What’s In A Name?
That’s the question Warner Bros executives will be asking themselves this weekend when action comedy Cop Out hits theaters. While the current title is a cute play on words (the two main characters are cops), the original title was much more compelling: A Couple of Dicks. Ever since the movie was greenlit, people wondered if director Kevin Smith would be able to keep the title. But in December, the studio caved to network pressure and changed it. It’s unknown if more or less people would have gone to see A Couple of Dicks over Cop Out. The controversy surrounding such a gleefully dirty title would’ve generated extra publicity, but would that have counteracted lost advertising opportunities?
How much box office power does a film’s title hold?
Kevin Smith’s last film also had a controversial title – Zack and Miri Make a Porno. The Zack and Miri part was fine, but it was the Porno part that made stations, advertisers, and the city of Philadelphia uncomfortable. In the end, the film opened to a so-so $10M, behind the second weekend of squeaky clean High School Musical 3. After an ill-timed Halloween release date, the movie petered out at $31.5M.
In 2006, New Line Cinema planned to release a modestly-budgeted horror comedy called Pacific Air 121. When they changed the name to Snakes on a Plane, their genre film generated a groundswell of internet hype, based primarily on its self-explanatory title. Parodies, references, and merchandise popped up everywhere before the film’s release; Snakes on a Plane went from title to catchphrase. Unfortunately, the movie was all hiss and no bite earning $15.2M in its first weekend and plummeting quickly to $34M. This year, MGM’s Hot Tub Time Machine is generating the same type of buzz over its title. Time will tell if it will fall victim to the same fate.
Some Oscar pundits believe a film’s title can make or break its chances with the Academy. Slumdog Millionaire had a catchy title to help it coast through awards season, much catchier than its source novel Q&A. Million Dollar Baby’s original title was Rope Burns, and they believe it would have lost to The Aviator with the less spunky name. For this year’s Oscars, the growing chatter about Inglourious Basterds taking home best picture is partly due to its “irresistibly cheeky title,” while Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey present Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire may prove to be too big a mouthful for voters.
Catchy names may get people into the theater initially, but ultimately, it’s everything that occurs after the title card that will decide a movie’s final box office fate.
How important is a title to you? Would you have seen these movies with their original titles? And which ones do you prefer?
I Know What Boys Like vs. Real Title
Something Real vs. Real Title
East Great Falls High vs. Real Title
Old Friends vs. Real Title
Three Thousand vs. Real Title
Scary Movie vs. Real Title
Diversion vs. Real Title