In 1996, Independence Day ruled the box office. A combination of star power, bombastic special effects and an intriguing plot grounded in the “What If?” reality of an actual invasion got millions of butts in seats across the globe. The film opened on a five-day holiday weekend to the tune of $96.1 million, grossing over $300 million in North America and $500 million internationally through the course of its theatrical first run.
Independence Day: Resurgence did not recapture this magic, and digital marketing did little to pick up this slack. Studio execs forecast a somewhat modest $53 million turnout that turned into a $42 million disappointment. Adjusting the original 1996 film’s $75 million budget for inflation gets you roughly $115 million, making the $165 million Resurgence’s paltry sales look even more meager.
By contrast, films like The Shallows did better-than-expected as a result of their digital marketing campaigns. Sleeper hit tale of the decade Deadpool also had digital marketing partially to thank for its unexpected success. So, as we digest our bratwurst and nurse hangovers in this day after celebrating the birthday of ‘Murica, let us analyze why some films sizzle and some flop by way of digital advertising.
Anticipating the Unexpected
Perhaps the biggest performance differentiator was the product itself. When Independence Day came out in 1996, it upped the stakes for popcorn flicks in scale, starpower and the sheer spectacle of its destructive imagery. Since then, director Roland Emmerich has spun nearly-identical tales wrought by forces strong enough to topple all the world’s notable monuments in one blow.
In other words, Resurgence promised only more-of-the-same in its trailer, albeit in a more space-oriented scale. The human drama of Bill Pullman, Randy Quaid and Will Smith trying to save their family gets replaced in the sequel with the noise of CG and neon lasers. Resurgence audiences were essentially promised a space opera battle between two unfamiliar forces, whereas the original film had a quite familiar setting with its iconic Americana.
But, one could argue that The Shallows and Deadpool were equally immersed in genre. Puns! Yet, The Shallow’s trailer delivers a premise of “what happens next?” and Deadpool promised to finally deliver the smart mouthed, meta-humor spewing violence that fans of the character craved for so long. Digital marketing efforts sought to reinforce desires to find out what happens given these unpredictable scenarios. Like politicians reminding their base to head to the polls, Deadpool and Shallows reminded genre and character-craving audiences to get a taste of what they love and learn the surprising twists and turns that happen along the way.
So, Resurgence failed to titillate, essentially. Even the return of a (prohibitively expensive) Will Smith would have given audiences something to anticipate. Instead, we got stuck with Judd Hirsch and an under-utilized Jeff Goldblum.
Another potential key to Resurgence’s failure and the success of The Shallows possibly lies in the latter’s keen targeting ability. Horror films frequently have a teenage audience that skews heavily female. Shallows star Blake Lively helped pull in this demographic, and targeted messaging on digital channels like Instagram and Snapchat further exposed niche audiences to the film.
The result was an unexpected win for the $17 million Sony flick. Box office forecasts indicated $14 million, while $16.5 mil was the actual take. And, for those that forgot, Deadpool shattered all expectations by a mile.
So does the answer lie in pitching original, exciting ideas instead of more-of-the-same? Should Resurgence have targeted a narrower audience interested in sci-fi and alien invasions? Did Ryan Reynolds use his stolen Deadpool costume to amuse wife Blake Lively in between frigid Shallows shoots? No one can answer for sure, but “product,” “positioning” and “promotion” have always been quintessential pillars of digital marketing. A little specificity to enhance intrigue also goes a long way.
Anyone struggling with their own marketing mix or trying to optimize their digital marketing campaigns can look to EverSpark Interactive for our expertise. We may not tout billion dollar movie studios as clients, but we can make you a star in your own right. Visit our digital marketing services page or contact us to learn more.