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September 21 2005

Whedon Not Serene About Serenity. As the release date approaches, Joss reveals that he's trying not get to worried. "I believe in the film... I loved making it". Though "talk to me on the morning of the 30th, when I'm hiding in the bathtub with a hat on".

I dislike the headline, it sounds so negative...

I'm worried that to the unenlightened masses the article may read like "Go see Serenity, the creator has no faith in it."
AnotherFireflyfan -- maybe so, but I figure that anyone reading Sci Fi Wire has already been exposed to a bunch of more positive Serenity press.

And hey, maybe some people will read the article and say, "This Joss fella is a funny guy, I should check out his movie." And some of the Joss-backlashers might think, "Whedon isn't the monster of arrogance that I thought, maybe I should check out his movie."

(Not that I think that the above is very likely, but worrying about this kind of stuff that's impossible to predict or control is an easy way to make yourself crazy.)
Oh, Joss. Dude. You know deep down in your soul you did your absolute best, whatever the fates have in store, but there comes a time after the work's done that you have to step away so you don't make yourself sick or crazy over something you can't control. Your peeps will come out in force for your work -- the devotion is fierce. And we can't have you hiding in the bathtub (wearing a hat, no less) while we're trying to heap coals of fire praise on your head!

This week I've seen (for the first time, since I've been avoiding them) countless beautifully cut, enticing Serenity trailers on all networks I watch, during some of the highest-rated shows pitching to primo demographics. At all hours. The word is getting out there, the buzz has been building, the press seems behind it and there's still time left for more push. I think you know better than anybody that the people who don't get it were never going to get it, and the people who need to get it will find it, somehow. (And yes, I realize early B.O. is a factor here for making the trilogy window, but Uni has really gone all out for the TV ads -- I've been genuinely amazed at the coverage.) Add to that, I'm seeing people I know getting curious about the movie, and these are not geeky types who hang out online or (sadly for them) even know of you or your prior work. I really do feel everything's going to turn out fine. So fine, in fact, it might be a little bit shocking to some people (who aren't us, 'cause we know better).

All I can say is, I'm 90% unspoiled, and premiere night for me and five very excited others can't come soon enough!

And if it doesn't make that magic $80 million in the first week or so? It's not the end of the world, and even if it was, you wouldn't be crying alone. But that's not going to happen.
Joss sums up exactly how I feel here. Except I didn't make the movie at all.

I'm looking forward to release date greatly... But trust me, I'm going to find it a difficult few days come US and UK opening weekends. (Unless, of course, people 'get it' and flock to the cinemas to see it, in which case I'll be a smug bastard).

[ edited by gossi on 2005-09-21 10:29 ]
Let's hope Joss doesn't have to resort to hats!
>>Joss sums up exactly how I feel here. Except I didn't make the movie at all.

Yep, and if WE already feel like that, how much worse would it be for him? Thoughts that typically help me with that:

-"Well, it's the same audience that let F4 make a lot of money, so I shouldn't expect too much."
-"It's still a really good movie and nothing will undo the positive reviews or its quality."
-"If utter crap like House of the Dead can get a sequel, then Serenity can, too. All hail the mighty DVD sales."
This bodes well. It does not sound like the usual worrying about building support for a sequel. More like The Highly Irrational: What if they don't like it at all!
My experience ( based on superstition or whatever) tells me that the worse the pre-angst, the better the outcome.

AND of course in Joss I trust.
Poor Joss. If I had a movie coming out, I would probably have been in that bathtub--with a fedora, no less--months ago.
I think the movie will open well, my main concern is the second opening week-end. The staying power of a movie at the box office is a good indication whether it will be successful.

According to my crystal ball, 'Serenity' will be successful. 'Course, that could be my sheer power of will talking.
The first few days of Serenity will probably sell out instantly, because all of us are poised to go that first weekend (if not the first showing at midnight). The buzz about how popular it is might bring in more people, plus the trailers on TV are very effective. I'm willing to bet they will draw in more people. Plus, most of us will probably see it several times, savoring it while we can - because it is a watching-several-times kind of movie. That will have some impact, too.

My guess is with 12 movies premiering Sept. 30 - four in wide release - no other movie has a huge fan base poised to order tickets the moment they become available. Serenity will prevail.
I very much doubt the first few days of Serenity screenings will sell out completely. If they did, it would be the biggest opening film in the history of cinema, pretty much.

The reality is, the marketing HAS been quite good I'm sure most would now agree - they're really invested in it. If people WANT to see the movie is the big question - right now, nobody knows the answer. Next Friday we will.
I watch a fair amount of TV, and see quite a few movies, and I have yet to see a SINGLE trailer for Serenity. No one I talk to knows what it is except for those who were Firefly fans who have already been following it. In other words... I don't think the marketing has been good at all.
I'm sure this has already been discussed and I just missed it, but how many cinemas in America is 'Serenity' being released into during the opening weekend? I'm just curious because, presumably, this will have some impact on its potential domestic box office gross.
I got 15 early tickets yesterday, and supposedly I wasn't the first person to pick them up. That's probably a good sign.

[ edited by rabid on 2005-09-21 15:00 ]
Don't lose heart, rabid -- you may have just been unlucky with the programs you were watching. I don't watch TV at all -- truly, barely at all -- and I caught it twice in one half hour last night. Turned on the dusty box to catch House and was a bit early. Paused briefly on an America's Next Top Model ep. on UPN (don't ask) and saw one of the Serenity ads, and then switched over to House at 9pm and caught the other spot, shortly thereafter. Clearly, it's out there in a big way and people are going to be exposed to the marketing. So Joss is right... now it's simply left up to the unanswerable question: "Yeah, but do they want to see it?"
The US adverts have aired with the season premieres of House and Simpsons - those alone are into double figure millions of viewers. They're on just about every FX advert break yadada. I don't know where you are rabid, or what programmes you watch, but you're presumably not in the target demographic if you're in the US and not seen seeing the adverts.
The wait is awful, isn't it. Everyone I know who has seen it is already a fan, so we just have no idea whether people who aren't already invested in the characters will care at all. My boyfriend, who likes Whedon but is less obsessive than me, was amazed by how much difference it made to his reaction to the film, having already spent 11 or so hours getting to know the characters and caring about them.
Joss has done his best, we've been doing ours. The Canadian Browncoats are having a contest where people send in all their ticket stubs from the first 2 weeks and there is a draw for some great prizes.
I know I'm taking nonflans the second week.
So we all wait.
I live in Montreal, but get mostly American channels. I don't watch House or The Simpsons, but I caught the whole Monday Fox block and watched Family Guy and American Dad on Sunday. Yesterday, I caught Supernatural. I don't get FX.

I haven't seen a preview, maybe it's my local affiliates, my Fox is shown through Global. Anywho, I know my family saw the preview during a screening of Batman Begins, but we have all commented on how little we've heard about it, and have to keep explaining what it is to those around us. I really want Serenity to do well, and have gotten a ton of friends into it, but it doesn't, from my perspective, seem to be reaching the non-fans.

I also have seen absolutely nothing for Mirrormask, but oddly, have been hearing a lot about Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist (which opens the same day.)
God, hubby and I are getting so nervous, like this was OUR movie or something! And we see Serenity trailers on the tv at least twice a day, and everytime we wish we could feel what it's like to not know anything about the project. Just see them fresh and evaluate if we'd like it or not.

I'm betting I wouldn't be inclined to see the movie, because it's not the 'type' of movie I usually like. But that's the beauty of Joss. I don't like 'vampire' stuff, but I loved Buffy and Angel. I don't like 'space' stuff, but I loved Firefly/Serenity. I just hope that buzz and word of mouth will get the people like me who aren't initially turned on by trailers like Serenity's.

BTW, Neil Gaiman said it's okay to watch Serenity on Mirrormasks opening weekend! Just so long as you go see Mirrormask at some point....

Oh man, I want this to work out so much. My stomach goes all flippy when I think too much about it!
I know what you mean about the stomach flippiness, Rogue Slayer. I've got that, too. What makes my stomach the flippiest right now is what kind of reviews Serenity will get from mainstream publications. Reviews matter, never mind that they're "just somebody's opinion." If I hadn't become a Whedonite, the Serenity trailers I've seen wouldn't entice me to see the movie. If I read a great review of Serenity from a well-respected source, however, that'd probably be enough for me to check it out. Cross fingers, cross fingers, cross fingers.......
The US reviews aren't quite ready for release yet - I presume they're embargo'ed...

The UK has had 5 or 6 mainstream reviews - very large base newspapers and magazines. No bad reviews - the worst score was 4 out of 5. They were, in fact, all excellent reviews.
I am not talking from a position of any great insider knowledge, but from what I have read so far I think all the signs suggest 'Serenity' will be well received by mainstream critics. Here in Britain, The Times has already carried articles indicating a bias in favour of the film. The Guardian is well-known for its support of Joss Whedon's work in the past and there is nothing to suggest anything different now.

The only cloud on the horizon is the possibility that there could be a backlash against the fanatical cult devotion of Whedon's fanbase. However, I don't think this is something that would affect mainstream reviews and these are the really important ones in pulling in the casual cinema audience. As long as they don't feel excluded or get the impression that this is a film "only for the fans", I think it should perform reasonably well.

Having said that, as I've mentioned in the past, I have a feeling it might be one of those films that performs better in America than it does worldwide, much like the Star Trek movies.
I read Variety's review yesterday. Not fabulous, I hate to say. They didn't hate it, but the reviewer seemed underwhelmed.

I can't wait to see it again tomorrow as a finished movie. I can hardly believe it's been nine months since I saw it in December.

[ edited by kdavid323 on 2005-09-21 17:25 ]
I doubt there is one film-maker among the many who wasn't horrified before the premiere of his or her first movie. Joss has much more pressure on him than normal people do because everyone knows that the tv show came first. Not many people have to deal with the pressure of taking a second season and making it into a movie. It is no easy task. As excited as I am to see the movie, I am also terrified that it won't do well. Serenity is our baby and I'm scared others won't approve! We live sick lives.
Variety have been back and edited out the reference to Jewel Staite being Joss' wife, for anybody interested.

The rest of the UK reviews (of which there are loads) appear _from_ the 28th of September. Basically, as the film hits in the US, the UK reviews will start to appear all over the place, to catch the buzz.

I'm not worried about the content. Some didn't 'get it' in the UK. Most did. Surprisingly, the more mainstream the publication, the more they seemed to actually enjoy it - the smaller places tended to overthink it and go 'This feels like fans will have more investment' and such (Duh).

US marketing wise, you have a very expensive TV advertising campaign, junket out the way, and it's basically all kicking off. I have absolutely no idea what the US reviewers thought of it. I have a suspiscion from instinct you won't see the kind of reviews we have in the UK for the movie. Hopefully I'm wrong.
"Reviews matter, never mind that they're "just somebody's opinion.""

What I’m hoping is that the people who don’t bother with reviews, the kind that will see anything new on its opening weekend (younger males, usually) will go “Cool, I wanna see that!” Then the people who are mindful of reviews will add to their numbers and help with the second week. Assuming it gets glowing reviews, that is. I think critics need something to restore their faith in movies after all the crap that's been released recently. Please let it be Serenity.
My anticipation is being tempered with dread now that it’s happening for real next week and the ‘big cheese’ reviews will start coming in. Think positive thoughts! Release loving energy out into the universe! Find serenity in Serenity!
It's a crap shoot. The only thing we can do is to get as many people in the theaters as we can next weekend and pray. I have so much psychically invested in this movie that maybe I should block in some bathtub-sitting time on my schedule.
dottkin is right, it is a crap shoot; I worry that the reviewers in the US have a prejudice against TV shows turned into movies (and usually they are right), but it makes them unwilling to give something a fair chance. However lately we've found that a lot of off-beat films end up #1 for the weekend even without making a lot of money. And that puts them in a good position the following weekend for people who will give it a try just because it is #1. This is what I'm hoping. If we can just grab that first spot, even if we only make $16 million, then the following weekend we might be able to build that to $22 million.
We don't need 'Star Wars' success, I have faith in our having a quiet word-of-mouth success!
'Entertainment Weekly' seems to think highly of the movie. They had that wonderful article in their August 18 issue. And they had another in their September 18 issue asking if this cult TV hit can become a big-screen smash (on the cover, no less)? Both articles were positive towards 'Serenity' and, of course, this magazine is widely read.

In a sense, I guess you could say this movie is our baby. This is Joss' big step into films and we so desperately want this wonderful story to succeed. Gosh, how often have we found ourselves explaining the same thing to non-fans about the stories of Buffy and Angel?

I agree with bloodflowers. Think positive thoughts! Otherwise, we're going to work ourselves into an ulcer in the next week ;)
One of the EW writers is a 'browncoat' (they post on boards).

This is my Star Wars. I didn't have any attachment to Star Wars other than 'Ooooh, CGI'. I mean the experience - new worlds, characters I care about in challenging situations. I want to see what happens in this world.

At the end of the day, if it all falls apart at the first (or last) hurdle, it won't be the end of my world - but ideally I'd like to see at least 2 sequels.

Can you IMAGINE the amount of hype Serenity 2 and 3 could get? It'd be like now, but with a farrrrrrrrr greater audience of fans. That's some experience.
I'm really getting tired of the "failed TV show" description repeatedly being applied to Firefly without any explanation of the reasons for that 'failure'. Oh well, I'm just getting antsy and testi as the big day draws near.
It is as though we are all honourary aunts and uncles to this baby. We want her to do well as she is pushed out into the world. We all had a little bit of the work in raising her.
Will everyone else recognize how amazing she is?
I went to one of our local malls this morning, and I saw for the first time the Serenity poster up at the theater. I went in to ask if tickets could be purchased yet, and I was told no -- but the guy said several people had already asked. (I was not aware that there were large numbers of fans here, so I took this as a positive sign.)

Also, I was getting a haircut and I asked the guy who was cutting my hair whether he had heard anything about Serenity. He said he had seen the trailer last night on TV, and he was very interested in seeing it. He did not know anything about it, but was intrigued by the trailer. So, of course, I filled him in about the film.

So I'm getting the sense that non-fans are becoming aware of the film and are responding positively to the publicity, although I have heard a couple of people say they wanted to wait until the second weekend, to see what others say. Let's hope there's very strong word-of-mouth.
It is as though we are all honourary aunts and uncles to this baby. We want her to do well as she is pushed out into the world. We all had a little bit of the work in raising her.
Will everyone else recognize how amazing she is?

Very well said!
We all had a little bit of the work in raising her. Will everyone else recognize how amazing she is?

They will if they know what's good for 'em ;)

*whips out wallet with dozens of candid FF snapshots*

Here's when it was just a teeny little show on FOX's Friday night (that big, sweaty thing blocking part of the view is Friday Night Football) ... and here's a shot of it with its extended family (only a few hundred of us could cram into the shot, but you get the idea)...

It's so true that Serenity is kinda our baby too. There's every reason in the world to be proud of what JW has accomplished by doing the impossible (or imjossible), but if fans hadn't kept the show's profile high among themselves, created new converts and helped shoot its DVD sales through the roof, we might not be looking at a premiere (and potential trilogy!) at all. Joss and Co. handled the gestation, birth and early development; our part was in loving it and seeing it got a fair chance at a happy (second) life.

Think good thoughts!
Also, I was getting a haircut and asked the guy who was cutting my hair whether he had heard anything about Serenity. He said he had seen the trailer last night on TV, and he was very interested in seeing it. He did not know anything about it, but was intrigued by the trailer. So, of course, I filled him in about the film.

And what an education he must have received in that discussion and in a barber shop no less, a place that really spreads the word. Good job, palehorse.

(or imjossible)

Someone call Webster's Buffyverse addition, Wiseblood just invented a new word that worthy. That's good, you mind if I use it in future posts?
I went to visit my friend today and she said to me: "Bianca. I have a confession to make" Expecting the worst, I asked her what it was. "I'm addicted to Firefly." It was the best news I heard it a while. I finally converted one!
I think we're all nervous. One of my fears was that with all the previews, nearly all the fans would have already seen it. Of course, any of us who have already seen it will want to see it again, but maybe not everyone will make their opening weekend (I'm in the UK myself, and obviously it's the US opening weekend which matters most), and the opening weekend take is most important, I'm told. And in fact, even some people who post here have clearly not seen it yet, and so hopefully will be battering the doors of their cinema down to see it opening weekend.

But yes, it is the getting in of the non-fans which is going to make the biggest impact. I haven't seen much publicity in the UK for it yet (we open a week later than the US), but I saw my first poster on the underground today, and a cinema I was at on Friday last week had the trailer playing in their trailer reel looping in the foyer, so it must be in the cinemas here now.

The reviews do seem to have been mostly good, with lots of 4 and 5 stars, so that should help get the non-fans in, too.
Yeah.. We do have UK TV adverts now, Kiddo, although the volume is low (I'm quite surprised they are running them this early to be honest).

In the UK, I've been able to track about 1000 fans. That's not nearly enough to make an impact here, to be honest - we're talking tiny money. This needs *LOTS* of non-fans, so we need to take our family and friends, and hope they tell their other family and friends. And also, the TV adverts etc will matter hugely.
Interestingly enough, very few main stream movie reviewers have actual box office clout as far as the gross is concerned. Ebert and Roeper are pretty much the exception. Nowadays, any exposure in newspapers, magazines, television etc. (positive or negative--Joss forbid) is good exposure because it gets the name out.

So the name of the game is exposure exposure exposure for the next week and a half, and I completely respect Universal's efforts to date. While I personally haven't seen any trailers in the theater (I go to small locally-owned screens instead of huge multi-glomerate megaplexes--reduces my chances of running into Wilmer Valderrama while simultaneously increasing my chances of running into Crispin Glover, but I digress,) I have seen many of the thirty-second teasers in prime-time network spots and on highly trafficked basic cable stations like Comedy Central and F/X.

Add to that the front page of last week's Backstage West and the front page teasers on several prominent weeklies, plus a full page add in the L.A. Weekly last week. I'm delighted with the exposure the flilm has received so far and we're still over a week away!

As for the SciFi article: I admire the humble, humane artistic side of Joss as much as I admire the brainy verbose auteur side of him. Its refreshing to see him humanized on the internet, where so often he is either deified or villified. God bless him, and bring on the BDM!
I'm hoping the power of Joss will have some pull over here. Buffy is certainly very well known and was very popular here. In fact I was doing my weekly pub quiz last night and one of the questions was "What did a cast member on Buffy The Vampire Slayer become famous for advertising here?" Which I thought was pretty cool, I don't know how well people did on that question but the team we marked got it right. It's just good that Buffy is common enough knowledge to have a question about a cast member other than SMG without even naming names.
Yeah, the Buffy factor, I think, is a good sales tactic in the UK. As much as it might put people off, Buffy was also pretty big in the UK - you don't need to attract every audience into the cinema, you need to attract a big audience who you'll think turn up. If they play the Buffy factor, I think those fans - in the millions of viewers on the BBC and on Sky - will turn up.

Hence all the UK posters, which have "From the creator of Buffy" on them, and the artwork seen on

[ edited by gossi on 2005-09-22 00:53 ]
Interestingly enough, very few main stream movie reviewers have actual box office clout as far as the gross is concerned. Ebert and Roeper are pretty much the exception. Nowadays, any exposure in newspapers, magazines, television etc. (positive or negative--Joss forbid) is good exposure because it gets the name out.

It seems that the box office take outside of America is going to be important and possibly this is where the film might struggle a little bit.

As gossi has mentioned, the core fanbase in Britain is very small so in order for the film to make a real impact at the box office here it needs to pull in the casual cinema audience, people who might not usually go to see a film of this nature. Positive reviews in the daily newspapers are going to be very important. As much as I hate British tabloid journalism, the combined daily circulation of The Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Mirror (the three market leaders) amounts to about 8-8.5 million, out of a total population of approximately 60 million people. That is a big percentage of the population. If these three newspapers carry good reviews of the film it might make a difference.
Someone call Webster's Buffyverse addition ... mind if I use it in future posts?

Gosh, no, Madhatter, and thanks. Use away! I'd be honored :)

While I was composing that post during lunch, I got to thinking about how Joss handles success and failure. When he's confronted with an obstacle, he doesn't let it stop him from achieving his goal, no matter how long it takes or how laborious the process. He seems in many ways like your average guy, yet he's also driven by this apparently indefatigable, almost superhuman energy. It astonishes me he ever sleeps, as much as he always seems to be doing. He doesn't just move mountains, he brings whole worlds to life and moves us with them, yet he never loses touch with his humanness. I love that. (So eloquently articulated by blutortu above: "I admire the humble, humane artistic side of Joss as much as I admire the brainy verbose auteur side of him.") Doing the merely 'impossible' just doesn't cover it.

Maybe if we keep dreaming imjossible dreams, they'll keep coming true?

Re: Serenity in the U.S. -- Does anyone know if Uni is affiliated with any particular movie chains? There's quite a few theaters in my town, and I was hoping to narrow down the number I'd need to call for advance tickets and movie times.

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