4. Brand Recognition Has Its Downside
It’s a popular trend in Hollywood (right now?) to try and make box office profits from established brands, even when those brands are something you would never, ever, expect to be the basis of a movie. This brand recognition thing has gone so far that our immediate future is peppered with movies based on board games (Battleship, Monopoly, Candyland), toys (Transformers, Stretch Armstrong) and countless “re-imaginings” of classic literary works (Snow White, The Wizard of Oz, The Three Musketeers).
However, X-Men: First Class has proven that brand recognition doesn’t automatically equal box office fortune – especially when your brand has been tainted. First Class made $56 million its opening weekend, which is the lowest opening for an X-Men movie, ever. (Some people point to Bryan Singer’s first X-Men and its opening weekend take of about $54 million, but if you account for inflation in years between 2000 and 2011, that number would be considerably higher by today’s standards.)
The problem? A film with no big stars on the marquee (some solid and rising stars, but no headliners like Halle Berry or Patrick Stewart), combined with a bad taste still swirling in the mouths of moviegoers who felt once-or-twice burned by the franchise’s lackluster previous offerings, X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
You still have nightmares about us, don’t you?
In the end, First Class wasn’t able to sell itself as something fresh enough for moviegoers to give it the required fresh chance. Confusion about whether the film was a prequel to Singer’s films or a reboot of the franchise – and the greater confusion when it was announced that it was both a prequel and reboot – didn’t help to provide moviegoers (geek and non-geek alike) with any serious incentive to approach the film as a clean slate.
Sure, many of the people who actually saw First Class ultimately realized that all those negative early impressions were unfounded… but they had to actually pay for a ticket and sit in the theater first. A lot of people simply weren’t willing to take the chance of being burned a third time.