question of the day: Should we applaud successful movie marketing when the movie being marketed is a stinker?

Devil Inside poster

Steven Schneider, one of the producers of The Devil Inside, the found-footage horror movie that opened Friday in the U.S. and Canada, told TheWrap this weekend that:

he’s not worried about “Devil’s” horrible reviews.

“A lot of the reviews talk about found footage as a genre that’s tired,” he said. “The irony is, the movie opened to such remarkable numbers…”

With weekend estimates in, the movie looks to have earned an astonishing $34.5 million in North America. But there’s nothing ironic in the movie’s box-office success, and of course Schneider isn’t worried about the bad reviews: the bad reviews didn’t hit until after the film had opened! I suspect he’ll worry quite a lot about bad reviews when the film tumbles 75 percent next weekend. Or maybe he won’t even then: Paramount acquired the ultra-low-budget flick for just $1 million, so the film is already hugely profitable. (Even a 75 pecent fall next week would bring in another $8 milion or so… which is all the film was expected to make over this, its opening weekend.)
Now, keep in mind that the bad reviews aren’t coming just from critics who ventured out to the multiplexes on Friday morning. From USA Today:

[M]any fans agreed with critics that the micro-budget movie was a stinker.

About 19% of audiences gave the film an F, says survey firm CinemaScore. According to amalgam site, only 57% of audiences said they enjoyed the movie, a low score considering that paying audiences rarely score a movie below 60%. Critics were savage: Only 7% gave the picture a thumbs-up, says.

Everywhere I’ve looked in my surfing this weekend, viewer comments are scathing, with many of them calling The Devil Inside the worst film they’ve ever seen. Even factoring in the tendency to exaggerate online, the buzz from moviegoers isn’t good.

Deadline Hollywood details the extensive marketing campaign Paramount deployed to put butts in seats. Clearly, it worked. It worked really really well. I don’t think this is something we should cheer, however. Paramount did a very good job of fooling people into parting with their money for a product that, it seems, the vast majority of them hated. And not just in a “Hey, it wasn’t my thing” sort of way. In a “this is shoddy, cheap filmmaking” sort of way. This isn’t a sweater that’s kinda nice but the wrong color. This is a toaster that shoots flames at you.

Ant Timpson disagrees with me on the cheering. I had a discussion on Twitter with him last night:


Why all the anger towards audiences who went along to see a new horror film? It’s called good marketing you dummies!


Is good marketing of bad products something to cheer?


If you love film then yes because the marketing of cinema is in your DNA as a film fan.


Are those who feel cheated because they were fooled by “good marketing” entitled to be angry?


No they’re not entitled to anything. I’m sick of audiences/critics feeling they’re entitled to anything.


I am not defending the film. It sounds fuckin awful. I am stating that Par hit it out of the park.


You know who else hit it out of the park? Hitler.


For the record. Yes I appreciate good film marketing. There I said it. Now I’ll go stand in the corner with Hitler.

So here’s the question:

Should we applaud successful movie marketing when the movie being marketed is a stinker?

This is not a matter of a critic griping that a movie that critics trashed is doing so well at the box office. (I haven’t seen the film yet, by the way. It won’t open in the U.K. till March.) This is me getting angry as a filmgoer, and on behalf of all those filmgoers who plunked down for a ticket to The Devil Inside this weekend and then felt like they’d been ripped off.

Should we give Paramount props for fooling so many people? I don’t think so. It’s the ultimate example (so far) of what Pauline Kael said about how without critics, all the rest is just marketing.

What do you think?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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