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Why Battleship flopped: 5 theories
The Transformers-like, effects-heavy blockbuster capsized at the weekend box office, mustering a weak $25 million debut. What went wrong?
 
Universal may have made a tactical error in not marketing "Battleship" as a kid-friendly, family movie in the tradition of "Transformers."
Universal may have made a tactical error in not marketing "Battleship" as a kid-friendly, family movie in the tradition of "Transformers."
Facebook.com/Battleship

Battleship has capsized. Despite its bloated $300 million production and marketing budget, gung-ho advertising campaign, and predictions for a massive Transformers-like opening weekend, the effects-heavy naval warfare blockbuster starring Taylor Kitsch debuted to just $25.3 million (especially odd since it's already grossed $226 million overseas). It's the worst domestic opening ever for a movie budgeted at over $200 million. Here, five theories why Battleship sank at the box office: 

1. The Avengers is unstoppable
Like Johnny Depp's Dark Shadows, which bombed last weekend, Battleship was torpedoed by The Avengers. Battleship's $25 million haul was less than half of what The Avengers put up, says Todd Cunningham at The Wrap. And the superhero jamboree is in its third week of release. With ticket buyers continuing to help The Avengers set records — it's approaching $1.2 billion worldwide and just set the record for the fastest film to reach the $450 million mark domestically — all other new releases are suffering, says Universal exec Nikki Rocco. "It's not just our film. When is the last time you saw a Johnny Depp movie open like that?"

2. It couldn't attract younger audiences
Summer blockbusters rely on young audiences to buoy their box-office grosses, but Battleship's audience skewed notably older, says Pamela McClintock at The Hollywood Reporter. Two-thirds of the film's opening night crowd was over age 25. It also proved more enticing to males, who made up 57 percent of the audience. The demo breakdown reveals Universal's fatal marketing mistake. Even though Battleship is family- and kid-friendly, the studio's promotion didn't target families as Hasbro's "sister film franchise" Transformers did so successfully. 

3. Taylor Kitsch is not a box office star
Battleship's $25.3 million gross is even less than the $30 million debut of John Carter — which also starred Kitsch and is considered one of the biggest flops of all time. "To the dismay of Tim Riggins fans everywhere," says John Young at Entertainment Weekly, Taylor Kitsch has now starred in the year's two top box office bombs. The hunky actor "may want to get a new agent," says Joe Flint at the Los Angeles Times.

4. The board game tie-in was a bust
The Hasbro board game upon which Battleship is "based" is a primitive affair featuring plastic pegs and tiny toy ships. Vastly expanding its context, the film encompasses naval warfare, militant extraterrestrials, and even romance. Perhaps "moviegoers weren't able to get past the idea of seeing a board game adaptation crossed with an alien invasion flick," says Young. Trailers for the film garnered "a lot of confounded looks and 'huh?' expressions" from fans of the game, says Travis Leamons at Inside Pulse. The younger generation likely missed the connection altogether, says Cunningham, since the board game's popularity predates the Xbox age.  

5. It just wasn't good
The movie's relative overseas success aside, perhaps moviegoers are more discerning than we think, says Cole Abaius at Film School Rejects. Battleship was pilloried by critics, while The Avengers won rave reviews. Hopefully "studios will see the truth in this triumph of the masses": Scoring a truly massive box office requires more than an oversized marketing budget and special effects. "It takes honest, positive, enthusiastic word of mouth." And a good film.

 

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