OPINION: Does the Media Have a Responsibility to Avoid Spoiling—and Overhyping—'Star Wars: Episode VII'? on June 04, 2014

sw7.pngBy Shawn Robbins

Director J.J. Abrams beat us all to the punch in a far more effective way than I can hope to achieve here, but nevertheless...

If you've visited a major entertainment news outlet in recent days, you probably stumbled upon revealing headlines surrounding Star Wars: Episode VII. Monday saw more than 40 spy photos leak from the sequel's Abu Dhabi sets ("courtesy" of a site that will remain unnamed), followed by an even more notable round of prohibited pics on Tuesday. The latter revealed the presence of the (minor spoiler alert here) Millennium Falcon in the hugely anticipated follow-up to Return of the Jedi. (For the record, we're acknowledging it only because Abrams and his production company, Bad Robot, took to social media on Wednesday morning to succinctly express his displeasure over the leaked images, while also confirming the Falcon will play a part in the film, albeit sarcastically.

The question of the day: would he have confirmed such information had there never been any rumor of the Falcon's involvement in the movie?

We'll never know. Observers have theorized that leaked information has sometimes been unofficially enabled as a means to drum up buzz (as if this movie needs more of it). That's speculation at best, so let's operate under the notion that Abrams--a practiced expert at veiling his projects in as much uncertainty as possible--would be perfectly willing to keep every frame of Episode VII a secret if given the option. Had he been working on this project thirty years ago, he'd more easily get his wish (not to mention the wish of fans like myself).

Unfortunately, we live in an era of journalism that has slowly lost the respect for the integrity of filmmaking--particularly when it comes to online media. Spoilers for films, often years from release, proliferate more than fan blogs now. Not all outlets are so cavalier in allowing them, but a growing number seem to be. Case in point: yesterday's headlines of the second round of leaked photos outright named the Falcon as the subject--before any official confirmation, and without any semblance of a spoiler warning.

Granted, this is minor compared to the bigger potential spoilers that could eventually leak, and there are fans who willingly seek out such material. That's their choice, though. Abrams' sly confirmation is even commendable after he took fan heat for concealing Benedict Cumberbatch's true identity in Star Trek Into Darkness. Still, when official news headlines are freely giving away plot points (minor or not), a far more egregious line is crossed as unsuspecting readers are no longer given the choice to avoid said information they--and especially the filmmakers--would rather keep unknown.

Another example of this trend occurred three years ago when set photos from multiple plot-pivotal scenes of The Dark Knight Rises leaked--sequences that had never been referenced in an official capacity up to that point. Marvel movies have also fallen victim in recent years as websites reveal story arcs and character backgrounds as if they're common knowledge. It may not be news to avid fans, but many of us would prefer to stay in the dark. Or, at least, warn us before the shroud is lifted.

This isn't the first time it's happened with Star Wars, nor will it be the last (a sad fact). Furthermore, one can already imagine the fan outcry if the Falcon proves to only have a brief appearance in the film. If that were to be the case, claims of overhype are guaranteed to be thrown around because viewers are building up their own expectations based on limited information. And as the prequels proved, this franchise has plenty of sky-high expectations already.

The unsettling reality here is that Episode VII has barely begun production, and the outpouring of unconfirmed plot details has already begun. It's no surprise, but it's a dangerous line to walk after the slew of other Star Wars plot rumors popped up on lesser-known sites earlier this year--most of which are probably fake, but no one outside the production team truly knows. At this rate, it's only a matter of time before roughly accurate summaries of the movie's three acts find their way online before its December 18, 2015 release.

Is there a solution? Probably not, because this is the "accepted" way of the Internet now. Filmmakers like Abrams, Christopher Nolan, and others have taken measures through their production teams to ensure as few leaks as possible, but nothing is foolproof. Some things will inevitably slip through, all for the sake of credit and page views.

Some may read this as an overreaction to an insignificant (and admittedly, exciting) piece of news, but as one of many passionate film lovers around the world, I'm not alone in these opinions. Whether it's intentional sensationalism motivated by desire for ad revenue, or just good old fashioned naivete, we--the film community, the media, and movie fans at large--have a responsibility. Let's do our part and curb the trend of openly spoiling movies before the experience of seeing it in a theater is wholly watered down, and falsely substituted, by reading an online gossip site.

That's the direction we're heading in, and it's a disturbing shame with potential ramifications for both the artistic and business sides of the industry. Thousands of men and women contribute to the production of a film like this, and each of them deserve more respect for the work they're putting into a movie that the world is eager enough to see.

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NORTH AMERICA: 'Maleficent' Surpasses the $80M Mark on Tuesday on June 04, 2014


By Daniel Garris

Disney's Maleficent took in $7.20 million on Tuesday to lead the daily box office for a fifth straight day. The 3D fantasy film starring Angelina Jolie increased 16 percent over Monday's performance. Maleficent surpassed the $80 million mark yesterday and has now grossed $82.84 million through five days. That is on the very high end of the film's lofty pre-release expectations. Maleficent is currently running 23 percent ahead of the $67.16 million five-day start of 2012's Snow White and the Huntsman and 10.5 percent behind the $92.54 million five-day take of last year's Oz The Great and Powerful. Maleficent will likely take a significant hit this weekend with Fox's The Fault in Our Stars entering the marketplace on Friday.

X-Men: Days of Future Past held steady in second place with $3.79 million. Fox's 3D superhero sequel was up a very solid 20 percent from Monday, but still down 54 percent from last Tuesday. X-Men: Days of Future Past continues to perform towards the lower end of its massive expectations with a twelve-day take of $168.97 million. That places the film 63 percent ahead of the $103.72 million twelve-day take of 2011's X-Men: First Class and 7 percent behind the $181.31 million twelve-day gross of 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand.

Universal's A Million Ways to Die in the West grossed $1.86 million to remain in third. The western comedy directed by and starring Seth MacFarlane increased 15 percent over Monday, which represented the day's poorest daily percentage hold among wide releases. A Million Ways to Die in the West has grossed a disappointing $20.29 million in its first five days of release. The film is currently running 10 percent behind the $22.52 million five-day take of 2009's Land of the Lost.

Godzilla took fourth place with $1.37 million on Tuesday. Warner's 3D sci-fi action remake was up 19 percent over Monday and down 49 percent from last Tuesday. Godzilla has grossed $176.96 million in 19 days and will need to start stabilizing soon if it is to reach the $200 million domestic milestone.

Universal's Neighbors rounded out Monday's top five with $1.06 million, while Warner's Blended followed in sixth with $0.92 million. Daily percentage increases over Monday were 16 percent for Neighbors and 30 percent for Blended. Respective total grosses stand at a strong $130.94 million for Neighbors in 26 days and at a disappointing $30.98 million for Blended in twelve days.

'Fault In Our Stars' Stumbles But Maintains Record-Setting Pace on June 04, 2014


By Alex Edghill

Wednesday Morning Update: The Fault In Our Stars continued to blaze its tweet-trail on Tuesday, and despite a 13% decline to 165,878 tweets (it racked up 190,400 tweets Monday) it was still easily the biggest pre-release Tuesday on record for a Friday opener. I had to tack on the Friday opener qualification there because The Twilight Saga: Eclipse actually had 324,167 tweets on its Tuesday before release but since that was a Wednesday opener that comparison isn't valid. It dipped on Tuesday largely because buzz from its June 2nd premiere was waning. The Twilight Saga: New Moon also had a Monday premiere, and that fell 30% on Tuesday as buzz from it dissipated so this is right in line with past high profile release week premieres. If it follows a similar trajectory this week to New Moon it will be looking at over 750,000 tweets this week, obliterating the old record for Friday openers of 431k There is no doubt that there are a large number of very motivated fans here who are championing the film. This is common for popular young adult book adaptations, what is in no way ordinary are the volume of tweets it is throwing up, and has been throwing up ever since its first trailer debuted. Expect special things here this weekend for the $12 million production. Big bucks are on their way.

The Edge Of Tomorrow also saw a decline on Tuesday, albeit negligible, as it rung in with 12,222 tweets, down from 12,657 on Monday. By comparison, Oblivion had 4,468 tweets its Tuesday before release while Elysium had 2,736. Strong numbers compared to my given yard sticks but its important to remember Tomorrow opened in 28 territories over this past weekend which was a huge buzz injection while its title is much easier to tie down relevant tweets for. Even with those caveats these are strong returns for the film over the past couple days and the buzz levels coupled with strong reviews should serve it well over the coming weeks.

Top 15 Movies for Tuesday June 3rd

Rk Film Mon Tue Week Mon-Tue %
1 (-) The Fault in Our Stars 190,400 165,878 356,278 -12.88%
2 (-) Maleficent 107,723 97,269 204,992 -9.70%
3 (+1) 22 Jump Street 25,024 31,713 56,737 26.73%
4 (+1) X-Men: Days of Future Past 19,982 14,875 34,857 -25.56%
5 (-2) Star Wars: Episode VII 26,260 13,984 40,244 -46.75%
6 (-) Edge of Tomorrow 12,657 12,222 24,879 -3.44%
7 (+23) Hercules (2014) 465 8,166 8,631 1656.13%
8 (+2) Transformers: Age of Extinction 6,341 6,786 13,127 7.02%
9 (-2) Godzilla (2014) 8,100 6,295 14,395 -22.28%
10 (-2) Captain America: The Winter Soldier 6,679 5,990 12,669 -10.32%
11 (+6) Think Like a Man Too 2,064 4,692 6,756 127.33%
12 (-1) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 4,831 4,650 9,481 -3.75%
13 (-4) A Million Ways to Die in the West 6,520 4,179 10,699 -35.90%
14 (+8) Jupiter Ascending 875 4,173 5,048 376.91%
15 (+1) How to Train Your Dragon 2 2,235 3,230 5,465 44.52%

Please check the methodology page for information about our Twitter project or here for historic data.

NORTH AMERICA: May 2014 Posts Four-Year Low with $1.01 Billion (Analysis) on June 03, 2014

may14.pngBy Shawn Robbins

Last weekend's results closed out the month of May with a market gross of $1.01 billion, marking a 12 percent decline from May 2013's record $1.14 billion.

Standout performers for the month were few and far between. Fox and Bryan Singer successfully revived the X-Men franchise with Days of Future Past, earning a commendable $152.7 million in its first nine days of release. Meanwhile, Gareth Edwards and Warner Bros. relaunched Godzilla to a massive $171 million through sixteen days, while Universal's Neighbors has posted $126.8 million since its May 9 opening. Legs for all three have disappointed on some level, though--particularly Godzilla, which could become the first $90 million+ opener in history to fall short of a $200 million domestic total. Disney's Maleficent also contributed two-thirds of its healthy opening to May.

On the flip side, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 tallied $191.7 million, while Million Dollar Arm, Blended, and A Million Ways to Die in the West all fell short of expectations that were modest to begin with. The three combined for just $67 million.

One positive takeaway is hat last month upped the streak of consecutive Mays topping $1 billion to four years running. It was the lowest of the four, however, and the second lowest total since 2008 (May 2010 posted $907 million). Perhaps most concerning about last month's releases is the fact that audiences don't seem to be sticking around for them after opening weekend. The month's results aren't entirely shocking, though: a year ago, BoxOffice foresaw the lack of event franchises that would weigh down the current summer season.

Still, the 12 percent dip from last year's freshman summer month represents the second largest May-to-May slide in modern box office history--trailing the 18 percent decline between from 1985 to 1986. Estimated attendance (based on inflation-adjusted figures) ranked fourth lowest since 2001.

Year-to-date, 2014 has now totaled $4.18 billion--3 percent ahead of 2013 at the same point. Unfortunately, this year's 9 percent lead over last (through April 30) was erased by May's under-performers. That trend will likely continue through June as the coming month is expected to land far below June 2013's record $1.25 billion. Fortunately, flicks such as The Fault in Our Stars22 Jump Street, and How to Train Your Dragon 2 already look like bright spots for the second month of summer. 

May 2014's Top Performers (May 1 - May 31; includes holdovers):

1. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ($191.7 million in 30 days)
2. Godzilla ($171.0 million in 16 days)
3. X-Men: Days of Future Past ($152.7 million in 9 days)
4. Neighbors ($126.8 million in 23 days)
5. Maleficent ($50.1 million in 2 days)
6. The Other Woman ($49.5 million in 31 days)
7. Heaven Is for Real ($31.8 million in 31 days)
8. Blended ($27.4 million in 9 days)
9. Million Dollar Arm ($27.0 million in 16 days)
10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($26.5 million in 31 days)
11. Rio 2 ($25.6 million in 31 days)
-. A Million Ways to Die in the West ($12.6 million in 2 days)
-. Moms' Night Out ($9.5 million in 23 days)
-. Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return ($8.1 million in 23 days)

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