Movie Article

Box Office Poison

Why did ''Snakes on a Plane'' crash? -- What Hollywood can learn from the mistakes of the Samuel L. Jackson thriller

In the end, that hissing sound came not from a horde of vipers but from the air leaking out of the Snakes on a Plane phenomenon. After months of Internet obsession, the movie debuted with just $15.2 million—barely enough to finish No. 1, and below the most cynical of forecasts. (Even buzzless R-rated horror flicks like Silent Hill and Final Destination 3 opened better this year.) To be fair, the film, which cost about $30 million, will likely make money once DVD sales are factored in, but here are three reasons why the slither to profitability will be longer than anticipated:

• Blogs Don't Equal Bucks
The big question was, Would webheads actually go see it? The answer: No. Or at least they didn't bring friends. Bloggers gave SoaP an unexpected boost, says New Line executive Rolf Mittweg, ''but did awareness translate into dollars? I don't think so.''

• Young Men Aren't Reliable Moviegoers
New Line aimed for a demographic that has repeatedly proved to be finicky — and SoaP's stats bear that out. Just as many women showed up as men, and, owing in part to its R rating, 53 percent of the film's audience was older than 25. You can't make cash if your core crowd doesn't show.

• Schlock Sells Just Like You'd Expect
Reviews were the one part of the whole SoaP experience that actually beat expectations, but the fact is that most people pegged SoaP as a goofy horror movie and stayed home. After all, nobody needed to buy a ticket to be entertained by the best part: its title.

Originally posted Aug 25, 2006 Published in issue #894 Sep 01, 2006 Order article reprints