The ploy only got the studios so far. Despite the fact that both "Star Trek Beyond" and "Ghostbusters" (2016) are far from good movies, by positioning both titles on left-wing soap boxes, the lapdog critics swooned, and to their great shame awarded the disappointing former an 83% fresh rating and the outright awful latter a 73% fresh rating.
In this age of the Internet, good reviews matter, no question. People check the Tomatometer and make a decision based on that. But it only matters for about 24 hours. Thanks to social media, after the public has had a look-see, the critics' con game unravels, and the Great Unwashed stay away in droves.
When the critical community is made up primarily of left-wingers, turning the iconic "Ghostbusters" into a feminist lecture with a side order of The Government Is Good, will of course result in good reviews, even for an objectively unfunny disaster. The same can be said for "Star Trek," which dumped all over the sacred original by turning Hikaru Sulu into a homosexual, even over the protestations of his co-creator (with George Rodenberry) George Takei, who himself is a gay man and left-wing gay-rights activist.
Social Justice do-overs might make critics swoon and sell their souls, but in the balmy days of summer when everyday Americans just want to violate their diet and enjoy a mind-escape in a dark, air-conditioned cave, this nonsense just isn't going to fly -- especially during a month where real life is real enough.
How bad of a gambit was this?
"Ghostbusters" is shaping up to be an outright catastrophe. With a $144 million production budget, another $80 to $100 million for publicity, and theatres taking 50%, a $450 million to $500 million worldwide gross is necessary just for Sony to break even. Three weekends ago this dud opened throughout North America on thousands of screens and in a number of foreign countries. Worldwide gross thus far? A measly $160 million.
No one wants to sit through a Social Justice lecture, especially when it's packaged in a lousy movie.
The damage, however, goes way beyond a one-off. "Ghostbusters" was meant to launch a Marvel-style universe for Sony, a money-printing machine that would pound out the Benjamins for a decade. That will only happen now if there is yet another reboot à la Sony's dying Spider-Man and long-dead "Dragon Tattoo" franchises.
Though still bad, the news is not anywhere near as bad for Paramount's "Star Trek Beyond." Domestically, after two weekends, the threequel has grossed an anemic $109 million and is pacing more than $40 million behind its predecessors. With a whopping $185 million budget, this is another tentpole that will have to earn at least a half-billion worldwide just to break even. Worldwide gross thus far is just $166 million. Unlike "Ghostbusters," though, "Beyond" will open in China.
Nevertheless, this 50 year-old franchise has weathered low television ratings and box office bombs in the past and always roared back to life. The current reboot is, however, on the bubble. Paramount has already greenlit a sequel but it will have to be a doozy, a bona fide crowd-pleasing smash … or else.
There is a nice irony here.
Left-wing Hollywood believed the ever-expanding overseas box office would ensure everything made money, including blockbusters seeded with left-wing propaganda. The problem is two-fold. 1) Worldwide blockbusters require massive production budgets and expanded publicity expenses making each celluloid gamble enormous, potentially the difference between a profitable and unprofitable year with just one roll of the dice. 2) Human values are human values. People are people. And no one wants to sit through a Social Justice lecture, especially when it's packaged in a lousy movie.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC