EDITORIAL: Dark Shadows: Why the Vampire Soap Opera Didn’t Bite At the Box Office

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The 2012 summer movie season officially has its first flop. Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, a cinematic reinvention of the 60s TV show of the same name, debuted to a paltry $29.7 million last weekend, a disappointing result for the $150 million production. Executives were quick to blame the lackluster performance on the staying power of superhero epic The Avengers but the vampire flick suffered from more than just tough competition. Here’s why Dark Shadows was a miss at the box office:

1. Lack of a clear, consistent marketing strategy

At its heart, is Dark Shadows a comedy? A drama? A horror pic? The trailer certainly offers no hints. Beginning as an ominous story about an ancient vampire, it proceeds to evolve into a fish-out-of-water comedy and finally into an action flick.

Are audiences interested in genre-blending flicks? Sometimes. But summer tends to bring about a thirst for more formulaic, predictable entertainment . Audiences knew what to expect in The Avengers and flocked to the theaters. They had no clue what to expect from Shadows. It bit in all directions and didn’t capture anyone.

2. Poor critical reception

Dark Shadows never found a proper niche to cater to. Families and young men were occupied with The Avengers, and women were turned off by the bleak horror elements of the film. The last thing that could have salvaged the flick among older viewers – a strong critical reception – didn’t come through. Shadows opened to below-average reviews across the board. Most critics concurred on the film’s lack of personality, confirming the trailer’s warning.

3. Awful release date

Although release dates for summer openings are set months if not years in advance, the team behind Shadows should have still realized the danger of releasing its title one week after a blockbuster that collected many of the Marvel Universe’s top characters. The first weekend of May is always reserved for one of the biggest openings of the summer. Many movies including big-budget affairs Poseidon in 2006 and Speed Racer in 2008 suffered from the same second week syndrome, attempting to reel in an audience still occupied with summer’s first release.

4. Source material irrelevant

Why adapt a decades-old vampire soap opera that nobody remembers? Tim Burton and leading man Johnny Depp are too smart to have fallen for the Twilight exploitation craze but one can’t help but ponder the studio’s motivations for even producing this flick. Burton’s previous big-budget adaptations (Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory) were both based on timeless books that had found new fans in each generation. Shadows was an unknown property with no modern appeal.

Written by: Boris Paskhaver

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