Lionsgate Foolishly Debuts Against Harry Potter!

Well, this is it. This is my first post in a half-hearted, transparent attempt to become somewhat of a leading voice in the media and technology industries.

Unfortunately, I am probably not going to get this blog off on the right foot. For today’s post will be entirely negative. That’s my intention for this blog, as I certainly hope to be a beacon of light and sunshine for the media industry that I love. However, my thoughts on what just happened this past Thursday night cannot be ignored.

Why in the world would anybody open a movie up against mutha-freakin’ Harry Potter, which premiered last night, Friday, November 19, 2010?

Why?

Would you?

I don’t even watch this unbelievably nauseating franchise of a movie (and neither does anyone under the age of 21 according to studies that I can’t specifically cite right now), but I do know how much people love it. I know that when I was in high school, my (how do I put his kindly?) sci-fi-prone friends loved these “Harry Potter” books. I also know that people my age continue reading these books and watching these movies that they have to wait 15 hours in line for. Even in New York City, the urbanized equivalent of an entertainment Petri dish, people with 7 million other things to do decidedly wait in line for tickets to see this movie.

Now, I don’t know about you, but if I were releasing a movie multi-million budget feature film with Russell Crowe in it, at the very least, I would like to make my money back on opening night. Instead, Lionsgate’s release of “The Next Three Days,” brought in a whopping $2.5 million on its first night in the theaters. That’s certainly not a ringing endorsement for Russell Crowe. More importantly, it doesn’t speak well for the intelligence of an otherwise shrewd organization.

Lionsgate’s decision to open up alongside the latest Harry Potter movie has to be one of the dumbest decisions in the history of movie-making. That’s right! It’s pretty much up there with the decision to put Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck in the same movie and the choice to make a “prequel” of everybody’s favorite movie, “Carlito’s Way.”

Did Lionsgate really think they were going to be able to compete with Harry Potter? Can anybody compete with Harry Potter? I don’t care if these movies have no cross-over appeal whatsoever (however, they do!), but to think that moviegoers are going to look at lines around the block for a movie and ask themselves, “Gees, I wonder what the second most anticipated movie premiere of the weekend is?” is a just a foolish notion that can only be described as beyond belief.

Of course, it’s easy to sit here and criticize them for this decision when I don’t have too many facts in front of me. One thing that I learn more and more about business everyday is that big businesses don’t make decisions for no reason. They have facts, charts, graphs and research panels that dictate just about every move they make. However, there is a part of business that requires “soft skills.” Some soft skills should have come into play when making the decision to release this movie. Because it is my contention, that had they released this movie the previous weekend or the weekend after, it would have made a lot more than the reported $2.5 million it made on opening night!

That’s right…$2.5 million freaking dollars! They probably spent that much money on Russell Crowe’s shampoo alone!

Speaking of which, since when was Russell Crowe the guy you want to put up against Harry Potter. I can understand if you’re opening a movie up with Matt Damon, Will Smith or Leonardo DiCaprio, but Crowe? This man doesn’t bring money in. You don’t need a movie-opening regression formula to know that Crowe is not a money draw in the box office. For all of his star power, accolades, and most importantly, great theatrical performances, the man doesn’t reel in the big bucks—especially on understated feature flicks.

Just look at his past. On opening weekends, Crowe brought in just $14 million for “State of Play.” Crow brought in just $12 million for “Body of Lies.” Crow brought in a whopping $3 million for “A Good Year.” And for the unbelievable, heralded, pat-on-the-back, slap-your-mother-in-the-face of a performance Crowe had in “A Beautiful Mind,” the opening for that movie was a mere $367,151. Now in his defense, “A Beautiful Mind” did go on to make $170 million, and Crowe did strike it big with his last movie, “Robin Hood.” But openings are openings, and one movie does not a trend make. Letting Crowe lead the way on a weekend in which Harry Potter is all the rage just isn’t a good business decision.

Now, I’m sure a marketing executive at Lionsgate could tongue-lash me to Los Angeles and back with statistics made up of metrics that I have never even heard of. But I don’t need an MBA to know that putting a lead with a history of poor opening weekends up against one of the most dominant franchises in Hollywood’s history is a negligent idea. Hopefully, Lionsgate has learned its lesson from this. I know I certainly don’t want to see their next Tyler Perry movie released on an inopportune weekend, because Lord knows that after “For Colored Girls,” he needs all the help he can get.

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