Well no. This is Singer's Superman Sucks. That image up there is Sparta, or more specifically, "300," the latest film from Warner Bros. that proved marketing works - as long as you listen to what your audience wants.
Grossing 70.9 million dollars, this tasty little masterpiece just became the highest grossing film ever to open in the month of March and is third behind The Matrix Reloaded and The Passion of the Christ for R-rated films. 300's opening included an estimated $3.4 million from 62 IMAX screens, surpassing Singerman as the biggest IMAX debut ever.
As Brandon Gray from Box Office Mojo pointed out...
Warner Bros. waged a striking marketing campaign for 300, based on the picture's hyper-stylized, digitally-enhanced look, the mythology of Ancient Greece and the high stakes premise of 300 Spartans fighting a vast army in the Battle of Thermopylae, replete with passing references to freedom to recall past audience favorites like Braveheart and Gladiator.
A tight 60-day live-action shoot began in fall 2005, and Warner got busy positioning 300 to the obvious fanboy-heavy, Sin City-loving audience. The studio organized a Q&A panel with director Zack Snyder and writer Frank Miller last July at San Diego's Comic-Con International, where they showed preview footage so gory and spiked with nudity it couldn't be posted on the Internet, thanks to MPAA rules about trailer content.
According to Snyder, Warner had given up on trying to appeal to a female audience. Then a pair of test screenings changed all that. "We got, like, a 100 percent recommend from women under 25," says the director. "They don't even get that kind of score on a romantic comedy." Why did women respond? In Miller's original graphic novel, Leonidas' wife, Queen Gorgo, appears only in passing. In the movie, Queen Gorgo (Brit Lena Headey) is a front-and-center partner to Leonidas, calming his nerves in bed (while both are very, very naked) and getting her own new subplot about political corruption as Leonidas marches off to war.
"At first I very much disagreed with it," Miller says. "My main comment was 'This is a boys' movie. Let it be that."' But the Snyders felt strongly that Leonidas needed something specific to fight for, and that female ticket buyers needed someone to identify with. The preview scores vindicated them. "Those numbers came back, and Warner said, Wow, we need to rethink this a bit," says Snyder. Instead of spending big on one 30-second Super Bowl TV spot, Warner sprinkled previews into more female-friendly TV shows, including Grey's Anatomy, Heroes, Lost, and American Idol.
If you missed it, the key was test screening and audience Q&A, something that is routinely done for big budget motion pictures but was reportedly undervalued by Singer during the production of Singerman. Warner Bros. pulled out all the stops but they seemingly ignored the one thing that would drive the film to boffo business: word of mouth.
It was by far, the most anticipated film opening in June. "More than any other studio, Warner Bros. has embraced the summer tentpole strategy. Spending huge sums to produce and market big titles, the studio regularly produces $200 million gambles that would make Vegas high-rollers blush." (Link) "On top of the $50 million or so it spent on its own marketing, Warner lined up promotions with Duracell, Samsung, Pepsi's Tropicana, Quaker, Aquafina, and Frito-Lay brands as well a Got Milk? campaign. Giant "S's" were projected on Chicago's Sears Tower, Niagara Falls, and other recognizable sites in about 10 major US cities. Sky divers made an "S" in parachuting formations in Boston, Dallas, and several other cities on June 27. (Link) "By the time 'Superman Returns' [opened], the 'S' logo was used to sell everything from soft drinks to motor oil. And toy manufacturers hoped that products like the Superman InflatoSuit would help to revive a sluggish licensing industry." (Link) Routh was seen on the covers of countless magazines, often more than once, and he, Bostworth and Singer made various appearances at press junkets worldwide. Warners also dumped a boatload of cash into Singer's blogs and ComicCon marketing. As Warners VP of targeted marketing, Viviana Pendrill once said, "you'd have to be living under a rock not to know about big releases like 'Superman,' 'Batman' and 'Harry Potter.'"
In terms of release, they covered all the bases. Print distribution was at blanket saturation levels. "Warner shipped out a whopping 8,500 prints of the film in North America, insuring there wouldn't be a cineplex in America that wasn't likely to have the big fella flying in." (Link) The studio "decided to wait until the World Cup ended July 9 to go outside Asia and Australia, launching in mid-July in Brazil, France, Mexico and the U.K.; it will wait until mid-August to open in Germany and Japan." (Link) Release date was carefully chosen; it was "perhaps the best date any studio has had in years: the Wednesday before a Tuesday holiday -- essentially giving "Superman Returns" a seven-day weekend." 'We're in good shape, and we have the primo date of the summer with a very long weekend ahead of us,' declared Warner Bros. distribution prexy Dan Fellman. 'Now it's up to the movie gods.'" (Link)
They should have started with the script writing gods, because an entertaining film will market itself.
"'Superman isn't caught up in the same angst that other characters like Spider-Man or Batman are,' says Gaetano Mastropasqua, Warners' corporate senior VP of global promotions and partner relations. 'Superman stands for truth, justice and a positive way of life.'"
"In marketing Singer's version, Warner Bros. has paid particular attention to the comicbook's fan base, some of whom were wary of previous incarnations and expressed their opinions so on high-trafficked Internet sites. Last summer, in the midst of shooting, the studio flew Singer via private jet from the film's Australian location to San Diego, where he screened footage at the annual Comic-Con comic book convention. The response was enthusiastic.
'You are never going to satisfy everybody,' says producer Michael Uslan ("Batman," "Batman Begins"), who has started a new company called Comic Book Movies with financier M. Jonathan Roberts. 'But if you can't satisfy the main part of the fan base, you are going to have problems. These are people who are not only schooled in the characters, the mythology and the history but also in the creators over the years. They know what they like.'"
Word of mouth is arguably, the single most important aspect of any film's success, and good WOM is directly related to how well a film reaches people. Look at the 2002 film year, for example. Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, a Los Angeles-based company that monitors box-office results, said...
"Without question, the two movies that exemplified the year (2002) were 'Spider-Man' and 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding.' They couldn't be more different in terms of budgeting, marketing, everything. But they were both mega-blockbusters. It just says that moviegoers are open to anything. As long as it's a good movie of course."