Solo: That is why you fail!

by Bill Cable
on 2018-05-30, 07:08:40

Let me start by telling you that I saw Solo: A Star Wars Story at 7pm on opening night with a half dozen of my PSWCS peeps. I enjoyed myself. My initial impression was that it was fun, but also pretty light weight and inconsequential. I liked most of the Easter eggs. I went in with pretty much no expectations, and had a good time.

On Friday my newsfeed was flooded with tons of breathless "the BEST Star Wars movie since Empire" type raves. And honestly, they felt kinda desperate. Fans who were unhappy with The Last Jedi reaching for something to restore their faith in the franchise. I mean, maybe some of those reactions were sincere... but I personally didn't see a movie that was on that level. I can't foresee watching Solo ten times over like I did The Force Awakens, much less the hundred plus times I've rewatched Return of the Jedi.

Then the box number started to drop, and my feed switched from elation to panic. And most of it was trying to figure out who to blame for Solo's very weak sub-$100 million 3-day box office. And a lot of that analysis is way off the mark. Especially the people blaming The Last Jedi.

The first thing people are doing wrong when blaming TLJ is that they're relying exclusively on anecdotal evidence. They're giving far too much weight to the vocal folks who plastered social media with outrage after the film came out, thereby skewing their data. When you look at unbiased data, an entirely different picture emerges. The fact is - audiences and reviewers liked The Last Jedi better than they like Solo.

Audience sentiment is tracked by two leading firms: Cinemascore and PostTrak. Each surveys a random sampling of audience members on opening night to get their data. Now - people who go to opening night of a film are obviously biased towards liking the film, so it's not a scientifically rigorous sampling. That's why a 'B' score from Cinemascore is considered awful, and a 'B-' is abysmal. Knowing that, let's compare audience reactions to TLJ compared to Solo...

Solo:
A- CinemaScore and 89% overall positive score with a 73% definite recommend
four-stars rating on PostTrak

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The Last Jedi:
A CinemaScore and 89% overall positive score with a 82% definite recommend
five-star rating on PostTrak

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As you can see, Solo falls short TLJ on almost every audience rating. Audience reaction to TLJ was, in fact, enthusiastically positive. So if you're blaming Solo's poor box office results on TLJ, you're barking up the wrong tree. You're making the mistake of oversampling rabid franchise fanboys. Those fanboys only impact a small percentage of a film's success. If you're going to have a blockbuster, it needs to connect with general audiences. The Last Jedi did that. Solo did not.

So if it wasn't The Last Jedi that gutted Solo's audience, what did? I present to you, Exhibit A:

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Those are tepid reviews. 6.4 out of 10 is just barely recommended. That's not going to drive casuals into theaters. It's going to scare them away. So the only people going to see Solo are the hard-core fans who'd go no matter the score. Thus, no blockbuster. Compare that score to The Last Jedi:

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91% positive with an average score of 8.1 out of 10. A 91 on RT pops. That's going to get casual butts in seats. That's gonna earn $1.3 billion worldwide.

I conclude that the reason Solo is doing so poorly is because it's too focused on the hardcore fans, and has limited appeal to casuals. Geeks are getting goosebumps at the mention of Teräs Käsi, while casuals shrug their shoulders. My friends love the thing unabashedly because my friends are hardcore Star Wars fans. But that's not the formula for a successful Star Wars film.

Casuals know Princess Leia isn't in the movie, so there won't be any real romance. They haven't seen any lightsabers in the promos, so they figure out there won't be any Jedi. Reviewers gave the film a resounding "Meh" so it drops off their radar entirely. Throw in competition from Deadpool 2 and Avengers: Infinity War, and you've got all you need for a very disappointing box office.

If you're blaming The Last Jedi for Solo's failure, then you're basically just cherry-picking anecdotal evidence to promote your existing anti-TLJ bias. The boycott and the anti-Disney rage only have a negligible effect on the overall performance. Casuals are king when it comes to box office success. And when casuals saw that RT score and heard the mediocre word-of-mouth suggested by those Cinemascore results, they stayed home.





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