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October 03 2005

Serenity Moseys to Tame Start. ""We are satisfied," Rocco[Universal's head of distribution] said. "The opening is where we thought it would be. The fan base turned out. We're hoping more will turn out in the future. I think over $10 million is a lot of business for a niche appeal picture, and I think the ancillary [DVD, etc.] will be spectacular."

Well that's good to hear. And it's true, movies like this generally don't instantly appeal to the mainstream in their trailers. Flightplan had dropped off far less than everyone expected and that's really the only thing that kept Serenity from the number 1 spot. It's pretty good and the entire story of the project from it's origins to this opening weekend is a near-unique and triumphant story.

Also true that the trailers probably didn't appeal much to newcomers but I honestly wouldn't know what they should've done to change that.
Execs are always positive. Its proper.

Heck, the WB had nothing but good things to say about Angel before, during, and after they cancelled it.
By "In the future" does he mean during the remaining run for Serenity, or is he referring to possible sequels?

[ edited by Kindred on 2005-10-03 07:42 ]
Kindred - I closed your italics tag for you!

The Fifth element shared plot elements with Serenity? WTF?

Otherwise a fair article, remembering that all of our concerns about Serenity's figures mean nothing compared to someone like Nikki Rocco's assessment. That's the kind of person who has influence on bigger decisons like Serenity 2 etc.

Now when I said that our concerns meant nothing, I didn't mean that we shouldn't support it. I am going every week for as many weeks that it is on, having already seen it three times.

Me personally, I had fantasies that it would do $40M first weekend (and $200M worldwide acros the world)and Serenity 2 would be confirmed by Tuesday morning. But they were just fantasies. Right now, reality is OK - Serenity is #2 and Rocco's happy!
KBP put it best with his execs-are-always-postive line. Don't let Universal's vague quotes get your hopes up. They wouldn't have made the movie if they thought they were getting these opening weekend numbers.

Thinking about the whole thing, I think the major problem was advertsing. The trailers & tv ads were pretty bland. The poster was dull. To be honest, I wouldn't have seen the film based on the press material if I hadn't so absolutely loved the show.

Love the movie too. Saw it at the Arclight on Friday night here in LA. Totally packed. Crowd loving it. Was truly great. Equal to seeing it at one of the San Francisco screenings, really. Oh, Marti Noxon was sitting a few rows behind me. Very cool.
Every one of us has to see it next weekend.

Someone exlain to me the chocolate river? I don't understand why she's made of chocolate.

[ edited by charisma on 2005-10-03 08:36 ]
OK, here's a question for everybody? Why does this movie need to be a hit? Don't get me wrong: I loved the movie and I hope there will be a sequel one day. But so many of you are acting like if the movie isn't a huge thing, your own personal worldview will be invalidated.

I don't think there is any doubt that Joss made the movie he wanted to make. Sure, there are some loose ends from the series(I'd like to see more with Inara myself), but I'd say he closed the book on the Firefly, universe with style and grace and in a completley satisfying way. And for his reward he's writing/directing a huge studio summer tentpole as well as his own personal script.

Joss really did the impossible. He took this unloved, cancelled series and built this devoted(maybe too devoted) fanbase which allowed him to build his dream of a big Hollywood movie to complete his story, which opens to great reviews from both fans and critics. And that is a major accomplishment, regardless of whether there's any more.

Maybe the poster sucked.

Maybe the ads were vague.

Maybe we all underestimated the public's love for Jodie Foster.

So What?

Does that change the fact that the movie was made and was great?

No.

So let's stop with the recriminations, tell our friends to see it, but maybe not see it every night for the next two weeks. (Or if you do, do it because you love the movie and not because you think it will make a sequel more likely.)

The movie stands on its own. Serenity will fly again in some form. Just have some Faith. And Buffy:)
Great post, Son of Shadow.
Here, here, Son of Shadow.
yea i really dont care. im happy that stuff was resolved that the series left hanging....though somethings remain a mystery.....we'll some day be told.
I was not a Firefly fan at all. I couldn't get past the hokey music, the accents, the horses, it was the whole Western thing that put me off.

But I thought the trailer looked great. River's fight scenes, the humor, I saw it on Saturday night 7:45. I was spazzing about finding a seat but the theatre was half empty. I was surprised.

I loved it. I am so tired of movies that are all CGI and action with no characters you can care about and no dialogue worth listening to.

I took three teenagers with me. None of them had seen Firefly, two were Buffy and Angel fans, and one never saw any Whedonverse show, just plays Halo 2 all day. They all loved it. The Halo player says it is his favorite movie ever.

The trailer was great, I thought Universal promoted it nicely, I hope that the word of mouth and critical reviews will keep it going for a long time. Look at what happened with Napoleon Dynamite! (Which wasn't even good- but I'm old so what do I know?)

Serenity was an excellent movie. Everyone I talked to who saw it liked it. The guy it front of me in the theater stood up and said, "that was like Mad Max in outer space." His tone of voice indicated that it was a good thing.

I have seen so many movies lately that were commercial successes but bad movies. If I were Joss, I would be proud to have made a good one.
I am super happy with the film! Yay Joss! I really think US$10.1 million is all right. More to come, I hope. But I still think Unitas is right:

Thinking about the whole thing, I think the major problem was advertsing. The trailers & tv ads were pretty bland. The poster was dull. To be honest, I wouldn't have seen the film based on the press material if I hadn't so absolutely loved the show.


I thought the trailers and the poster came up way short. I hate most trailers so that covers that subject, except trailer No. 2 (so-called international) was better but the start of it gave the impression it was a comedy. Ugh. The poster I found hard to notice in a wall full of them. There was no overriding image to grab the eye -- even on one of those giant mobile billboard trucks I saw at the the Toronto film festival. I missed noticing it the first time. Overall, it was vague and dark. I thought the so-called international poster (set in desert) was a real eye catcher, which is exactly what it has to be, whether you personallly like it or not.
When it's all said and done, what really matters most is that Serenity got made, as others pointed out. So I'm sticking with that view.
It doesn't need to be a hit to validate my enjoyment of it - most of the movies I've loved over the last decade have made less than 30 million dollars. I also don't particularly care about sequels - the majority of them are awful anyway, and Serenity ends the Firefly story in a far more satisfying way than the aborted series.

Rather, I want the movie to be successful so that Joss can keep making movies. In the immediate future, that doesn't look to be a problem, as we all know he has two high profile films on the horizon. But say Wonder Woman underperforms, in the wake of Serenity flopping (if that's how it ends up). Then we might see Goners getting dumped...and we might see Joss having a very hard time getting his next film made. That's my concern, and the only real reason I want the film to do well.

Although, I would also say I want a lot of people to see it, so that more people will be reminded that good action films are still possible, and that they shouldn't have to settle for crap like I, Robot.
Actually, if Wonder Woman did poorly, it might not be a bad thing.

For instance, in Joss's discussions of the Angel spinoff TV movies he has made it clear he doesn't want to create them -- he would be assigning them to some of his regular writer cronies. If, on the other hand, his schedule was turned down a notch perhaps he would pay closer attention to each piece of Whedon product that goes out the door rather than assigning them to others, and trusting that his core fandom will buy them whether or not he actually writes them. If the movies don't pan out, perhaps the guy would actually need to write the TV movies himself, and as a result they would probably be a lot more interesting than the delegated work-for-hire handed out to others they are currently slated to be.
So basically, Serapion, you want Joss' career goals to fail so you can get more Joss written Angel?
I agree completely with Son of Shadow. $10m on opening weekend is not a failure for Serenity. Why is everyone getting so freaked? "Well, that's it, yup, no sequel, it's over." I'm getting kind of angry with this kind of response.

This isn't because I'm putting faith into what any exec would say (I would never do that--but, to be honest, execs are not always positive...did you hear the people who made The Island?), but because I'm kind of surprised we all expected it to make more. I mean, of course we want it to make more; it's a brilliant movie, the best of the year, no doubt. But it's an odd sci-fi movie (not something immediately accessible like Spider-Man; first, audiences have to get used to the whole western in space like in Star Wars, but way more literal concept) based on a show that no one ever really got the chance to see.

So...a quirky concept...no lead actors...a first-time director...and based off of a TV series that no one except us watched? For it to make $10m (over a fifth of its budget!) and rank #2 at the American box office for its first weekend, I think that's pretty incredible.

And, hey, last I looked, The Punisher flopped horribly at the box office, and guess what's in development? That's right, Punisher 2.

If Serenity never blows up at the box office, so what? It will still find an enormous home on DVD...with a jacuzzi and everything...
There are quite a few people on this board that need to think about what they type before they type it. Freedom of Speech and all that crap aside, GRRRHHHHHH! Can we all just sit back for a minute and say: "Wow. Joss did it. He made Serenity. They tried to stop the signal and he kept it going." As for all the petty comments, and I say this with all the respect I can, get over it. Joss had the impossible task of making this movie with both us and the masses in mind. But don't come off thinking that you could have done it better because you couldn't. Besides the few, the rest know I love you to death and will always value your opinions.

[ edited by MySerenity on 2005-10-03 14:14 ]
With you completely MySerenity.

Two scenarios - pick one (I know which one I prefer)
- major opening weekend followed by word-of-mouth driven rapid drop off in sales.
- $10M opening followed by word-of-mouth driven build up of sales

The thing about momentum is it needs, well, momentum. And time. Be patient y'all.

BTW: I went with my daughter to see Serenity for the first time on Saturday night. I NEVER pay to see a movie more than once. Well, except for "The Matrix" and "The Commitments". I'll be returning next weekend. Not because I think its my duty as a fan of JW's work, but because I know I missed things. Like what were the weapons in River's hands at the end? And are the references I think I saw to other SF classics there or not?

My opinion of the movie?
As SF, its up there with Alien and The Matrix. I adore its humour as much as Amelie and Grosse Pointe Blank. Its as heart wrenching as Little Women. (Yeah, I know I'm weird)

Joss: I loved it. Stay true to you.
Ok - here's what your not seeing. The whole attitude of so what if it's not a hit, where here's the so what about that. Hollywood is a what have you done lately town. To have the power to do what you want you have to have a hit. Buffy was enough of a hit to give Joss the power for the studios not to mess with what he is doing like they did on the movie version of Buffy. If Serenity had been #1 and got the high end estimate on opening weekend, then going forward with other films like Wonder Woman & Goners would have given him more bang for his word and less studio interference. Cause he would of had a strong base to back him up, or need anyone be reminded of compromises made on the 5th season of Angel that ticked some off, they could pull it off cause we had faith in Joss and crew to get around the syatem but also recall not even Joss was told that it wasn't a full season but until they were almost finished filming the first half of the season. As it is now, his ground just got shakier. So that is why some of us are freaked out, we know Joss does his best work when he is allowed to do it. However, if he doesn't have enough pull & power, then the studio is more than likely to meddle (as River would say). So perhaps that is why some of us are a bit freaked out. We do not want any studio to mess with Joss's work in the future, cause his work on his terms always produces the best end result.

Also remember that studio regemes change and just because you have support now does not mean it will be there during your next project. They will look at the bottom line and your ability to add to it, if they don't think you will pull in what they want they will not only be more skiddish about hiring you in the future but they will tend to stick their nose into your current project and muck it up as well.

[ edited by RavenU on 2005-10-03 14:47 ]
Sorry Serapion, but if Joss isn't successful in movies then he won't have the power to get the Buffyverse (in any form) back on television.

RavenU has got it right in her post. In Hollywood, it all about money and power and you're only as successful as your last project.
We do not want any studio to mess with Joss's work in the future, cause his work on his terms always produces the best end result.


Is it really? So far he has always made his best results under pressure, and from an underdog situation, fighting for his story to be told his way. ( Maybe I'm a sadist?) Making Buffy with movie ambition on a low TV-budget, each season better and better while having the threat of cancellation each season. Same thing with Angel, and not to mention Firefly itself. And now having realised Serenity against, all odds. Maybe it is in situations like this that he is able to really define what his visions really are.

I'm not worried about not seeing more of Jossey goodness in the future. We will. He is to good to be ignored, and he seems to have far to many stories yet to tell.

I have still to see serenity, and I'll have to wait till november. So bear with me , I am more in an anticipation mode.

You did it Joss! I am so proud of you and your gang.
I take your point RavenU but I'm not going to start feeling depressed till 'poor' results are in from The Rest of the World. I like to think that our dollars/pounds/Euro etc will make a far bigger difference than many in the US anticipate. Or maybe I'm just in denial.
Yes and no RavenU. You make some valid points and indeed this is often case but not always.

As Serenity is not yet released in the UK I had time to watch other films this weekend and saw the truly excellent ‘A History of Violence’. My point being, looking over his whole career, David Cronenberg is not exactly a top commercially successful director and if I remember correctly ‘Crash’, well crashed, but he managed to get this film made and released and at no point did I have the impression that the artistic vision of this movie had been interfered with or compromised. It is a really really good movie. As long as the budget is appropriate, (smaller) great movies can get made and (smaller) great movies do get made.

I read today that ‘A History of Violence’ has already made more money than his 3 previous movies together, so sometimes even the public gets it.

In short, there is hope for all of us.
They wouldn't have made the movie if they thought they were getting these opening weekend numbers.


Respectfully disagree. Uni is doing more than just blowing smoke on this- ten to fifteen is within their expectation, and they set aside money for a second week advertising follow-up because they knew this. Second weekend will tell us more, but expect worldwide gross to make this more than worthwhile for them and ancillary to make it pay for itself twice over. Its interesting to me how things went from 'Uni isn't advertising enough' to 'Uni is awesome the trailers are awesome' (though there was always disagreement on the posters :)) to 'Uni's advertsising for this sucked' when it failed to perform to some folks overly high expectations. Fandom is, as ever, its own worst enemy.

We've done the impossible, the BDM exists, and it is and will be successful (and even if it crashed and burned, 'There's no shame in this. It is a good death'). Take some friends and go see it again 2nd weekend, get outta yer bathtubs :)

[ edited by zeitgeist on 2005-10-03 15:41 ]
I'm definitely seeing it again this weekend, and not just to help support the film but because I loved it so much.

I'm proud of this movie and I believe that Universal is too. They were behind the story before the DVD sales(Joss talks about this in the Visual Companion Guide). They are behind the story because they loved the story themselves. I honestly never expected Serenity to be a big hit coming out the gates, I always expected it could be a sleeper hit. And it seems like it has the potential of being that. The movie made enough money initially to satisfy Universal's estimates, the reviews are good to great and a lot of us fans are willing to go back and see it more than once (and in many cases a lot more than once).

If those of us who loved the film just repeat what we did this past weekend the numbers should stay good. There have been other movies that didn't have the big numbers at the box office but went on to have sequels and I truly think Serenity will have a sequel. We all know it is most likely going to sell like crazy on DVD just like the series has done. But I still think it will get good final numbers at the box office when it's run is done. There's only been one weekend and it took time for the fans of Firefly to find it. With the great reviews and the word of mouth that I'm sure is happening in offices all over the country by newcomers and browncoats alike we may see the box office numbers get better or stay steady, which is all it needs to do.
Well said, zeitgeist. Well said. (As usual.)
I am also of the anti-'doom and gloom' camp. C'mon, we've seen many crowd-pleasing movies that didn't have big stars become sleeper hits, like "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". They were just decent to good, crowd-pleasing films that word-of-mouth helped over time. The key is excited people leaving the theater. Well, we KNOW we've got that! Remember how you felt right after seeing the movie, leaving the theater hearing other people who had never heard of "Firefly" loving the movie? It only turned sour when we, as Joss devotees anxious about a sequel, went on the net and, with hands wringing, saw that the returns were a few million dollars less than we hoped.

This movie is creating a buzz, people! Most people are not anxious about this spawning a sequel, they're just gonna tell their friends to go see it! Someone's friend telling them "You've GOT to see this movie, it was great!" is more powerful than ANY commercial, or ANY review. Joss has made a real accomplishment here! According to BoxOfficeMojo, "Aliens" (another crowd-pleasing action movie) went on to make 9x what it made its opening weekend, and the original "Indiana Jones" made 7x its opening weekend. And these were two movies that HAD big stars that many people were going to see in the opening weekend.

With all due respect to everyone here, I think we Joss fans tend to see ourselves too much AS a cult, a small minority who appreciate something that the masses of people are too 'ignorant' and 'dumb' to like. Sure, many people out there won't be debating the themes of belief in the movie, but this is a great, fun popcorn flick with action, humor, and drama, that has characters you care about! We didn't have a huge opening weekend because we didn't have a big star (just look at "Flightplan"), and Universal knows this.

I'm not saying right away that "Serenity" will be a "hit" per se, but I think it will do well...

It's all about the 2nd week.
The 2nd wave of advertising could finally mention the strong reviews, which would belie the impression that the movie is a cult phenomenon or genre thing. I just really hope the ads will emphasize that the movie is a funny and sharp actiony pic. And hopefully enough newbies and non-fans have seen it to start talking about it other people.

And, seriously, we literally have years to wait for either a sequel or a sequel greenlight. Lots of movies have generated sequels based on catching on after the DVD was out, and frankly, Joss and co. are too busy for an immediate sequel.

I'm not totally without hope yet. I will see it next weekend, hopefully with some people -- my 2 younger cousins and possibly a couple, the male half of which is the only person who has heard of the movie independently of me. I'm serious. He's the reason I was expecting the b.o. results, modest though they are. I'll also be seeing Wallace and Gromit next weekend too, though (shhhh) I might buy a ticket to Serenity and sneak in.
I still can't get over this pessimistic vibe, really can't. If, in six months time, the movie has scraped to $25 - 30million, I'll be ready to wave goodbye to a possible sequel (and start hoping for an ongoing comic series, of course). Until then, I see no reason to start hitting any panic button your fingers can reach. "Miles to go before we sleep", and all that.
Just wanted to add that when a studio decides whether to green-light a sequel, they have to consider not only the raw returns, but also whether people liked the first movie enough to go see a sequel. "Godzilla" was an utter piece of crap that made $136 million in the theaters, but no one wanted to see it again. Therefore, no sequel. Not true with our BDM.

The cult of Joss WILL grow with this film. The "Firefly" DVD has gone up to #3 on Amazon now that people are seeing the movie... to make a safe estimate, about a million people watched Joss's movie on opening weekend! Universal estimates that 60 percent of them were not already fans of the show. Many of these people will check out the DVD, come to love the Firefly-verse, and then start converting their friends by lending them DVDs or telling them to watch the movie!
Smiling here because a virgin that I took to the midnight show wants to go again and his girlfriend (who is SO completely outside what most would consider this movie's audience) is really excited to see it as well. Should be noted that the virgin in question does NOT see movies more than once in theatre. There are only two movies he has seen more than once in the theater... EVER. Hold the Valley, friends :)
I also can't believe the pessimistic vibe. It's early days yet and Serenity's strongest chance has always been as a sleeper hit. It has no name stars, there has been comparatively little mainstream advertising, etc. etc. It would have been a miracle if Serenity had topped Flightplan. I'm thrilled that it put the new Jessica Alba flick to shame, frankly. That's telling. And I love the fact that the Firefly DVDs rose to #3 at Amazon over the weekend. Sweet, very sweet. And the reviews? Wow.

This said, I was annoyed to see the same quoteless ad for Serenity in the NY Times this weekend and in the Washington Post this a.m. If I weren't already a Jossfan, this kind of ad would put me off. I'd marvel at how a film that had already opened had seemingly no reviews good enough to quote and I'd make a mental note to avoid said film. With all the amazing reviews out there, surely someone could have put together a great composite of quotes for the ad by now?
phlebotinin, I saw an ad for "Serenity" last night on TV that included quotes from several mainstream media reviews. Also, Ebert & Roeper reviewed it and gave it two enthusiastic thumbs up without giving anything away about the plot - actually, they didn't show many scenes, but both had only good things to say.

This is definitely a movie you need to see more than once to take it all in. I've seen in 6 times now - and will be going several more times - and I'm still finding things I've missed in previous viewings. I am doing my part both to promote the movie to other people and to go myself - not just because I want a sequel, but because I believe this is one of the best movies I've ever seen in terms of its emotional impact on me and I believe in Joss and want him to be able to do whatever he wants to do, no matter what other people want him to do.

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