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What Went Wrong?: Vol. 45 – Muppets Most Un-Wanted Edition
March 24, 2014Posted by on
Wow! Zack’s done 45 of these? Anyway, It’s Nick, and I’m hijacking this column today!
This past weekend, the eighth theatrically released Muppets movie, Muppets Most Wanted, was released (look for my review soon). I went to an 8pm showing on Saturday and was amazed to see the theatre was over half-empty. I was talking to someone the following day to discover that the showing she went to only had one other couple in it.
Surprised, I went online and discovered Muppets Most Wanted came in a distant second place by earning a lackluster $16.5 million dollars (the pervious installment nearly doubled that during its opening weekend). This was a huge disappointment especially after the massive success (both critically and financially) of 2011’s The Muppets which effectively restarted the mostly dead Muppet film franchise. I am sure Disney was expecting Muppets Most Wanted to be a similar success, so what exactly went wrong?
Well, for starters, it was dominated and crushed by the latest young adult novel-turned-movie Divergent. Am I the only one who never heard of this series until the movie was coming out? Looking very much in the same vein of The Hunger Games, it feeds into that massive fan base. Clearly these young female-led action flicks meet all those specific demographs much more than the Muppets do. Though not making nearly as much, released the same weekend as The Hunger Games was two years previously, Divergent had the perfect storm going for it.
But, okay, there was the Divergent competition. Surely the Muppets can be designed for families and adults who loved the Muppets when they were younger? After all the last film was released during the winter movie season and it did gang-busters!
Well, yes and no.
While the first film played heavily on the nostalgia that audiences had for the Muppets, that’s really only a trick you can use once. Reminiscent adults got their fix. Now, they may not care. Kids who went to the previous film likely came with their families and even though they might have enjoyed the movie, Kermit and friends just don’t have that “must-see” appeal. Plus, I bet those families still went to see Divergent as that was something fresh.
Not helping matters, I am sure, is that Muppets Most Wanted didn’t keep the previous film’s human co-stars of Jason Segel and Amy Adams. While replacing human characters isn’t such a new thing with Muppet movies, the previous movie was largely anchored by them. I can see that by not including them, the film put off potential audiences.
However, all the above is minimal. Here is the real reason why I think this film faltered. Remember how completely awesome the The Muppets marketing campaign was back in 2011? With all the fake trailers and movie posters? Each new one got more and more ridiculous and the film got a lot of buzz and good will. Muppets Most Wanted’s marketing was horrible by comparison. Disney’s team did nothing eye-catching or original. True, they eventually released some parody posters, but those didn’t come out until two weeks before the film’s release. The marketing was extremely pedestrian and it did not do a good job of selling the flick by highlighting a plot that seemed sort of “eh” and maybe more kiddie that it actually is. While the marketing did the job, there nothing stood out about it. And the numbers show that it didn’t engage audiences.
I can see Muppets Most Wanted being successful in the video release market, so I am sure the film will churn a profit. I am really surprised that Disney dropped the ball on this. This is a series that is still fairly strong creatively, but without people going to the movies to see it, it is going to flounder. If another movie is made any time in the near future, I really hope the mistakes made with this will be corrected, so the Muppets can have that 2011-styled success again.