I recently read in the Paper of Record that Twentieth Century Fox had pulled the “teaser trailer” for their upcoming film, Neighborhood Watch. The trailer depicted the film’s stars patrolling their neighborhood turf to the sound of hip-hop music, while they mimicked gunplay with their hands. According to the Paper of Record’s article, the public outcry that erupted after the actual neighborhood watch shooting in Florida may have “spoiled the fun of a movie that cost over $50 million to make and will cost tens of millions more to market.” In fact, the article said, the trailer wasn’t the only problem. The film’s very name – Neighborhood Watch – guaranteed that it would have been tainted by “even a whiff of the vigilantism at issue.”
Personally, I found this surprising. I mean, Wow. Even a whiff of the vigilantism? It wouldn’t even take a bona fide smell to taint that up? Or a putrid stench? Who goes to the movies these days -- gloomy search-and-rescue dogs? Given the sensitivity of moviegoers' noses, studio insiders say it was an “unfortunate decision” to release the trailer in the first place. That does seem unfortunate. It’s always a stroke of bad luck when people spend $50 million dollars of their own money to make something fun, and then real events just come along and ruin it. That’s especially true when the fun thing isn’t really even about the thing that’s spoiling the fun. The real movie isn’t about black music, or gun violence. It’s about ALIENS. Oops - spoiler alert! But c’mon, public outcriers. Lighten up. Aliens aren’t violent. They might kill a few people once in a while, in their quest to take over the planet. But they’re definitely not vigilantes. They’re totally made up. That’s what makes them so fun!
Moviegoers need to keep this marketing tragedy in perspective. Is it the studio’s fault that their trailer played on unfortunate racial stereotypes to make the actors look all scary and violent? That was just a joke! That's why they call it a "teaser" -- Get it? And they only did that to keep the alien invasion angle a secret, so the movie would be more fun. But now -- insert sad face emoticon here -- the fun might be ruined. Maybe the real problem is that Americans are too quick to stereotype movies based on their hilarious teaser trailers!
Frankly, Americans would probably be happier if they just stopped taking whiffs of vigilantism altogether. Whiffs of vigilantism are bad for people who want to have fun. And also, people who like animals. Fox knows this because the movie, We Bought a Zoo, didn’t do very well either. The fun of that movie was spoiled when people got a whiff of dozens of dead animals, who were shot trying to escape from a real private zoo in Ohio. As it turns out, whiffs of dead animals don’t sell movies about handsome widowers who buy private zoos. Even Matt Damon couldn’t blow fresh air back into that zoological stench. SO not fun!
Of course, Fox doesn’t know for sure that carcasses tainted the film. It might just have been a bad movie. With a stupid premise. But market research was also kind of tricky. Because first of all, no one at the studio knew what Ohio actually was. Some Hollywood insiders were quoted as saying they thought it was a prison somewhere in California. Like upstate, near Vacaville. Others said they heard it was a really big zoo. Eventually, someone remembered it was actually a state. Just a really boring one. Where people have ugly feet, like Hobbits. And lame parties, that aren’t even on the beach. And that didn’t seem fun to anyone. So they decided to cut their losses and just stop doing research. What -- go to Ohio? No way!
Now, it seems, the best hope for Neighborhood Watch might be to delay its release. At least until real events stop stinking everything up. But conventional Hollywood wisdom can’t get behind that decision. The producer of Collateral Damage said he thinks that delaying his film’s release for several months after the 9/11 attacks actually hurt its performance at the box office. It only made $40 million dollars! Worse yet, it was one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s worst films.
The studio tried to rebound from that financial disaster by putting Schwarzenegger into a new acting role. It was called Governor of California. Unfortunately, real events came along to spoil that movie too. Like when the governor’s wife got a whiff of the fact that he'd been supporting a mistress – and his out of wedlock offspring – for decades. Right under her roof. Well, not always right under her roof. Sometimes, he kept them in a hidden underground bunker. I think it was somewhere in California. Like upstate, near Vacaville.
Well, truth CAN be stranger than fiction. And that’s so awesome, as long as the studios can still figure out how to profit from it. Like they did with Erin Brokovitch. For that film, Julia Roberts won an Oscar. During her speech, she almost remembered to thank what’s-her-name. Or like, The China Syndrome. That was so fun because a real nuclear meltdown actually happened right after the film came out. I think it was somewhere in Ohio. And don’t forget about Titanic! No public outcry to spoil that fun! The only good news in all this tragedy is that the studio will probably survive. And that's good because you can never have enough parties on the beach. Or nice pedicures. The studios also know that regular people -- like those poor Ohio prisoners -- need them to keep making movies. Because sometimes, the real world just isn’t that fun. And when it really starts to smell, that's the best time to bring on the aliens!