Why ‘Scott Pilgrim’ Did Better Than You Think

There’s no need for a giant dissertation on the nature of the box office and the world of youth culture. There have been enough editorials written recently about Scott Pilgrim‘s apparent failure to defeat the World, some going so far as to question Hollywood’s co-opting of geek culture entirely.

However, there is a need for some perspective.

To gain that perspective, we’ll need to analyze a past of store clerks fighting zombies and policemen cleaning up small towns to realize that Scott Pilgrim actually did pretty well for himself.

The first major question before gaining perspective is asking what’s personally at stake for the success of the film. Unless you’re Edgar Wright, the answer is “nothing.” Sure, it’s nice to see films you like succeed, and we still have a naive belief that movies and filmmakers we’re passionate about delivering dividends will ensure that more talents that we appreciate will be given a chance (or that a particular talent will be given more chances).

Still, if your personally vested interest in the film’s success as a fan is to see Edgar Wright continue working, that’s not such an ignoble thing to hope for. Fortunately, the success of this weekend will almost certainly ensure that.

I say success wholeheartedly because of the context of the film and the context of Wright’s other works.

At it’s core, Scott Pilgrim is a movie based on a niche, indie comic directed by a lesser-known foreign director using an American cast for the first time. His name is sacrosanct amongst the movie-literate, but in reality, he’s still a figure full of potential on the rise. He’s not, say, an M. Night Shyamalan seeing his way from the top down to the bottom of the mountain.

If you’re a fan hoping for more exposure for Wright, then Scott Pilgrim‘s box office take should have you throwing an epic party in celebration. It’s a vast financial improvement over his previous work:

  • Shaun of the Dead opens to $3.3 million and goes on to make $30 million worldwide.
  • Hot Fuzz opens to $5.8 million and goes on to make $80 million worldwide.
  • Scott Pilgrim vs The World opens to $10.5 million and goes on.

Is it a bigger budget? Absolutely. Will that budget be recouped? It’s unclear. That question may be the ultimate one for some in pinning down whether the film was a success or not, but as it stands – Edgar Wright just had his largest opening ever while up against a film tailor-made for audiences that like seeing things blown up and another film tailor-made for audiences that like seeing Julia Roberts get her groove back.

Granted, the larger take is also attributed to a much larger amount of theaters playing the film, but the bottom line is that more people just got exposed to the work of Edgar Wright, and the reviews are mostly positive.

There seem to be a lot of editorials out there clamoring about how badly this film bombed. It seems as though those authors have lost sight of exactly what bombing really means. Up against a huge action film with a lot of notable names and faces, of course it appears as less than. The film did well. Not spectacular. Well. But it was far from being a bombshell.

That’s a good thing. Instead of a black and white view of the box office portending either victory or failure, a little context should do the body good here.

Besides, the box office is never going to stop you from loving a movie.

A veteran of writing about movies for nearly a decade, Scott Beggs has been the Managing Editor of Film School Rejects since 2009. Despite speculation, he is not actually Walter Mathau's grandson. See? He can't even spell his name right.

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