I know what you are going to say:
The Last Jedi made $1.3B. That is exactly what Disney knew it was going to make, hater! Everyone except racists and sexists and giant man-babies loved it. It’s a huge hit and you seem like a very unhappy person.
Got it. You probably feel sorry for me, too. Except I can explain why that line of thinking is just bullshit put in your head by shilling, hack journalists. I can prove that The Last Jedi failed. Keep reading or :
This article isn’t going to be about the problems with The Last Jedi. Millions of words and thousands of hours of video have been devoted to this topic. And rightly so, cataloging the flaws in that movie would be the study of many lifetimes.
Nor will I explore the shameful, happy-clappy boosterism that both the corporate media and allegedly independent blogosphere have engaged in to support The Last Jedi. I may cover this phenomenon at a later date but today that’s not what I’m here for.
I’m here for the money.
They Lied! Terminate Them Immediately!
You’ve been told a lot things about The Last Jedi, including:
- this is a “record-breaking movie”!
- it’s the biggest movie of the year!
- it owes its success at the box office to women!
- it performed exactly like a Star Wars movie should perform!
- Well, some basement-dwelling fanboys might not like it but audiences love it!
But you’ve been lied to. More precisely you’ve been told half-truths; which are worse than lies precisely because they have the ring of truth to them.
The Last Jedi is a record-breaking movie — just a really bad record.
It is the biggest movie of the year but what does that mean in the context of the trilogy, the expectations and the biggest movie marketing campaign of the year?
Are women responsible for the box office numbers? Maybe? There are a lot of female characters in the movie, and they are all portrayed heroically, so it’s possible.
Is it correct to compare the performance of The Last Jedi with The Empire Strikes Back in 2018, given the modern synergy of marketing and social media? Probably not. A better comparison would be the cultural phenomenon of The Avengers vs the follow-up Avengers: Age of Ultron.
And I have no clue which demos like this movie and which ones don’t.
Here is what I do know — The Last Jedi is a complete and total financial disaster.
I have the data necessary to not only prove it but also a lot of evidence that says Star Wars is now a dead franchise walking.
If you want to skip the background that uncovers the media spin that has hidden the biggest movie industry news of the year, just:
The background covers the collective malfeasance in movie journalism and how almost all of the reporting about this movie has essentially been corporate spin designed to squash all dissent. But don’t Rush To Judge™, keep reading for yourself:
What A Piece Of Junk
Well, The Last Jedi has come and gone. Almost gone anyway, on its last legs. Still playing at the 14PLEX in my small college town though.
You’ll notice that The Last Showman has seven showtimes and even bumped The Last Jedi off the IMAX screen. We’ve explained the reasons why extensively.
Obviously, the domestic run is almost over and there are no more foreign markets to open. So let’s see what the numbers are at Box Office Mojo and just use those for now:
$613M domestic and $702M foreign for a worldwide total of $1.31B.
Biggest movie of the year.
But something is wrong here — how is an off-brand musical starring Wolverine stealing screens from Star Wars when they opened only about a week apart?
The Audience Awakens
The Last Jedi had all the makings of being even bigger than The Force Awakens.
The trailer was darker, the director had a better pedigree, we were definitely going to get full-Skywalker this time and things left unexplained in the first film were going to be fully revealed in the second installment. There was, dare I say, “hope”?
Weeks before the film hit theaters the media, celebrities, the blogosphere and critics were celebrating it. The reviews were stellar. It was feted by the finest people at all the finest parties.
Just look at that ripe, juicy Tomatometer! 91%! 8.1 out of 10!
And the fans… man… the fans were psyched. Lots of adult-looking people waving light sabers and squealing during screenings like teenage girls greeting the Beatles at JFK.
We will call them “Fanboys”. They love everything. Cinema is like sports to them and they love every team that the media tells them to love. If enough people are into something you know damn well they will be there OMG-Loving all of it. These are some of these fanboys in the wild.
Star Wars was back — again! Just like last year!
And predictably, The Last Jedi exploded out of the gate with a massive $220M opening weekend, only 11% off from The Force Awakens actual recording-setting $248M bow.
Then something happened that Disney did not intend. We abandoned The Last Jedi.
The Rotten Tomatoes’ Audience Score started to dive and dive hard. Opening weekend it was at 57%. It now sits at 48%.
At the time, you’d think a lot of people just weren’t really into it. What can be done?
The Shills Strike Back
Fear not, Porg-Man! Those courageous corporate crusaders for the truth were there to restore your faith in the (box office) power of Star Wars.
The honest men and women at those TV networks, newspapers and magazines and those websites that make their revenue promoting entertainment properties told you that — time out! — there was no audience backlash, hackers has broken into Rotten Tomatoes and driven the score down.
These leet hacker broz had cracked the Audience Score and tanked the movie! Look! The Huffington Post got an interview with someone who claimed to have been the mastermind.
He said he did it because of hatred of women. And fear of gay people. Seriously.
Besides, look at those CinemaScore ratings from real people who definitely saw the movie — they loved it, an “A” CinemaScore! More truth from the truth-tellers!
Suddenly movie blogs and even The Washington Post were doing deep-dive data analysis on Rotten Tomato Audience Scores in an attempt to prove that people weren’t revolting against The Last Jedi, they really loved it and Here Are 10 Reasons Why!
Because never mind that no one in the media really ever took the time to understand or explain how the Audience Score is calculated. Why ruin days’ worth of clicks by doing your actual fucking job?
Never mind that people are much less likely to be honest about their opinions when they are interviewed face-to-face or directly after they saw a massive, frenetic sci-fi spectacle.
Never mind that Rotten Tomatoes said it was neither hacked nor tricked and the Audience Score was genuine.
All you needed to know is that the people who write professionally about Star Wars and profit personally from the interest in Star Wars told you that audiences love it and it’s just hate speech to say that people don’t. The Shills were crossing into Chris Crocker territory.
The Box Office Is The Floor
And then the bottom fell out. A $151M second weekend drop. Largest ever.
There is your record.
OK, so maybe it wasn’t hackers… maybe… yeah, maybe audiences just don’t like it.
Is it possible that the narrative was wrong? Could that hacker dude be just a guy who wanted to take credit for something at the same time journalists wanted someone to blame?
Or maybe just some silly internet troll looking to tool the media.
But wait, said The Shills, there’s more!
It turns out, it wasn’t hackers at all. It was something deeper, something darker… yes, Virginia, it was the “alt-right”!
No, seriously… for real this time, guys. We mean it.
Yes, the same alt-right that hated The Force Awakens before it was even released somehow put their sexism and racism aside, showed up to see that movie, helping it break all box office records, but then decided to skip The Last Jedi. And this completely explains the unprecedented 2nd-weekend nosedive.
Were they really trying to blame the difference in the box office returns between The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi on the alt-right bogeyman?
There is $300M missing. In North America alone.
But that couldn’t be because of poor word of mouth. It’s not the lack of repeat viewings. It’s Nazis under the bed. The alt-right couldn’t get 1000 people together in Charlottesville but somehow they are swaying the fortunes of massive movie franchises.
Except… what about the missing money overseas? At this point, that missing foreign money adds up to $430M. What about the missing money in China?
Is that also the “alt-right”? Those damn Chinese Nazis!
How quickly the lies, distortion and spin of the corporate media and movie bloggers fall apart under even the slightest critical examination.
These are not the investigations and analyses of an unbiased, objective form of film journalism. This is the realm of The Shills.
And What Do I Mean By “The Shills”?
I mean people who are either bought and paid for by movie studios or those whose livelihood is directly tied to the material success of blockbuster movies.
The reality is that Star Wars is essential Christmas for movie blogs and fandom sites. Interest and passion drive traffic, comments and discussions ensue, page views skyrocket and these websites cash in.
It is in their explicit interest that visitors not only watch these movies but also view them in a favorable light, including how financially successful the movies are, so that they will continue to be interested in them, desire to know more about said movies and actively promote them in their social circles, both digital and real-world.
We are all drawn to success. We want to know and be a part of successful things. So Star Wars has to be framed as successful. And in this era of narrowcast marketing where people have an endless selection of entertainment platforms and venues, everyone has to deliver that message.
Additionally, the access and compensation – in the form of swag, junkets, set visits, etc – that movie studios provide for these movie blogs and fan sites are conditional on them giving positive, if not downright glowing, coverage.
So Who Are These Shills?
Well here is one:
Scott Mendelsohn. This guy has absolutely no shame. He called The Last Jedi “The Dark Knight of the Star Wars saga”.
Now, I have nothing against Scott. A friend of mine recommended that I check out his column and I found him to be good at getting the return projections right. But with some movies, of a certain “progressive” type, he completely loses all objectivity.
He didn’t just ignore the early-warning signs that audiences were rejecting The Last Jedi, he blatantly engaged in counter-programming in an attempt to change the narrative. He even tried to use Alien: Covenant as a comparison.
What Mendelson focused on was the horse race at the box office instead of the underlying financials that determine not only the success or failure of this movie but ultimately the future of the entire Star Wars franchise. And he works at Forbes, a publication devoted to finance!
When you have the tools and reach of a giant media conglomerate at your fingertips and you spend the majority of your effort cheerleading for a movie that happens to align with your social and political beliefs, you’re falling down on the job. Have a look at his record of shilling for The Last Jedi.
This is not Buzzfeed! Or Raw Story. Or Now This. This is Forbes! Follow the money, man!
But honestly, no one in the media will touch the financials. Because as I’ve demonstrated, they are inherently dishonest people with vested interests — financial, personal, social — to make sure that Star Wars is seen as a successful, expanding franchise.
Which is bullshit.
The Financial Forensics Of A Franchise Killer
We’ve looked at the official numbers through last weekend and they are not going to improve that much going forward. The Last Jedi pulled in $1.31 Billion worldwide.
For any other movie in any other franchise, this is a massive, massive hit. But for Star Wars this is an unqualified disaster. The plane crashed into the mountain.
The Expectations Were Everything
We can’t look directly at the revenue projections of a Fortune 500 company like Disney. I doubt even Kathleen Kennedy has a complete understanding of what was truly expected from The Last Jedi by the bean counters.
But there are professionals who have made these projections for The Last Jedi and the entire Star Wars brand. Perhaps the best projection was, ironically enough, produced by the people at Forbes.
Now before you start screeching about “They are just a magazine! What do they know about Disney? Leave Kathleen alone!”, remember that this is the magazine that has done in-depth financial analysis on corporations and individuals for 50 years.
They are regarded as one of the most reliable sources of public domain wealth estimates and capital valuations.
With that in mind, let’s begin:
Forbes’ 2015 Box Office Projections
In 2015, Aswath Damodaran at Forbes did a complete valuation of the Star Wars brand. This included movies, merchandising, theme parks, books, games, the whole wack — all of it — but let’s just focus on the box office projections.
Aswath projected that the second movie in the Star Wars Saga trilogy would gross $2.08B. He called it Star Wars VIII.
Now, I can hear you screaming again: “What does this one guy know about Star Wars?”
Look closer. See what his projections were for both The Force Awakens (Star Wars VII) and Rogue One? He was off by $70M and $30M, respectively. That’s amazing.
So according to the projections by Forbes, the box office gross is already off by ~$800M.
Wall Street Is Starting To Grumble
But let’s say you don’t trust this Aswath. Maybe he’s in the “alt-right” and hates women and other living things. Here is what a recent article in the Wall Street Journal had to say about Wall Street expectations for The Last Jedi:
The Last Jedi will soon end its run with around $625 million in the U.S. and Canada, about $200 million short of several Wall Street analysts’ expectations.
Foreign grosses followed a similar pattern.
“Disney started off with an incredible touch with Star Wars, but now it’s looking a little less magic,” said B. Riley FBR analyst Barton Crockett.
There are your expectations right there. The movie is $200M short of projections on just the domestic side.
You Can’t Kill The Franchise, Right?
Yeah, you can. I’m going to show you how they did it with amazing efficiency.
Lucasfilm claims the budget for The Last Jedi was $200M.
We can debate whether a studio that does both secret — Rogue One — and public — Solo —reshoots would be honest about how much money was spent to do pick-ups and reshoots for The Last Jedi.
They could have added that entire Admiral Holdo character after the surprise success of Wonder Woman in an attempt to broaden female audience appeal. We just don’t know.
So let’s take their word for it — it cost $200M, out the door. That is $45M less than the budget for The Force Awakens.
Aha, says The Fanboy, $1.31B minus $200M equals $1.11B! It made a billion dollars!
Wait a minute, ignorant Fanboy, say The Shills. We are much more sophisticated than you, we understand the movie business, and everyone knows there are marketing costs. For these blockbusters that’s usually about the same price as the actual movie! So, $1.31B minus ($2OOM x 2) equals $910M. Almost a billion!
They are both wrong and don’t understand much about the economics of the movie business.
While we can’t see inside the day-to-day financial operations of The Mouse we can use the historical financial data provided by The Force Awakens to reach a conclusion, as that movie established the financial model for how Disney would produce, market and distribute the Star Wars Saga films moving forward.
So, we need some detailed financial information on The Force Awakens.
Disney’s 2016 Annual Report
It’s pretty much mud. There are no property breakdowns at all. Not even by franchise — nothing. It simply shows how much revenue they made from theaters, home entertainment (Blu-Ray / DVD) and TV/Video On Demand.
You can glean some information by comparing the 2016 and 2017 reports — for example, the profits from The Force Awakens ($780M, see below) represent almost the entire Operating Income increase for Studio in 2016.
But there are too many tea leaves, so it’s basically useless.
Instead, we’ll rely on an authoritative third party that has calculated the profitability of Hollywood movies for close to a decade.
Deadline’s Profitability Report on The Force Awakens
Let’s go to Deadline and see what they say about how profitable The Force Awakens was.
The Force Awakens was the #1 most profitable movie of 2015. According to Deadline:
The net profit to Disney was an astounding $780.11M, and the Cash on Cash Return was twice that of any other film in the tournament, at 2.00.
So after producing, marketing and distributing The Force Awakens on all available platforms and venues, Disney made a massive profit on $780M. Check it out:
Thanks to the industry experts at Deadline, we can clearly see there are many more costs associated with a movie than either The Fanboy knows or The Shill will admit:
The Shills and Fanboys are now screeching with rage, “That’s only $776M in costs!”
Here comes The River — the cost to rent theaters is actually calculated under Revenue.
This is why a movie that costs a couple hundred million to make and grosses under a billion – say, Batman vs. Superman – can be considered a failure. Because theaters are taking massive upfront fees directly out of the box office tills.
The Lost Revenue
So let’s take that profit number from The Force Awakens at its face value.
Deadline has been doing this kind of thing for a long time and their estimates are not only highly respected in the industry but also rarely challenged.
That is a $780M profit from a movie that grossed $2.06B. The Last Jedi grossed $1.31B worldwide. The difference between those two grosses is $750M.
But those The Force Awakens rental numbers are going to be much higher than The Last Jedi theater rental numbers because they aren’t really “rental costs”; it’s just what the theaters keep from ticket sales.
So we can actually calculate what the net box office take will be for The Last Jedi based on the percentages that Disney took from The Force Awakens.
And even though there has been a lot of noise about Disney making extremely favorable deals with exhibitors, the new deal is at 65% for a given period of time after opening versus 64% for The Force Awakens. So the difference spread out over a six-week period is nominal.
Theater owners took $513M or 55% of the North American box office gross from The Force Awakens. The remaining $427M went into Disney’s pocket.
Overseas they keep much more of the profit with foreign theater owners only getting around 35.5% of the gross, or about $401M.
In China, theaters got even a smaller slice of the pie at 25%.
So, if you run those percentages against The Last Jedi you come up with North American rentals of $336.9M, foreign rentals of $248.5M and in China a paltry $10.6M.
Essentially, The Last Jedi paid the theaters a lot less because the movie made a lot less. About 37% less. And that is the real problem for Disney.
The film is just nowhere near as big as it should be.
There Is Nothing Left That Can Save It
The lack of enthusiasm for The Last Jedi at the box office will likely translate to lower revenue in both Home Entertainment and TV/VOD.
Blu-Ray purchases and VOD orders will be off versus The Force Awakens, likely in a greater proportion than the box office. Bad news travels, it travels fast and it sticks. The Last Jedi has been completely eviscerated everywhere outside of the mainstream and shilling platforms.
We can’t know exactly how much of a hit the HE and TV/VOD will take but we can make an educated guess of 40%. $224M in revenue just forced-ghosted into oblivion.
In fact, when you total up all of the numbers, the budget, the rentals, the marketing, the operations, etc it looks like The Last Jedi will make a profit of around $153M — from a main storyline Star Wars movie. That looks like a Cash-On-Cash Return of under one.
That means there is already $627M missing from The Last Jedi’s P & L report when compared to The Force Awakens. And that’s before anyone cracks open the actuals of the Chinese marketing debacle that saw massive, massive outlays with no return.
Here is the takeaway:
An amount equivalent to 80% of the profit in The Force Awakens – from ALL venues and platforms worldwide – is missing from The Last Jedi’s balance sheet.
Are you starting to understand why The Shills have been lying to you?
So there you have it, pretty solid, circumstantial evidence that not only did The Last Jedi completely miss its expectations, it missed them by galactic proportions.
Star Wars as a franchise is now badly wounded. It’s been stabbed in the back and is bleeding out, but – fortunately – Solo is only a few months away. And when that bombs that will be the headshot, in effect a mercy killing.
Why will it bomb? Film Goblin knows why.
Of course, Kathleen Kennedy may raise the franchise from the dead with a post-Prequel Clone Wars trilogy. I put nothing past this woman. She’s a white slaver. However I predict she’ll be terminated after Solo tanks — action is taken, confidence is restored, the stock goes up.
You can rest assured that even though Star Wars will continue, it will be something cynically milked for every possible Republic Credit, every possible political posture.
Solo, Vader, Obi-Wan, The Emperor, Boba Fett, you are going to get all of it. Full nostalgia porn until even the most opened-mouth, lightsaber-sucking Fanboy begs for mercy.
Then it will become a cautionary tale about what happens when you put the wrong people with the wrong intentions in charge.
“Look at what they did to Star Wars,” they will say.
And you will just smile and nod.