Snakes On A Plane Fail Mainly On Their Gains?

As you may know, “Snakes On A Plane,” which delivers pretty much what it promises, opened this past weekend to some mixed fanfare and slithered its way to number one at the box office. The movie became an Internet phenomenon over the past several months since word of its title was leaked, and it inspired not only a “Snakes on a Blog,” but also several hysterical movie poster contests and, in general, a ton of excellent consumer-generated content. And now, after all that, people are saying that the $15.3 million the film made on opening weekend is beneath expectations. So, what’s the deal? What went wrong? Or did anything go wrong at all?

This has been a subject of much discussion in the Lab over the last few days and I’m moving it to the blog because it would be very valuable to have our readers offer up some comments on it. For a nice summary of what’s going on (and another take on it), visit here. Or here. Or here. Or… never mind.

Personally, I think that the expectations for the film may have been set a little too high by folks who saw all the hubbub taking place on some Internet sites and misinterpreted what it meant. “SoaP” cost about $30 million to make and it drew in $15.3 million over its opening weekend. Compare that with the Colin Farrell vehicle “The New World,” also made for about $30 million, which only drew in a whopping $4 million on its opening weekend. Or compare it with Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby,” and Oscar-winning picture that cost $30 million and only drew in $12 million (baby) on its opening weekend.

So, I’m not sure the expectations were set in the right place. I mean, I could expect to make $1 million by the end of the year, but that’s an expectation that’s probably a little high (All donations will be graciously accepted, though).

One of the ideas raised around the office is that all the interest that has collected around “SoaP” has catapulted “Snakes on a Plane” (the title) into a pop culture icon that transcends “Snakes on a Plane” (the movie). One perfect example of this is, when a thwarted terrorist plot last week caused forced airline passengers to forgo bringing any beverages on airplanes, jokes began to circulate about “Liquids on a Plane.” It’s almost as if the concept of “Snakes on a Plane” has taken on a life of its own that far outstrips the actual movie “Snakes on a Plane.”

I think this does underscore two important points, though:

First, being popular in the blogosphere does not necessarily equate with being popular in the public as a whole. I don’t think it was the title or the “creepy snakes” that kept people away. It had a swell marketing campaign, including a wonderfully inventive customizable phone call from Samuel L. Jackson that you could send to friends. I love hearing Samuel L. Jackson describe the lab as “that ridiculous advertising agency crack up every time I hear Samuel L. Jackson say, “The one summer blockbuster guaranteed to take a big nasty bite out of your butt.” Really. I just listened to it again and I have tears in my eyes from laughing so hard.

But I digress. Taking a wider view of this situation, this may be more proof that there’s a significant change in culture going on among the younger folks out there (myself included). Personally, I was an avid fan of Snakes-on-a-Plane-related blog postings and I thought New Line’s nifty “Have Samuel L. Jackson Call Your Cell Phone” idea was excellent. And you know what? I still didn’t see the movie this weekend. I stayed at home and watched Hong Kong action movies. Not because I don’t want to see “Snakes on a Plane”, but more because of the high price, both in money and work, required for me to go to a movie theater. And, realistically, in about three months, for the same price as it would cost to see it in the theater, I can buy a DVD of the movie that, I’m sure, will be packed full of bizarre special features.

In general, I think it might be interesting to contrast this with Chris Anderson’s Long Tail book, which, partially through conversations on blogs and partially through teasers given in Wired, skyrocketed the book to, I believe, the #2 most popular nonfiction book on Amazon the week it was released.

NOTE: The image used in this article was shamelessly stolen from the Fark “Snakes On A Plane” photo contest