Psst. Summer may officially be over, and with it the summer movie season. But does that mean we can’t still talk about it? Nah. It was a bit dismal this year with a reported estimated drop of 25% in box office receipts compared to last year.
But surprise blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy (GoG) has crossed the 300 million dollar mark domestically and made 600 million dollars worldwide, and counting.
It’s pretty safe to say that producers, Marvel Studios, and the film’s distributors, Walt Disney Studios, are probably still dancing with joy over this surprise hit as well as thrilling moviegoers by the millions. So how did Disney and Marvel do so well in the face of a dismal movie market? They made a bunch of risky moves—and won.
Surprise business success
Although we’d have loved to have been a fly on the wall of the likely countless meetings that went on between GoG producers, exec producers, department and studio heads, agents and managers—barring any X Men-like invisibility superpowers, that just isn’t reality of course. So we’re left to educated guesses and our own devices—high-quality data collection.
Using SurveyMonkey Audience, we asked nearly 700 people their thoughts on this year’s breakout summer hit, if the movie’s success will have any effect on upcoming holiday purchases and identify what specific business risks Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios faced with GoG.
Risky business (it happens)
But first, let’s talk a little bit about risk. And specifically, risks in business. There were certainly plenty of risks involved in the making of this epic space adventure and frankly, calculated risks (and un-calculated too) are pretty much par for the course when it comes to the movie business.
From casting a lead actor mainly known for a supporting network TV role to hiring a director with no experience in the world of big budget/franchise movies, the studios’ decision-making in such a high-stakes investment is particularly noteworthy now that we know the outcome.
How business risks reap rewards – follow the data
Unlike say, Spiderman, Superman, Batman or The Avengers, this motley crew of ragtag characters from a comic book series only serious geeks/Comic-Con devotees are familiar with, was largely a total mystery to the average American moviegoer. In terms of the significance of brand awareness and customer loyalty, Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios may have proved just how powerful those concepts can be. Take a look: Confirming the first and possibly most obvious business risk with getting the movie made, nearly 60% of respondents had never heard of any of the GoG characters before. So even though the GoG characters didn’t have the kind of popularity as Spiderman or the X-Men, it seems that customers are loyal enough to Marvel and Disney to give their movie a shot. Interestingly, most people did not believe that Marvel Studies and Walt Disney Studios took a business risk in making Guardians of the Galaxy (37%). But for those who did believe that there was some level of risk involved for the studios, we asked them to rank what they believed to be the top reasons. Here’s the breakdown:
- The lack of familiarity with GoG characters (69%)
- Casting of Chris Pratt as the lead character (13%)
- The film’s sci-fi setting (7%)
- Casting huge movie stars’ voices like Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper as CGI characters instead of their likenesses (7%)
Whether those who’d seen the movie are of the “whatever Marvel Studios and/or Walt Disney comes out with next, I’ll see regardless” (brand power!), we’d love to run another survey to find out. Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the Comments below. Beyond the previous risk factors we’ve talked about already, another potential factor that may not be widely known is that Guardians of the Galaxy is the first movie to come from Marvel Studios with a credited female screenwriter. Nicole Sperlman shares a screenwriting credit with director, James Gunn and has successfully punched through a different kind of glass ceiling. The comic book movie franchise business is notoriously male-dominated both in front of and behind the camera; so to have a female voice so prominently involved in this movie’s vision could either be viewed as a calculated risk or as a total non-risk/not even a factor, period. We wanted to know. So we asked. The overwhelming response: “I don’t think it matters”. Whether you’re a boy or a girl, a good story is a good story is a good story. Now for those of you out there with kids—or without kids—and have holiday gift-buying on the brain already, you might be wondering what GoG toy or action figurine you should be queueing up for first. We’ll give you a hint…it rhymes with “root“. And how many people who’ve seen the film are excited to purchase an action figure for their very own? Hear that, retailers? Something to keep in mind this holiday season. And just for fun, those of you geeks out there who know to stick around for the end credits of a summer tent pole movie like this one, you were treated to an Easter Egg treat. We won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen Guardians of the Galaxy yet (get out there!) so we’ll leave you with this piece of advice next time you’re trying to make a decision on whether to head for the Exit doors or stay put in your seats: always stay put and wait til the credits are through, people. You won’t be disappointed. Would you see any movie that Marvel Studios or Walt Disney Studios comes out with next regardless of what it’s about? Let us know below! Inspired to start your own SurveyMonkey Audience project? Click here. Guardians of the Galaxy image via Marvel.com.