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Why Did Conan (2011) Fail At The Box Office?


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#1 terryallenuk

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 06:56 PM

I know we're split on whether we liked the film or not and I guess those of us who didn't aren't surprised it failed but those who liked , or indeed loved , the film why did it fail so awfully at the Box Office - well apart from Russia?!

Really hope Rusty and Mark are around as I'd especially like to hear their thoughts

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#2 Evil Thoth-Amon

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 07:05 PM

1- Disrespect towards the three types of fans (Howard, Arnold and comic book)

2- It is lacking of famous names. It have not a single real "star" in the cast, not a famous director, not a well known artist as a producer...

3- Bad movie. People smell it from the very beginning of the production until the days prior the release.

4- Bad marketing. An awful teaser trailer and some awful teaser posters: For most of the audience this movie did not exist until some weeks ago. Not enought advertisement during the first weekend.

5- Too many cliches. The entire movie looks like something "we already have seen".

Edited by Evil Thoth-Amon, 30 August 2011 - 07:06 PM.

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#3 Reaver

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 07:26 PM

I started to write a long response, but then realized I covered this exact topic on my blog, before I even saw the film (a couple of you may have already seen this). My opinions largely stand, though I will admit that many of the weaknesses of the film probably contributed to it doing poorly in subsequent weeks. But this summarizes why I felt it had a weak opening weekend.

Bad Press
Since the day it was announced, there has been bad press circulating throughout the net. And as details were announced, such as the director and casting choices, and the initial draft of the script were revealed, the hate just got worse and worse.

Basically these "pre-haters" are divided into two camps. The first, and most vocal, yet smaller in number, are the Robert E. Howard purists. These are men and women who have dedicated a good portion of their lives to studying the works and worlds of REH. In relation to Conan, they have a passion for the character that is only rivaled by their passion for his creator. For these people nothing beyond his original stories will be good enough. They look down their noses at the pastiches, in all mediums, as lesser works, derivative of the Originals. To a certain extent, I agree with them. No other Conan can compare to REH's most excellent prose. And yet, I seem to be nearly unique in that I can separate the "original" from the pastiche, and enjoy each on their own terms. However, these purists cannot seem to do that. Rather they view anything that is not based 100% on a REH work as somehow "insulting" or "disrespectful" to the man. This is a very narrow view, and does a disservice to the character, and a large portion of his fans. More on that later.

The other group are the Milius Fans. These are people who only know the character from the 1982 Arnold movie. To them "Arnold was Conan." Well, no, actually, he wasn't. Arnold was John Milius' Conan. Or more accurately, he was Ed Pressman's and Dino De Laurentiis' Conan. To these people, of which they are legion, no one else will be able to "fill Arnold's shoes " (if I had a dime for every time I've read THAT phrase in the past week...). Unfortunately, most professional critics fall into this group as well. They are responsible, along with the press in general, for perpetuating the myth that this movie is a "remake" rather than a "reboot." (Really? And was Nolan's Batman Begins just a remake of Tim Burton's 1989 film?) Be it known, I am a HUGE fan of the 1982 film. I still count it among my all-time favorites, and have watched it literally dozens of times since I was a teenager. That being said, I am well aware that it is a far cry from REH's creation. However, it lead me to read REH's stories, as it did for many, many people. And, if this new movie had been given a chance, perhaps it, too, could have done the same for others.

Bad marketing choices
When it was originally announced, the film's title was simply Conan. Then some idiot in marketing decided to try and capitalize on the popularity of the 1982 film, so they added the Barbarian to the title. Big mistake. This is no doubt the main reason so many people just assume it's a remake. Add to that some of the visuals that were also designed to allude to the previous film (the sword of Conan's father is like a cartoon version of the previous movie's sword).

Conan is now more than just a Pulp Hero
Conan as a character was created in the 1930's. He was introduced to the public through the pulp magazines of the depression era, which were (and in some circles, are) considered "trash" writing. No one beyond the fans took them seriously. But Conan survived the demise of his creator, and that of his venue, thanks to many people who had a passion for him. The character has been reprinted by several publishing houses over the intervening decades. Often heavily edited, but still, it's Conan. Then there is the issue of the Comic books. Marvel comics had a Conan title in print for decades, in one form or another. And to some people, THIS is the Conan they know.

The fact is, Conan has grown well beyond his pulp roots. He is larger and more well-known than his creator. And the creators of this film knew this. So, they attempted to make a film that would appeal to the broadest swath of Conan fans. The Pulpsters, the comic book geeks, and the Arnold fans. And at the same time, they had to make a film that would appeal to the general public as well.

Were they successful? Depends on who you ask. But in the big picture, probably not. Because the very thing that they tried to do was what doomed the project to failure. The old adage of "You can't please all the people all the time" is no more fitting anywhere than it is in Hollywood. By trying to create a movie with mass appeal, they actually created mass derision. Much of it before it was even in pre-production. And all of these people who pre-hate the movie, and those who listen to the pre-haters, will go into the film with pre-conceived notions, and pre-formed opinions, whether consciously or not.

In short, there are a variety of factors that have caused this movie to do poorly. And those don't even take into account the actual film itself. The outcome of opening weekend for a film has nothing to do with the quality of the film itself. It has to do with marketing, word of mouth, and pre-conceived notions. However, everyone wants to judge a movie's quality based on that opening weekend. So, since Conan the Barbarian did relatively poorly during its opening weekend, it's already being considered a "flop." And, in my opinion, this is in large part the fault of a lot of people who need to just shut up and let a movie stand on its own. But, that will never happen. Especially now that we have the Internet, and anyone with a computer can put their opinions out there for the masses, no matter how misguided and misinformed they are.

Just my personal take. YMMV, as always.

#4 DavidMcMurdo

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 07:31 PM

1: The market isn't there for a Conan film. I just really don't think anyone cares aside from the Howard/Conan fans. It's scary how quickly times have changed, and it has been a long time since Conan was in the mainstream (if it ever really was).

2: Even the majority of the people who care about Conan aren't familiar with Howard's Conan, only Arnie's Conan. In their eyes nothing can replace Arnie, and when they see this film with Conan on a ship and not being a broody philosopher they think "what the hell? This isn't Conan!" and then set about dissing it on every platform they could possibly have a voice with phrases like "Momoa is no Arnie!" As if they wouldn't have said the exact same thing about any other actor in the role.

3: The flaws of the film didn't help, but really, I think a Conan film would need to be a masterpiece in filmmaking to be the kind of sensation every Howard fan would want it to be, and we all know that will never happen.
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#5 Amra_the_Lion

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 07:47 PM

Paradox losing or giving up creative control
No REH expert advisers
Bad script writing
Bad story
Bad directing
Bad editing
Bad continuity
Bad press
Bad musical score
Bad fan reactions
Bad word of mouth
Few return viewers
Poor opening weekend
Not enough screens
Not enough screens showing 2D
Poor 3D
Dissatisfied purist literary fans
Dissatisfied Milius/Schwarzenegger fans
Dissatisfied comic book Conan fans
Dissatisfied pastiche literary fans
Happy online role playing gamers
Confused general public and press, "Is this a reboot or remake?"
Changing the nature of the character
Not changing the public preexisting perception of the character

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#6 JohnitoZ

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 08:00 PM

As bad as the reviews were and as bad as the film may be (although I liked it) I don't think that's the reason for the failure at the box office, at least not on opening weekend. Other crappier movies have opened much higher before crashing and burning due to reviews and word of mouth.
I think the marketing was worse than terrible.
I think they made a huge mistake in trying to appeal to the Arnie crowd. Anyone should have known that trying to appeal to them (without including Arnold in some capacity) wouldn't work.
And I also think the lack of any major stars in supporting roles to provide a box office draw was a mistake.
I kept hoping to see Jason on the cover of some of the workout magazines, the way that almost every other superhero actor has been, might help promote the movie but I never saw anything.
It was like a perfect storm of failed opportunities. As it is, maybe somebody can use it as a tax write off.

#7 Kortoso

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 08:16 PM

Preaching to the choir here, but one of the factors that kept the public from taking this seriously, I think, was the omission of "Robert E. Howard's" from the title. This was the original idea with the "reboot", that we were going back to the source. I think the public would be impressed in Conan's literary roots, but this wasn't given a chance.

So it was just another S&S movie, and Arnold wasn't in it.

It needed something special in order to eclipse Milius' movie: a big-name actor, an accomplished director, or a back-to-the-roots approach, and it had none of these.



#8 Reaver

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 08:19 PM

Preaching to the choir here, but one of the factors that kept the public from taking this seriously, I think, was the omission of "Robert E. Howard's" from the title. This was the original idea with the "reboot", that we were going back to the source. I think the public would be impressed in Conan's literary roots, but this wasn't given a chance.

So it was just another S&S movie, and Arnold wasn't in it.

It needed something special in order to eclipse Milius' movie: a big-name actor, an accomplished director, or a back-to-the-roots approach, and it had none of these.

That would probably fall under the "trying to please the Arnie fans" header. The fanatical ones would be like "Who's Robert E. Howard? John Milius created Conan, didn't he?"

#9 ThuleanWarrior

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 08:25 PM


Preaching to the choir here, but one of the factors that kept the public from taking this seriously, I think, was the omission of "Robert E. Howard's" from the title. This was the original idea with the "reboot", that we were going back to the source. I think the public would be impressed in Conan's literary roots, but this wasn't given a chance.

So it was just another S&S movie, and Arnold wasn't in it.

It needed something special in order to eclipse Milius' movie: a big-name actor, an accomplished director, or a back-to-the-roots approach, and it had none of these.

That would probably fall under the "trying to please the Arnie fans" header. The fanatical ones would be like "Who's Robert E. Howard? John Milius created Conan, didn't he?"



Well, everyone says that the Milius Conan is not REH's Conan so he did invent THAT conan. Right?

Edited by ThuleanWarrior, 30 August 2011 - 08:25 PM.


#10 norse_sage

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 08:29 PM

I think it is very obvious why it failed.

1. The movie itself.
What they should have done was give Conan the full reboot treatment, going back to the core of the character, ignoring every single incarnation of Conan other than the original stories. In other words, the Batman Begins/Casino Royale approach. This should be a no brainer, here you start from a clean slate, and you can market the movie as pure and undiluted Conan towards all target audiences. This is the only logical choice, the one that makes business sense.

So why the heck they did the complete opposite is beyond me. For instead of taking the "Batman Begins" approach, they took the "Batman & Robin" approach, where they made a Frankenstein-ian mix of bits and pieces from diluted and watered down incarnations of the character. "Conan has evolved and thrived for eight decades" they said, should have said "degenerated", for that would be more accurate. Instead of a proper Conan story, the screen story is mashup of the revenge plot from the Milius movie with some CtD, Red Sonja and SSOC thrown in for good measure, which resulted in a generic and trite story. Even the Millius plotpoints were just clichees once taken out of the context of the Milius movie.
The end result is that the screen story is a pretty darn bad one. This of course was made worse by Nispel's direction, and the worst editing ever seen on film.

2. The marketing.
LGF's marketing for Conan is one of the worst I have ever seen, even worse Punisher: War Zone's campaign, albeit similar to that one.
In bulletpoints:
- when the spyshots from set leaked and spread early negative buzz last summer, they did NOTHING.
- the first official pictures were released without fanfare, many sites didn't even publish them, negative buzz continued
- they did NOTHING until the release of the posters this spring. Nice ones, got them some goodwill. Then they released the teaser.
- the teaser was universally mocked and ridiculed, which it deserved to be, and that really got the bad buzz going.
- trailer 1: did what trailer 1 was supposed to do, set the stage for the VITAL trailer 2.
- but trailer 2 never came. Trailer 1, which was unfit to sell the movie, was the final trailer. This did massive damage.
- Red Band trailer ruined by music that turned off everyone.

On that note, "turned off" summarizes the campaign. Instead of educating general audiences on who and what Conan is, using the REH and Dark Horse fans as a starting point, they chose to appeal to the Arnold/Milius fans - the one group of fans that would dismiss the new movie outright regardless, especially if was perceived as a remake. So they sold it as a remake.
And while they got the message across that the movie was coming, they failed to tell anyone why they should see it.

2. Word of mouth
They had prescreenings a week before the general release, which turned out to be a big mistake, as the movie was MAULED in reviews.
The week before opening, it was tracking a slightly less than 20 mill opening weekend. The opening weekend actuals was ten mill.
The difference can be attributed to WOM, everyone on the fence about seeing it probably skipped it after hearing reviews.

The ones responsible?
Avi Lerner of Millennium for making such a worthless movie,
and Joe Drake of LGF for dropping the ball so badly in marketing and releasing it.

#11 PaulMc

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 08:29 PM

It didn't have great reviews.

Mostly middle-of-the-road or bad.

Couple that with $13 for a 3D showing (in many North American markets, there wasn't a choice of seeing 2D and saving a few dollars), and people on the fence or only mildly interested are going to wait a week, or two, or just wait for ppv, DVD, whatever.

And, frankly, the rating. Yes, a true REH Conan would have violence and sex, but you can't expect a block-buster summer movie with an 'R' rating.

That, I think, is one sacrifice that needed to be made - curb the violence down to PG-13.

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#12 Evil Thoth-Amon

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 08:29 PM

The market isn't there for a Conan film. I just really don't think anyone cares aside from the Howard/Conan fans. It's scary how quickly times have changed, and it has been a long time since Conan was in the mainstream.


But the freakin JOHN CARTER OF MARS is mainstream now? Iron Man was mainstream prior the movie release? Is "Rise of the planet of the apes" based on a more "mainstream" source?? Please...

Edited by Evil Thoth-Amon, 30 August 2011 - 08:30 PM.

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#13 Reaver

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 08:39 PM

The market isn't there for a Conan film. I just really don't think anyone cares aside from the Howard/Conan fans. It's scary how quickly times have changed, and it has been a long time since Conan was in the mainstream.


But the freakin JOHN CARTER OF MARS is mainstream now? Iron Man was mainstream prior the movie release? Is "Rise of the planet of the apes" based on a more "mainstream" source?? Please...

John Carter isn't mainstream, but it's getting a bit more of a positive push. Plus, the IP doesn't have to contend with any previous incarnations, and thus, preceonceived notions. Iron Man was marketed as a Marvel Comic with some familiarity, and a lot of exposure. And Apes counted on the recognition factor of the old movies, and the fact that it clearly ignored Burton's steaming pile (which was worse than the new CtB, IMHO).

#14 DavidMcMurdo

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 08:42 PM

The market isn't there for a Conan film. I just really don't think anyone cares aside from the Howard/Conan fans. It's scary how quickly times have changed, and it has been a long time since Conan was in the mainstream.


But the freakin JOHN CARTER OF MARS is mainstream now? Iron Man was mainstream prior the movie release? Is "Rise of the planet of the apes" based on a more "mainstream" source?? Please...


Those were exceptionally well made films though, and that's what I'm saying with point number three. A Conan film would at least need to be that good, and the franchise just isn't strong enough to justify the resources for that. We ended up with Marcus Nispel for a reason.

EDIT: And yeah, it's hard to find a franchise much more well known than Planet of the Apes, hence how they can justify two reboots in the space of ten years. It's still referenced endlessly in pop culture. With Conan we've got the first film since 1984, of which people have only a vague recollection. The Howard stories, Age of Conan game and comics don't even register.

Edited by DavidMcMurdo, 30 August 2011 - 08:49 PM.

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#15 drush9999

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 08:45 PM

I think the marketing was atrocious, the casual audience for this didn't know it was coming. Here in the UK I remember loads of TV spots for Solomon Kane, haven't seen any for Conan.
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#16 Masterfulks

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 09:01 PM

I think it was a combination of things.

1. No real big stars. Though this would not have been a problem if the movie was good enough to make them stars.
2. Weak story. The characters are shallow. There is no reason to watch it again.
3. Overly action packed. It should be a film, not a video game. Look at Lord of the Rings. If they have just killed orcs for 2 hours and jumped between scenes it would have flopped.
They took the time to give each character motivations and made us care about the world they were trying to save. Flesh out your characters, don't just make them so single minded.
4. Cartoonish blood, and props. The swords and weapons did not look real. Just by looking at them it gives the movie an overall cheapness. When swords are so prominent in the movie
people will notice.
5. It didn't give Conan fans much to go back for. Repeat viewings with these kinds of movies can drive up the profit considerably.


The main failure was the story. They could have gone completely against REH's written world and still made a successful film, such as the first Conan. So the failure to follow REH is not
exactly a reason to say the film bombed. Though it could easily be argued if they had followed him, then the quality would have returned to the storyline and everything about the movie
would have improved.

#17 DavidMcMurdo

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 09:06 PM

I think it was a combination of things.

1. No real big stars. Though this would not have been a problem if the movie was good enough to make them stars.
2. Weak story. The characters are shallow. There is no reason to watch it again.
3. Overly action packed. It should be a film, not a video game. Look at Lord of the Rings. If they have just killed orcs for 2 hours and jumped between scenes it would have flopped.
They took the time to give each character motivations and made us care about the world they were trying to save. Flesh out your characters, don't just make them so single minded.
4. Cartoonish blood, and props. The swords and weapons did not look real. Just by looking at them it gives the movie an overall cheapness. When swords are so prominent in the movie
people will notice.
5. It didn't give Conan fans much to go back for. Repeat viewings with these kinds of movies can drive up the profit considerably.


The main failure was the story. They could have gone completely against REH's written world and still made a successful film, such as the first Conan. So the failure to follow REH is not
exactly a reason to say the film bombed. Though it could easily be argued if they had followed him, then the quality would have returned to the storyline and everything about the movie
would have improved.


Nevermind Fulks: we've still got the Highlander remake to look forward to ;) (Quickening)

I agree with the Robert E. Howard point. I don't think flashing his name over the title would have helped one iota. People would just be like, "who?", sadly.

Edited by DavidMcMurdo, 30 August 2011 - 09:06 PM.

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#18 Rusty Burke

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 09:22 PM

I know we're split on whether we liked the film or not and I guess those of us who didn't aren't surprised it failed but those who liked , or indeed loved , the film why did it fail so awfully at the Box Office - well apart from Russia?!

Really hope Rusty and Mark are around as I'd especially like to hear their thoughts


I think the negative word-of-mouth and reviews hurt a lot. But of course, the WOM and reviews would have been better if there had been a reasonably decent story and characterization. I think that all comes back to the wretched script, and possibly poor direction. (If I'm reading Al and others correctly, Nispel may have sacrificed parts of the script that actually helped make sense, in pursuit of nonstop action. Me, I can't really separate script and direction, it's all just story and character development, and this lacked both. [So then how could I like it? That's why I called it a "thrill ride" -- I enjoyed it in the same way one enjoys a roller-coaster ride or a tilt-a-whirl, just mindless thrills and then when it's over you've got nothing, really.])

Quite possibly those who say the marketing campaign was poor are correct. Frankly, I don't recall any marketing campaign.

The release date and R rating didn't help. It came on the heels of a number of other summer comic-book movies, and right after the release of the Ape movie, which was a howling success critically. (Probably because it had, um, story and character development.) I went to a matinee on a Saturday at a cineplex adjacent to a major shopping center, and there were only fifteen people in the theater. On the day after opening?

I personally don't think the lack of major stars had much to do with it -- many movies have been quite successful without major stars.

I think when you get right down to it, the single biggest reason it tanked is that the story stank and the script didn't give the actors a chance to develop their characters, and therefore the critics hated it and gave it really awful reviews, and the word of mouth did nothing to alter that, since even the most glowing of the reviews (like mine and Mark's) still basically said the story was imbecilic.

Possibly Nispel's direction is as much at fault as Donnelly and Oppenheimer's script, but I still maintain that if you took those exact same actors and the cinematographers and sfx people etc etc, and gave them a script that was faithful to REH's character (and, I suppose, a director who would film the script), they could do it.

Rusty

#19 Kortoso

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 09:35 PM


Preaching to the choir here, but one of the factors that kept the public from taking this seriously, I think, was the omission of "Robert E. Howard's" from the title. This was the original idea with the "reboot", that we were going back to the source. I think the public would be impressed in Conan's literary roots, but this wasn't given a chance.

So it was just another S&S movie, and Arnold wasn't in it.

It needed something special in order to eclipse Milius' movie: a big-name actor, an accomplished director, or a back-to-the-roots approach, and it had none of these.

That would probably fall under the "trying to please the Arnie fans" header. The fanatical ones would be like "Who's Robert E. Howard? John Milius created Conan, didn't he?"


That was not my point. Posted Image

#20 Reaver

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 09:42 PM

That was not my point. Posted Image

I know. :lol: