NPR logo Reconsidering The Fanboy's Box Office Influence

Reconsidering The Fanboy's Box Office Influence

This weekend's 67 percent drop in box office receipts sealed Watchmen's fate as a disappointment of a film. But the conversations at Tinseltown lunches were already turning toward a reassessment of movies geared toward "fanboys" — the most ardent variety of supporter who can allegedly make or break a genre film.

Fanboys are a creator's blessing and curse. If a fanboy likes you, they love you. Obsessively. If you cross them with some plot point or story direction they reject, expect to be wholly and continually eviscerated across the internet.

I don't have to tell you that the Hollywood landscape has increasingly been dominated by properties derived from comic books (or graphic novels as the "boys" would say) and cult retreads (Speed Racer).

Somewhat naturally, the best minds of the major studios figured that the surest way to build buzz for these movies was to cater to those who trek — pun intended — to comic cons like worshipers to Mecca. Marketing, P&A, promos, trailers; in the buildup to these films there was a certain Talmudic devotion to the niche material with the hopes of obtaining the blessings of the fanboys.
In kind, the fanboys would then blog and MySpace and Facebook this fringe entertainment into a mass-market product. And I don't say that with derision. A lot of that fringe entertainment is carefully aligned on my bookshelves.


The results have been mixed to bad. Watchmen, The Spirit, Grindhouse, V for Vendetta...

Snakes on a Plane.

None did the business of on-par-or-lesser-quality, more well-known brands such as the film versions of Fantastic Four.

And even lesser known graphic novels that skipped the fanboys and went straight for the mass audiences — Wanted, Road to Perdition, A History of Violence — have done well for themselves at the multiplexes.

All of which does not bode well for the fanboy's continued influence on Hollywood.

Don't get me wrong, genre entertainment is not going away. Just genre entertainment that only appeals to a certain genre of viewer.