‘Scott Pilgrim’ vs. the box office? Epic fail — and here’s why

Aug. 17, 2010 | 6:46 p.m.

Ben Fritz covers the business of show business for the Los Angeles Times and the Company Town blog and is a familiar byline here at the Hero Complex. Today he looks at the weekend fizzle of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.”

Scott Pilgrim fire sword Michael Cera Edgar Wright Comic-Con

You’d be hard-pressed to find a movie as beloved by those who turned out opening weekend as “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.” It garnered an average grade of A- and it would have been an A if not dragged down by the small number of people over 35 who saw the movie and just didn’t take to it.

“Pilgrim” fans loved director Edgar Wright’s loyalty to the books, from quirky humor to visual effects inspired by video games. Acoloytes were all over blogs and Twitter professing their love, and many are already planning to go see it a second time, if they haven’t already.

Nonetheless, it ended up one of the summer’s biggest box-office bombs. Universal Pictures spent $85 million to make the effects-heavy movie (that’s before tax credits) and sold only $10.6 million  of tickets on opening weekend, far behind box office winner “The Expendables,” which opened to $35 million.

Scott Pilgrim Bryan Lee OMallley Oni

Why the disconnect? John Horn and I investigated with a piece in today’s Los Angeles Times. Here’s an excerpt:

For Amy Berciano, this was the moviegoing weekend of the summer.

More than a year before “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” hit movie theaters, the 20-year-old UCLA junior became a huge fan of the graphic novels that inspired the film. At July’s Comic-Con International in San Diego, she waited more than an hour to meet the cast and filmmakers; “I even kissed [director] Edgar Wright on the cheek!” she bragged.

After attending the debut midnight screening of the movie Thursday night while dressed as one of the characters — Knives Chao, Scott Pilgrim’s obsessive ex-girlfriend — Berciano declared herself eminently satisfied. “They got the tone of the book just right, especially the way they brought to life those fighting scenes,” she said. “I couldn’t get enough.”

Her enthusiasm was shared by nearly everyone who saw the film in its opening weekend, particularly those younger than 35, who gave “Scott Pilgrim” an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore. Universal’s internal exit polls were equally strong, and the film attracted scores of positive reviews.

But as last weekend’s box office numbers rolled in, all that hardly mattered at all.

The movie sold only $10.6 million worth of tickets, a disappointing figure given that Universal Pictures spent about $85 million, before tax credits, on production and tens of millions more on marketing.


— Ben Fritz



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9 Responses to ‘Scott Pilgrim’ vs. the box office? Epic fail — and here’s why

  1. Tor says:

    I think the advertisement sucked for the movie, that's why it bombed. To me it was advertised like a rock band type of movie, not an action, arcade style, kick ass movie. The marketing team messed up big time.

  2. David Sargent says:

    don't know the books and still haven't seen the movie. the trailers for it were ok. I can't believe they dumped so much cash into it to lose 70 million anyway. thats crazy.

  3. Kurt says:

    The only people who have even heard of Scott Pilgrim are 24-year-olds who still watch kids cartoons.
    When this was released they were busy writing about it in forums instead of going to see it.

  4. Mick says:

    Who’s NOT excited about Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World… or at least a little curious. Michael Cera has been on a roll lately and has been in some the past decade’s most memorable comedies. The way this looks and the fact that Edgar Wright(SHAUN OF THE DEAD!) is directing… yeah, how could it not rock?
    Here’s The Top 4 Michael Cera Movies:

  5. Shane says:

    Do we really need so many copies of the exact same story? Talk about complete writing hacks.

  6. TeddyKGB says:

    Scott Pilgrim "epic failed" (please stop using that phrase) for the same reason Kick-Ass and The Losers did: they were relatively unknown properties with no major stars.
    However, the fact that all those movies were made on the (relative) cheap means they will turn tidy profits on home video and cable; Scott Pilgrim more so than the others, as I believe it will be considered a classic after too long.

  7. Fenchurch says:

    Movie is released in Germany on 11. January 2011.
    This will also reflect bad on sales in Europe. Piracy will be an issue…

  8. Sheldon says:

    Funny thing. Kick-Ass grossed more than three times its budget in theaters – so very much not a bomb!

    And now it's kicked @$$ on video, where it's also done more than three times its budget.

    Tell me this, how does this qualify as an epic fail in your world?

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