Ghostbusters Reboot Flopped. Why it Deserved to Bomb For Its Marketing





As I predicted back in March, Ghostbusters (2016) failed at the box office. Its Thursday opening in the States was only $3.4M. Throughout the weekend the film continued to play to largely empty rooms. 

Other recent Thursday openers: Finding Dory (200m budget) made 5.9 million. The Secret Life of Pets (75m budget) made 5.3 million. Jurassic World (150m budget) made 18.5 million. Deadpool (58m budget) made 12.7 million. Man of Steel (225m budget) made 21 million. Batman V Superman (250m budget) made 27.7 million.

For the whole weekend the film grossed $46M domestically. It has made only a few million in other markets, for a total of $64M world-wide. 

By Paul Feig’s own words, the film needed to have a $500M box office showing to get a sequel. It had no chance of doing this for all the reasons I pointed out months ago when I looked at the market data.

Even the Hollywood Reporter is now retreating from its original praise and acknowledging the film is a flop because the marketing was divisive.

On what should have been an easy slam dunk victory, Paul Feig and Sony so thoroughly screwed up that the 26,400,000+ male sci-fi fans in the US market boycotted Ghostbusters.

The verdict is in: You cannot build an effective marketing campaign around manufactured controversy and misandry slacktivism. You cannot attempt to manipulate the politics of gender wars for profit on a comedy franchise property.

Painting men as dumb when men represent over half the Ghostbusters fan demographic was idiotic. You don’t call the people you need to watch your movie “trolls” and expect to do well at the box office. Sony needed to win the male fans over and instead did everything possible to drive them away in a desperate attempt to appeal to misandric feminists.

That was a dumb idea. The fact is misandric feminists are not a significant consumer power in the world market. The idea they would make the film into a box office miracle was based in nothing factual.

Ghostbusters bombed for one reason above all others: Paul Feig created an echo chamber where he heard only his own agreeable thoughts and dismissed any criticism of his film that was leveled at it by the mass consumer since its very early conception. The market told Paul Feig it did not want his reboot and he did not listen. That is why Ghostbusters failed in the market just as any product developed and marketed under these conditions has. It was the easily predictable outcome for Ghostbusters.

From watching the recent documentary film Ghostheads on Netflix I know that Sony has tried to take advantage of the most die-hard fans of the franchise — the so-called ‘Ghost heads’ who run the various cosplay fan clubs around the country. They let them walk around the set, brought them out for test audience screenings and even put them into the film. I’m sure someone in marketing thought this effort might be able to change the viewpoint of the majority of Ghostbusters fans, yet this was not possible because the Ghostbusters fandom is a loose network of people with no real leadership.

Just because you can get a few dozen die-hard fans enamored with the reboot by giving them the attention they so desperately crave does not a viral marketing campaign make. The reality is the core product has to address the needs of the majority of target consumers and the reboot consistently ignored these needs. That is why it failed to entice them to go to the box office.

Worse Sony honestly thought they could build a cinematic universe out of Ghostbusters by centering its themes around a divisive issue like radical psuedo-feminism while having limited involvement from the original cast and producers.  This notion is utterly detached from market reality.

Fact is, for the past year you can no longer conduct a Google search about the word ‘Ghostbusters’ without hundreds of trashy articles talking about “sexist men” flooding the page.  Anyone who believed this was a good result is an utter moron. Paul Feig’s delicate ego might feel better but it resulted in a box office flop for Sony.

The producers have made the same mistake of anyone who has experienced some success; they were blinded by their arrogance and intentionally ignored all the warning signs. They allowed their pride to reign over their logic.

The market told you they did not want this reboot. You ignored that and instead launched an expensive marketing campaign based solely on insulting the customer to address your wounded pride. The market rejected the very concept of your product and instead of changing course to make the product it wanted, you made only what you wanted to.

To get consumer support for a product, no matter what it is, you must deliver the product the consumers want. You cannot intentionally alienate the vast majority of a customer base and expect the product to magically become profitable. Hundreds of articles from bribed journalists giving fake reviews and constantly insulting the prospective audience won’t make customers love you if all of those review articles intentionally insult the customer by calling them sexist trolls.

I say again: You cannot shame consumers into becoming brand loyalists with psuedo-social justice bullshit like how this movie was going to be some kind of political vehicle for girl power. When dealing with an established franchise property like Ghostbusters you must make the product that the majority of the audience wants to see. You can’t tell the fans what they want to see because they already know what they want to see. The property has certain themes and ideas they are already deeply emotionally connected to based on prior material.

The final cherry on this turd sandwich is that because the film violates Chinese censorship laws related to the supernatural the film will never release in China. Ghostbusters needed to succeed in the North American market, specifically in the United States. Yet everything possible to alienate the die-hard fans of the franchise was done by the producer, director and the marketing team. Consequently Sony has lost tens of millions of dollars on this film and equally lost the opportunity to repeat the earlier success of the Ghostbusters franchise from the 80’s and 90’s which in today’s market could be a multi billion dollar licensing business.

The bigger picture is missed by those who think partially making back the budget of the film is a success, or comparing its low performance to stand alone comedy films. The Ghostbusters reboot was meant to re-launch a lucrative franchise and it got overwhelmed with gender politics which killed its ability to succeed in the market. This may be a bitter pill for some people to swallow but business decisions should not be trumped by personal politics. The producers had a responsibility to investors — the shareholders — to make a profitable movie and they completely shirked this duty for their own vanity. They did not act in the best interests of the film financiers and the long-time goals of the beneficiaries of the franchise (namely, Sony shareholders).

I have no reservation in saying that everyone responsible for this bomb should be relieved of their duties because it is clear their judgement is very poor.

  • Amy Pascal should be removed from producing any future Sony franchise properties. She has produced string after string of flops for a decade. She has no idea what she is doing in this business. The leaked emails show she greenlights projects based on who can flatter her ego and not on market data.
  • Paul Feig should be blocked from directing any film with a budget higher than $50M and any project he does needs a seasoned producer to provide him the adult supervision he so desperately needs, otherwise he is likely to go apeshit on prospective customers again. Paul Feig intentionally pissed off the audience you wanted to watch this Ghostbusters, which shows that the man needs a serious amount of psychological counseling.
  • Whoever led the charge on this absurd marketing campaign that painted the Ghostbusters fandom as sexist trolls should be fired. This might sound bold but let me explain: they clearly have no idea what they are doing as they violated every basic rule of product marketing by intentionally creating a campaign designed to infuriate the customer in the hope it would get women who otherwise have no interest in Ghostbusters to watch the movie. They tried to social engineer a gender war using online media. It was a campaign that was obviously going to fail, the market data clearly shows that radfems do not make up a substantial portion of the consumer market. This is because radfems suffer from a Histrionic personality disorder, which has a 2-3% prevalence in the population and the only ones you were ever going to reach are those whom are obsessed with social media and movies. It’s a very small pond you were trying to make into an ocean. So there is no kind way to say it; only a complete idiot who ignored all rational advice and everything they’d ever learned about consumer marketing would intentionally upset passionate fans to appeal to a minority demographic of crazy people. The individual responsible for the Ghostbusters campaign is utterly incompetent and should be fired because marketing is very clearly not their forte.

This probably won’t happen because Sony Pictures is a den of nepotistic incompetence and Sony Co. execs who should be supervising them have been asleep at the wheel for years and allowed the Sony Pictures lot to descend into a vacuum chamber of mediocrity. Yet if Sony Pictures is ever to get its act together it needs new leadership who will roll the heads of everyone who screws up to the degree the Ghostbusters team has.

Concerning the sexism / racism accusations by the press

Early on there was an inappropriate amount of attention paid to sensational statements, whether they are racist, sexist, etc. etc. It’s on all sides of the fence though.

Leslie Jones shouldn’t be taunted with racist comments, the female fans shouldn’t be taunted with misogynistic comments and the male Ghostbuster fans shouldn’t be taunted with misandrist comments.

I will say that I personally did not like Leslie Jones’ character being a stereotypical loud angry black woman in the trailer, but the blame for the character’s personality is on Paul Feig and the producers. If Leslie Jones hadn’t played the character someone else would have. The character should have not been written the way she was to start.

Likewise, the producers and press should not have responded to the genuine criticism of the film concept and later, its YouTube trailer, with accusations of sexism — the sexist statements made by a very small minority of trolls should have been ignored and the critical commentary of the majority paid attention to. Paul Feig didn’t make matters better by doing a bunch of interviews where he gloated about being a some kind of woke white male and thus superior to everyone else, and this film being some grand vehicle for his perspective on social justice. That stuff politicized Ghostbusters and many of us rejected his injection of personal politics into the franchise. Because we don’t want that garbage in the franchise we rejected the movie.

The original purpose of making the reboot was to revitalize the franchise by capitalizing on the nostalgic interest of the fans. This purpose was pushed aside by Paul Feig, Amy Pascal and others who were more interested in “fighting the patriarchy” than making a good movie for the fans.

In Conclusion

I haven’t watched the Ghostbusters reboot and I refuse to do so. I’m a die-hard fan of the original franchise and I wholly dislike what has been attempted with this new incarnation. No matter how much I loved the original films and cartoon show as a child I will not support a reboot which seeks to use my generation’s childhood nostalgia to push a slacktivist message of misanthropy. I am fed up with the social media moral crusaders who think intentionally creating gender wars is good business. I’m clearly not alone in this opinion, else Ghostbusters would not have bombed.

Additionally, what I saw in the trailer was an unfunny mess slanted more toward being an action movie than the 1930’s homage comedy of the original. The intentional portrayal of all men as idiots, of the racist stereotyping of Leslie Jones’ character and the year-long misandric messaging of the marketing campaign (plus similar statements by director Paul Feig and producer Amy Pascal) makes it morally impossible for me to give a single cent to Sony Pictures.

In fact I intend to boycott all future films by Sony Pictures because I’m so thoroughly disappointed in what has taken place with this reboot.  Unless the films are on Netflix I won’t be watching them.

UPDATE: 7/20 : Sony has started laying off US division employees. Looks like someone might be taking my advice to heart! Given this article has been receiving 3,000+ views per day since I published it, I imagine at least someone at Sony has read it.

UPDATE: 7/28: The moron in charge of the Twitter account for Ghostbusters decided to endorse Hillary Clinton. Why has this person not been fired yet? The Democratic party is currently very split, with a significant portion of its voters still strongly championing Bernie Sanders. Only a fool would intentionally tie this film’s marketing efforts to a political candidate in a divided party. This isn’t even a beginner’s mistake; it’s something that would only seem like a good idea to a person who is utterly oblivious of the current political landscape and the basics of marketing.

As I said before, personal politics has no place in product marketing.

UPDATE: 7/30: Third weekend at the box office and the film still hasn’t grossed even $100M at the domestic box office. With the new Bourne film coming out this weekend, and Suicide Squad next week, Ghostbusters has been getting dropped by theaters nationwide. Even mainstream news outlets are now having to acknowledge Ghostbusters flopped and a sequel is unlikely. 

UPDATE: 8/10: After a month the film has made about $180M worldwide. It’s nowhere near profitability for Sony.