Who's ready to get unscientific?!? Good, me too.
I've been seeing ads lately for IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH, the latest surefire post-MONSTER flop from Academy Award® Winner Charlize Theron. I have no idea what the movie is about, but every time I see an ad for it I cringe at how awful the title is. With a title like that it HAS to be a flop, right?
Well, I think so.
The first movie title that I can remember having this same effect on me was KRIPPENDORF'S TRIBE. I remember seeing the trailer for it and whispering to whoever it was next to me "Can you imagine ever speaking the words "'two for KRIPPENDORF'S TRIBE please'"? Unfortunately I can't immediately find the budget for KRIPPENDORF'S, but with a U.S. gross of $7.6 million for a Disney movie starring Richard Dreyfuss and Jenna Elfman, I can safely call it a flop.
I thought it would be fun to look back at the titles of the 3,296 films that have been/will be released from January 1, 2003 to December 31, 2007 and pick out the the titles that I hated strictly on their own merit. These are titles that made me cringe so viscerally that they actively made me NOT want to see the film they represented.
I came up with 20 films in all, and AFTER I selected them by title, I looked up their budgets and their box office performance in the U.S. Let's see how good a prognosticator I would have been if betting by title alone.
THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE: budget- $50 million, U.S. gross- $19.7 million
POOLHALL JUNKIES: b. $4 mil, USg. $.56 mil
OWNING MAHOWNY: b. $10 mil, USg. $1 mil
CHASING LIBERTY: b. $23 mil, USg. $12.2 mil
WELCOME TO MOOSEPORT: b. $26 mil, USg. $14.5 mil
THE UNITED STATES OF LELAND: b. ??, USg. $.34 mil
THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK: b.$120 mil, USg. $57.7 mil
A HOME AT THE END OF THE WORLD: b. $6.5 mil, USg. $1 mil
SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW: b. $70 mil, USg. $37.8
A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT: b.$55 mil, USg. $6.2 mil
BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE: b. $15 million, USg. $32.6
ELIZABETHTOWN: b.$54 million, USg. $26.9
LOOKING FOR COMEDY IN THE MUSLIM WORLD: b. ???, USg. $.89 mil
TRISTRAM SHANDY: A COCK AND BULL STORY: b. $4.7 mil, USg. $1.2
LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN: b. $27 mil, USg. $22.5
LET’S GO TO PRISON: b. $4 mil, USg. $5.5 million
CODE NAME: THE CLEANER: b. $20 mil, USg. $8.1 mil
I THINK I LOVE MY WIFE: b. $14 mil, USg. $12.5
THE WENDELL BAKER STORY: b. $8 mil, USg. $.13 mil
IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH: b. ??? USg. ???
So, without using LELAND and ELAH and MUSLIM in the equation (for lack of available figures) lets see what the numbers add up to for the other 17 films on Mr. Word Player's Terrible Title List™.
COMBINED BUDGET: $511.2 million
COMBINED GROSS: $260.1 million
COMBINED LOSS: $251.1 million
Now here's the question that I have no answer for-- with better titles, would these films have performed appreciably better? Or are titles such an integral part of a film that these were doomed to (collective) box-office failure, having been developed and rewritten for so long with weak titles at the eye of the storm?
I haven't seen any of the movies on the list (with the exception of the first 20 minutes of TRISTRAM), so I can't really comment on how their quality/perceived quality figured into the losses.
What do you think? What IS in a name when it comes to plunking down your hard earned entertainment dollar?
5 days ago