Tomorrowland, starring George Clooney, opens to a dystopian $40+ million in its first four days to top the US box office over the Memorial Day weekend. This also marks the worst Memorial Day box office since 2001.
Tomorrowland marks another box office low for leading man George Clooney. His directorial effort, The Monuments Men, was also a disappointment at the box office last year. The big question surrounding Tomorrowland is how bad is the write-off going to be for Disney. The film is reported to have cost $180m, not inclusive of the marketing/advertising campaign, and the House of Mouse is probably scrambling on ways to recoup the cost. Globally, the film made just $107m during its 2nd weekend.
I'm not sure why the film is a failure given the combination of four Oscars® between actor George Clooney and director Brad Bird, with each of them having won two each.
If I have to make a guess, I venture that it's a combination of poor marketing and miscasting George Clooney as an old curmudgeon. From the marketing, it's difficult to decipher what the film is about. Is it an adventure? A sci-fi? Time-travel? While certain directors can pull off marketing a film with just their name alone, Christopher Nolan and JJ Abrams come to mind, I'm not sure people are as familiar with director Brad Bird. Hence, people are less likely to give him the benefit of the doubt and just watch a film based on his name alone. Secondly, George Clooney's appeal is that of a suave rogue as seen in Ocean's Eleven and Up in the Air. Guys want to be him and girls want to be with him. George Clooney plays an old curmudgeon in Tomorrowland and perhaps that ruins the fantasy for people. They don't want be reminded of the reality that George Clooney might actually be an old curmudgeon. Does this mean actors shouldn't explore new roles and stay typecast? No, I think Matthew Mcconaughey shows that actors can experience a Mcconaissance, but that the roles they're taking on doesn't conflict with their initial appeal. I mean, honestly speaking, George Clooney as an old curmudgeon holds very little appeal. Matthew Mcconaughey as a stoic, intelligent detective as seen in True Detective, now that's appealing.
So the lesson from Tomorrowland is 1) make sure your audience knows what the film is about 2) make sure you don't miscast your A-list actor's appeal.
In the meantime, here's an hour long talk that director Brad Bird and screenwriter Damon Lindelof did at Google to talk about the thought process behind the new film. From the talk, it sounds like a decent film. Too bad hindsight is 20/20.