Update: director Ridley Scott has given his reasoning behind the box office failure of The Last Duel. While sitting down with Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, he cited that contrary to belief, he thought that Disney marketed the film quite well. I’ll still disagree with him on that statement and stick with my original statement. As a consumer, I thought the marketing was atrocious. So why did Scott think the film bombed? Millennials.
“I think what it boils down to — what we’ve got today [are] the audiences who were brought up on these f*cking cellphones. The millennian [sic] do not ever want to be taught anything unless you’re told it on a cellphone. I think what it boils down to — what we’ve got today [are] the audiences who were brought up on these fucking cell phones,” The millennian, [who] do not ever want to be taught anything unless you told it on the cell phone…this is a broad stroke, but I think we’re dealing with it right now with Facebook. This is a misdirection that has happened where it’s given the wrong kind of confidence to this latest generation, I think.”
Original story follows.
Despite getting some pretty rave reviews, including from yours truly, Ridley Scott’s latest film, The Last Duel, brought in a measly $4 million dollars on its opening weekend. That’s a far cry from the estimated $100 production cost, nevermind marketing. But wait, what marketing? Was this movie doomed to fail from the get-go? Let’s find out.
The Target Demographic
Ridley Scott is part of the old guard of Hollywood and thus, many of his lifelong fans are of the older generation, those hitting retirement age were likely a key target. In my screening, which had six other people in attendance, I was the youngest by many decades. But most people in this age group aren’t too comfortable going to the theatres just yet. Hollywood Reporter stated that 80% of ticketholders for The Last Duel was in the 25+ age demographic, 17% were between 17 and 25 and 2% were under 17. That’s a sharp contrast to Halloween Kills, which opened on the same day and made a killing (pun intended) at the box office, earning over $50 million domestically despite mixed reviews. Strong support from the 2018 film and good marketing, in combination with the right time of year, guaranteed the film’s success with younger demographics.
Despite the price tag of over $100 million, The Last Duel has some of the worst marketing I’ve seen for a film, at least in recent memory. Considering the pandemic has delayed everyone’s slate, one would think that studios would be eager to advertise the fact that movies are back and what’s available to be seen. People like me, who live, breathe and digest cinematic news on the daily, know about The Last Duel coming out because we have our ears to the ground on things like this. But to the average moviegoer? Who actually knew this movie was out? Having been to the theatre a few times now since getting my 2nd dose of the vaccine, I can state for a fact that I’ve never seen the film advertised in front of any of the films I saw, which includes Shang-Chi, a Marvel film, which means there’s a connection to Disney, who don’t forget, purchased Fox in 2019 and rebranded 20th Century Fox as 20th Century Studios. There should have been marketing everywhere for this very expensive movie from such an acclaimed director.
Speaking of which, the marketing of The Last Duel was very shy about attaching Ridley Scott’s name to the trailer. I think the marketing would’ve benefited from saying something like “from Ridley Scott, director of Gladiator and The Martian (or Blade Runner, or Alien, Kingdom of Heaven-take your pick). That way, casual moviegoers can latch on to the fact that Scott directed the film. Gladiator is still one of the most popular and iconic films of the last twenty years, so having that association could have only benefited The Last Duel. While all hope is more or less dashed for the film’s box office run, I would still encourage you to go and see it before it leaves the big screen.