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Movies & TV

14th Aug 2021

15 years ago this week, the gap between movie-lovers online and movie-lovers in real life fully revealed itself

Rory Cashin

Everyone wanted to see the movie. Then nobody went to see the movie.

The Suicide Squad has flopped.

Yes, it is only out in some markets a week or so, but the $185 million production (and probably at least double that, counting publicity and promotion) made just $26.5 million in its opening weekend. Comparatively, the much-worse Suicide Squad opened to $133.7 million in its opening weekend in 2016.

Yes, covid is still very much a thing, and people might’ve been turned off going to see a sequel/reboot to a bad first movie, but if you were working solely from the internet anticipation for The Suicide Squad, you’d swear we were about to encounter a movie that was going to go toe-to-toe with Avatar and Titanic at the top of the all-time box office.

There is a particular type of online hype perpetuated by what is collectively known as Film Twitter, the group that got #ReleaseTheSnyderCut trending, and then got that cut that they demanded, and then nobody really cared about Zack Snyder’s Justice League five seconds after it was released.

Film Twitter has the power to create a buzz for upcoming movies that does not materialise in real life, creating hot topics online, capturing the attention of some of the most powerful people in Hollywood, convincing them that this is what the masses really want… Only to realise that Film Twitter and the general cinema going public are two VERY different parts of society.

And fifteen years ago this week, we got our first proper glimpse into this power, with the release of Snakes On A Plane…

Clip via Dysgraphic

Released in cinemas on 18 August 2006, the pre-release hype for SOAP was unlike anything else that had come before.

Sure, big movies like anything to do with Star Wars, Batman or James Bond had fans and outlets alike speculating up a storm, but the online support for Snakes On A Plane was the beginning of something new.

Between the movie’s title, the casting of Samuel L. Jackson, and the entire premise, The Guardian reported that it was “the most internet-hyped film of all time”. Initially a relatively small release on New Line Cinema’s schedule, the movie had finished filming in September 2005, only for producers to revisit the project months later when the hype began to build.

The title was changed to Pacific Air Flight 121, only for fan reaction (and Sam Jackson himself) to convince the producers to revert to the movie’s working title of Snakes On A Plane. Additionally, five extra days of filming were added to the production in March 2006, to bump the PG-13 to an R-rating, with extra violence, sexy scenes, and Jackson’s new infamous line: “Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!”

The movie resulted in online fans creating songs, clothing, poster art, fan fiction, parody films, mock movie trailers, as well as short film parody competitions.

Finally, the film was released, with pre-release expectations looking at a $30 million opening weekend. Instead, the $33 million production (without the cost of any promotion or publicity) made just $62 million worldwide. The founder of New Line Cinema himself called the film a dud, while Entertainment Weekly called it “an internet-only phenomenon”.

And now here we are, 15 years later, and the internet is still garnering interest in movies… but an interest that doesn’t manifest into real life. Maybe we’ll learn next time…

Snakes On A Plane is available to watch right now on Netflix.

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