywood.
Sometimes moniker modification happens for practical reasons.
In the early stages of development, American Pie was known as Teenage Sex Comedy That Can Be Made For Under $10 Million That Your Reader Will Love But The Executive Will Hate. That unwieldy name got the attention of Universal Studios who changed it to East Great Falls High and then Comfort Food before settling on American Pie.
The Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night was also considered too long a name and changed to Saturday Night Fever, lifted from the Bee Gees song Night Fever.
A Roy Orbison song triggered the title of one of Julia Roberts’s most famous movies.
Pretty Women went into production under the name 3,000, the amount Julia’s working girl was paid for the night, but research showed audiences thought it sounded like the title of a sci-fi flick. Director Garry Marshal settled on the Oribson classic after listening to dozens of hit songs for inspiration.
Occasionally titles are changed to avoid confusion with other projects. Goodfellas was called Wiseguy but changed so as not be mistaken for the Ken Wahl television series. The Real World was the working title for Reality Bites, but was altered when MTV began airing a reality show of the same name.
One of the most famous James Bond titles was improved by a typo.
The story of a villain who creates the next day’s headlines and then causes them to come true was called Tomorrow Never Lies, but when a marketing executive mistakenly typed Tomorrow Never Dies in a memo the mistake was deemed more catchy and commercial.
Finally, would you see a movie called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Marketers didn’t think so and called it Blade Runner instead.
How about The Last First Kiss? That one became the Will Smith movie Hitch.