Why New Line 'Air-Balled' on Semi-Pro's Marketing
by Dusty Thomas
March 5, 2008
Industry expert Dusty Thomas is a contributor providing editorials and other articles related to the ins and outs of the business side of the movie industry and Hollywood.
As if we ever needed a reason why New Line needed to be swallowed by Warner Brothers (read about that here), the miserable performance of Will Ferrell's Semi-Pro would be it. With a marketing campaign that was spread across all media and a weekend with no strong competition, Semi-Pro should have been a sure-fire comedy success, one that closed near the successes of Blades of Glory and Talladega Nights. Instead it suffered through the weekend pulling in just over $15 million (via Box Office Mojo) as a direct result of marketing directed at the wrong demographics, an R-rating that further restricted those that would be interested, and poor release scheduling.
The "Love Me Sexy" single released around the country (and subsequent music video release), the Superbowl Bud Light commercial (wait, commercials no less), Old Spice commercials (oh, only 8 different versions), half-time teaser during the Superbowl, numerous in-person, in-character special events and speaking engagements (Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue comes to mind, with Heidi Klum, see below)…
Simply said, Will Ferrell's face has been plastered everywhere for about the last four months in timeslots that focused specifically on the 20 to 30 year old male. This moviegoer is, characteristically, not one that would regularly attend a movie by himself.
Another extreme challenge to the success of Semi-Pro was the poor choice to leave it as an R-rated film. Ferrell pulled in $47 million on opening weekend with Talladega Nights (released by Sony in 2006) and $33 million on opening weekend with Blades of Glory (released by Paramount in 2007), both of which were PG-13. These much more successful movies benefited from the PG-13 rating by allowing for multiple generations to be marketed to, especially considering they are much more regularly subjected to the slapstick, random humor that Ferrell is best at.
The final issue that also greatly hurt the performance of Semi-Pro was the premature release date (of February 29th). Both of the above mentioned comedic successes timed their release dates to correspond with related events that were going on at the time. NASCAR, well, that runs nearly 10 months a year, but August is the heat of the summer and racing season. And, something I just learned while writing this piece, the Ice Skating World Championships are held around March each year.
March Madness is only weeks away, and we get a 'cookie-cutter' Ferrell film about basketball - did someone in the New Line marketing department forget that a majority of their marketing was hitting college age males? Why not piggy-back this film with the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament? Games start on March 20th and only play Thursdays and Saturdays. I have to believe that this could have been better marketed; coinciding with the NCAA tournament would have been better than trying to get football fans (during the Superbowl) to try to relate to a basketball comedy a month out from the release date.
Hopefully the Warner Brothers team can come in and save New Line's future projects and truly present the appropriate movie ratings, the right marketing at the right time, and schedule the movies in times throughout the year when we may actually want to go see them. Then, maybe, we won't see Will Ferrell comedies flop in February anymore.