Back in July we looked at the Pirates of the Caribbean and Transformers franchises as examples of when the filmmakers have apologised for the quality of previous instalments before the release of the latest film in the series. We wanted to see if the apologies affected the reception of the new films, both in critical acclaim and at the box office.
Because Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was still in cinemas at the time we could only look at opening weekend gross to gauge the success of the films (taken from Box Office Mojo). This figure was plotted alongside the “freshness” (aggregated critic score) for each film from Rotten Tomatoes to see whether the quality of the film had improved as promised by the film-maker. The original conclusion was that opening weekend box-office continues to decline after the apology with the critics score either continuing to decline or increasing, but not to the heights of the original series.
It looked like saying sorry and admitting your film was bad didn’t work, but things have changed…
Pirates of the Caribbean
The second and third films in the Pirates series were dubbed as confusing by viewers and cast alike, Johnny Depp then promised the fourth film would be more fun and much less confusing. Did they follow through and make a better film, and did this make for a better box office? This time we’ve included Worldwide Lifetime Gross and the Audience Freshness from Rotten Tomatoes, determined by user (rather than critic) ratings.
The first thing to notice is that the general public are a lot more friendly when it comes to rating the films, with none of the original trilogy slipping below 70% fresh. More importantly, despite the quality of the films continuing to decline (as agreed by critics and fans) the total box office went back up after Depp had promised them a better film. We can’t prove causality, but we can wildly speculate!
After the second Transformers film came out the critics were falling over each other to pan the sequel and were soon followed by both its lead actor Shia LaBeouf and director Michael Bay. Megan Fox also had plenty to say but was then swiftly removed from the franchise. LaBeouf and Bay did not leave the series, instead they both promised that the third film would be better than its two predecessors and that they had learnt from their mistakes.
While the general audience may have felt that the quality of the films fell after the apologies, the critics were much more forgiving. If critics are to be believed the third Transformers film was much better than the second; not only had Bay and LaBeouf promised a better film, they had delivered. The promise of a better film combined with a film that was indeed an improvement led to a huge increase in total box office gross.
Using that ability to wildly speculate, we can say that confessing to a lacklustre film and pledging to make a superior follow-up feature will give audiences confidence in your franchise and help you out at the box office. What really seems to help however, is following through on your promise. Both franchises suffered a drop in their opening weekend takings but by actually making a better Transformers film, Michael Bay was able to give the total box office a big increase.
The moral of the story kids; say sorry and keep your promises.