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Thor losing out to Fast sequel at Australian Box Office

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Universal’s fifth “Fast and the Furious” movie (“Fast Five” in the U.S; “Fast & Furious 5″ in Australia) is – despite the hammer-wielding blokey bloke flick garnering great reviews – hammering the highly-anticipated blockbuster “Thor” at the box-office locally.

Though “Fast & Furious 5″ opened a day before Paramount’s “Thor”, the latter still can’t keep up. In fact, “Furious” – which Uni boasts was the highest-ever Wednesday opener ever – opened ahead of “Spider-Man 3″ and “Iron Man 2″, which opened quite big in their respective slots a year or two ago.

Still, “Thor” grossed 35% more than “Iron Man” did on it’s opening day a couple of years ago – none too shabby. But did it underperform? So far, yes.

Why didn’t Kenneth Branagh’s superhero blockbuster hit as big as most of us expected it to?

I don’t think it’d matter who you ask, the answer to that question will remain the same : “Nobody knew Thor was out“.

They really didn’t. On some release schedules it was scheduled for April 28, on others… this past Thursday. Not surprised I’m being asked by so many people ‘When is Thor out? It’s not this week, right!?‘. Um, yeah.. it is. Caught a lot of us by surprise.

Not sure why “Thor” crept up on us like it did, but I’m thinking there was a late change in it’s release – either due to a cast and crew tour that occurred last week and/or the studio wanting to take advantage of what’s essentially a six-day holiday weekend (Easter/Anzac Day).

I’ve noticed a couple of independent cinemas and the odd drive-in theater aren’t showing the film until next Thursday – the release must have been moved forward; no money-beseeching cinema is going to sit on a release as big as “Thor” for a full week.

Is a change in a release date really going to hinder a film’s box-office performance? Sure, sometimes, but in this case… you wouldn’t think so.

A publicist at a rival company said over emall : “I think in Australia it’s a combination of misdirected marketing and the [release] dates.Though the Thor cast and crew were in Australia, quite a few writers have mentioned that interview slots were tight and didn’t get time with anyone. Have noticed some interview pieces here and there; I saw a very short, newspaper interview and heard an interview with the director on an AM radio station… whose average audience falls somewhere between those aged 55-70!… but haven’t heard much of a peep of it really.. Should’ve gone web for this one.. but can’t say for sure what went wrong, just guessing..”

Couldn’t agree more – you’ve really got to know your market, and that ‘AM Station’ is not the market for “Thor”. We didn’t push for any interviews here (‘Women’s Weekly’ may have gotten our slot?) because we covered everyone from “Thor” already at Comic-Con but also, we’re participating in the domestic junket in a couple of weeks – so no need. I guess. Or was there?

At the same time, I agree with a fellow critic who says it also comes down to familiarity.

“Thor is a lesser-known superhero – the Fast and the Furious franchise is one of the most popular film series’ in recent years. One could argue that both names sell themselves, but they don’t. I have to admit to looking for some Thor coverage on your site too… or anywhere for that matter… but my Google thing never came up with anything much besides the odd voxpop quote at the Sydney premiere here.”

Personally, I think the release date change has a lot to do with it – a quick check of my release calendar spreadsheet here shows that Thor was down for April 28 originally. Somewhere along the line it moved up a week – and nobody noticed.

Also, was Uni’s advertising budget for “Fast” bigger than Paramount’s on “Thor”? I ask because in every newspaper the cinema listing pages have huge in-your-face “Fast” ads, instantly recognizing itself as ‘the biggest release this week’, and below those? some smaller “Thor” ads.

Interestingly enough, box-office forecasts have been a little off all year. A film like “Scream 4″, which the Weinstein Company had hoped would do near three times it’s $20m opening weekend, was beaten by a talking-bird movie, “Rio”. (As a consequence, I’m hearing the studio is reconsidering it’s plans to rush a fifth “Scream” into production and is simply going to let the franchise be for the moment). In addition, films that had been tracking quite well and had expected to make a small fortune at the box office like “Arthur” (with Russell Brand) and “Your Highness” with James Franco disappeared quicker than a turkey leg around a fat man.

Could it be that audiences are – just looking at some of those titles that haven’t performed as expected – tired of watching sequels, remakes, 3D movies, and, dare I say, superhero flicks? Could this be the turning point? Might this ‘if it’s a brand, it’ll sell- in 3D!l’ tactic that the studios have been hellbent on sticking to the past few years have finally backfired? I guess if “Fast Five” is performing well then it’s not quite over for the franchise but on the whole, audiences do seem to be getting fussier and more savvier. Good.

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About Caffeinated Clint

The writer/publicist/producer who wears the editor hat on Moviehole. Favorite films include "Say Anything...", "The Hunt for Red October", "Jerry Maguire", "Almost Famous", "Die Hard", "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", "Young Guns", "American Psycho", "Back to the Future" and the "Star Wars" series.
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