Anti-spin and whisper numbers are becoming part of the movie marketing mix. For two recent tentpole flicks — King Kong and M:I:3 — the story rapidly became how poorly those supposed blockbusters were performing. Both films were deemed failures after weekend takes that came in lower than Street-like whisper numbers, and the anti-spin began.
But King Kong didn’t flop with its $549m global take. That didn’t stop people from opining that Peter Jackson had built a butt-numbing and over-stuffed homage to his creature-feature flick fascinations. Similarly, the storyline on M:I:3 is that people are staying away because of Tom Cruise’s descent into Michael Jackson-ian depths of nutty public behavior. But how do you say that about a film that took $118m worldwide in its opening weekend?
The trouble is that talking smack about Cruise and Jackson is fun and easier than ever. We have more freely available public data about prior film performance, and we have more places to talk it up online. And given that a significant percentage of the move-going public uses box office statistics as a free-rider proxy for film quality, all this smack-talk about how M:I:3 is a flop will almost certainly cause some people to stay away, becoming a kind of at-the-margin self-fulfilling prophecy.
Maybe Hollywood needs blogs to spin back against the flop spinners.