Negative critical reviews often can't halt the momentum of a big box office hit, but a swarm of negative social media memos might. Today Time posits that negative reactions to "Bruno" on Twitter hurt the movie's box office numbers this past weekend.
The movie officially opened on Friday night, and post-midnight ticket sales of around $1.6 million had Hollywood insiders predicting the film would bring in around $50 million its opening weekend.
But thousands of Twitter messages and three days later, the film only earned $30.4 million for the weekend. That's still respectable, but "Bruno" saw almost a 40% drop in ticket sales from Friday to Saturday, and an even steeper drop in viewership moving into Sunday, which is incredibly unusual on opening weekend.
So did Twitter cost Bruno its weekend box office dominance?
The main difference between Friday and Saturday was that people had seen the movie. And apparently they didn't like it.
While critical reviews, cast quality and trailer anticipation normally have the most influence leading into opening weekend, it takes a few days or weeks before audience opinion normally sets in. But according to Time, word got around pretty fast this weekend:
"Bruno's box-office decline from Friday to Saturday indicates that the film's brand of outrage was not the sort to please most moviegoers — and that their tut-tutting got around fast. Bruno could be the first movie defeated by the Twitter effect."
On Friday night, "Bruno" brought in $14.4 million. But on Saturday, it earned only $8.8 million. Meanwhile, the next five top earners — "Ice Age 3," "Transformers 2," "Public Enemies," "The Proposal" and "The Hangover" — saw large revenue increases from Friday to Saturday.
Marketing consultant Gordon Paddison told Sharon Waxman of the Wrap: "If you're tweeting and people are catching that live and they're out at drinks and were planning on seeing the movie tomorrow — that hurts."
It seems a bit hasty to blame Twitter for the failings of "Bruno" at the box office — the "Bruno" Twitter stream currently has plenty of positive mentions for the film — but it does point to a shift in consumer response times. When people can immediately voice their opinions, there's going to be less room for branding and marketing to go unchallenged.
Plenty of bad reviews have done little to change the force of films making bank at the box office, but film decisions are often made by friends' recommendations. And quicker access to those opionions online could be very bad at the box office.