Obviously the big news for the day is the revelation that G.I. Joe: Retaliation has been quickly and suddenly delayed from June 29, 2012 to March 29, 2013. The reason we’ve been given for this date is that they want to convert the film to 3D.
Is that the real and true reason?
There seems to be some conflict online throughout the fandom about what this really means and what the potential impact might be. Is this a terrible by move by Paramount? Could there be any redeeming value to this choice? Please click the Read the Rest of this Story link below to get my thoughts on this, with 12 hours to think it over.
As I start typing this, we are recording a What’s on Joe Mind special edition with many peers from the online G.I. Joe community including folks like Arune Singh from Marvel Comics and Brian Truitt from USA Today. Great insight from folks who have some background in the business. But really, what does this mean for the G.I. Joe property? From a Hollywood perspective, from a toy perspective, or even from a top down view brand perspective?
The first thing to keep in mind is why are they doing this? What is the overall purpose? Are they being up front about the 3D conversion as the primary motivating factor?
Looking at this from a Hollywood angle, I do think this move makes sense. I totally do not agree with the way they went about it, waiting until we’re one month from the film’s release, but considering the stiff competition from Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises, perhaps this was the best way to salvage a respectful box office return and offer up a better final product? Looking at pure box office returns, I can see why Paramount might have done this, and maybe in the long run it’s better. But it’s really tough, just from a fandom perspective, to keep the chin up with this disappointing news. I know many of us have been caught up in the positive buzz within the G.I. Joe community, but there have been some industry analysts on line tracking potential box office returns for G.I. Joe: Retaliation and according to people within the industry that would know, the tracking has not been positive. According to Director of Communications Arune Singh on the What’s on Joe Mind special edition last night, the film was tracking to pull in a mere $45 million in the opening weekend. If that tracking can be trusted, the monetary return would have been disastrous, as the film could have been pounded further the following weekend by Amazing Spider-Man.
The Battleship Effect
Folks have been quick to start pointing the finger at Battleship as potentially causing this sudden and brisk move. I can see how Battleship probably played a part in it, but I don’t think it’s the only place to point the finger. I’m sure Hasbro was banking at least somewhat on success with Battleship, and it’s failure at the Box Office was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back, convincing Hasbro and Paramount executives that they could not risk another financial liability at the theaters. But considering the effect of this decision, you have to think they were at least considering this move prior to hearing about Battleship’s box office struggles, which just came to light a few days ago.
I think there is also another film that people are overlooking… what about John Carter? I’m sure everyone remembers that special effects heavy film from Disney that received a decent promotional push, yet failed epically at the Box Office to the point where a Disney executive actually lost his job over it. For all of the rave reviews and successes of The Avengers and Hunger Games, this early movie season has also been famous for the failures as well, and this had to be weighing on some executives’ minds.
Is it all about the 3D?
In a word? No. I don’t believe for a minute that the conversion to 3D is the only reason why this move is happening. There is more to this story. Obviously a fear of competition would lend some of us to believe that there was no confidence in the film. Whether that’s due to bad screening response, or just due to a worry that the film wasn’t powerful enough to hold its own against Spider-Man, it is quite clear that fear was there and it was real.
This morning The Rock also Tweeted that they were “creating new scenes” to better take advantage of the 3D technology, and I think most of us can read between the lines there and see that some things are changing content-wise as well. I believe that the conversion to 3D is a convenient excuse, but is in no way the primary reason why this change is happening.
So what about the toys?
I will admit, I am starting to come around to see the perspective of the studios in this move from June to March. In looking at the competition, and in looking at the potential disaster that could result in failure at the box office, perhaps a move to a fresher, more realistic timeframe is what saves this film franchise.
But what about the toys? Somewhere along the line, it seems Hasbro has stopped believing in itself as a toy company and has made the full fledged jump to Entertainment Studio. Executives making decisions purely about the film without any consideration whatsoever what this film change is going to do to G.I. Joe’s retail presence. We already have retailers who are skittish about the G.I. Joe brand, and this sudden confusion about the direction of the line and the property sure as heck isn’t going to help.
Not to mention Paramount and Hasbro execs already drove the design team to ramp up production to meet a moved up release date, and now all of that extra time and effort is being flushed for this sudden leap backwards. Without knowing exactly where the toys are in the release stream, it’s tough to tell exactly what we’ll see at retail before a shift starts to happen, but I think it’s a pretty safe bet that these toys are not going to move at retail with no film to drive them. I don’t think any of us would argue that several concessions were made with these figures to get them in line with the movie branding and get them within a certain production budget and timeline, and now with the movie suddenly moving, that leaves all of this stuff in a lurch. We now have figures with fewer paint applications and reduced articulation in generic packaging sitting in retail warehouses or on retail shelves, which were all depending on a big movie release to move product. Now that movie release is not happening this year, and all of these toy concessions may be hurting the toy’s sell-through, with no film to push awareness.
In short, this could be a perfect storm of mis-management that ends up tanking the Joe brand at retail, even more than it already has, which is the true shame.
Deth of teh line?
So at the end of the day, what does this mean? Is G.I. Joe as a viable retail brand dead? Is there no hope?
No, I don’t think so. As bad as things look right now, I do think there is a light at the end of the tunnel. In this day and age of immediate response and immediate gratification, it’s easy to look at a nine month delay and feel like its forever, but it isn’t.
If they forced G.I. Joe: Retaliation into a June 29th release and the film tanked, it would have been an absolute kill shot for the film franchise and the brand as a whole. No ifs ands or buts. By pulling the film out and planning it for a March 29th release, Hasbro at least has a chance to try and refine some things about the film, improve the sellability of the film overseas, and possibly rethink some of their retail plans before moving forward at a more reasonable pace.
Yes, this is a punch in the gut now, but if a nine month push back ends up salvaging the brand and making it at least somewhat viable long term, I can understand and appreciate the decision, and I will continue to support it.
Not only that, but I have faith in the Hasbro design team and the guys “in the trenches”. From everything we’ve seen from the film, and from all indications in toy production, the cast, crew, and designers at Paramount and Hasbro have been doing some awesome stuff where it counts. Let’s all face it, brand recognition and awareness for G.I. Joe has been somewhat in the dumps for the past several years, yet the guys who matter, those guys in the studio have been kicking absolute ass with the toyline. They’ve been taking potentially crappy situations and spinning it into retail gold. I would argue even with the multiple concessions they’ve been forced to deal with in the Retaliation line, they’ve managed to do some very cool things with the main line in upcoming waves, not to mention the great looking Dollar General stuff. It’s not all doom and gloom.
Popular response is going to be to throw stones and declare failure on all levels, and I think those responses are fair. As G.I. Joe fans we’ve been dealing with stuff just like this for many years with the end of the 25th Anniversary, the reaction to the Rise of Cobra, Resolute coming and then vanishing, G.I. Joe: Renegades… it’s become common place, but none of those failures were as visible as this. It will take a lot to overcome, but I’ll be right there along the way, and if we end up with a better product and a more viable brand come April, 2013, then perhaps this nine month delay is worth it.
Unfortunately we can’t make that decision until we see the end result, and it’s going to be a very rocky ride until then. Hopefully most of you take that ride with me.