The Big Flop

Wow.  Thanks to everyone for an exciting opening weekend.  I had a great time seeing the movie 3 times this weekend with lots of birders, friends, and family.  Everyone helped make this a very special weekend for me.  I’m a little bleary-eyed after driving over 1,000 miles this weekend and going right back to work yesterday.  Ooofah.  But hey!  I did stuff like that during my big year in 1998.  Only now I don’t get around as easily.

You know what?  I’ve seen the movie 4 times now and…I still really enjoy it.  But, I am in the minority.  Yeah, and I’m totally biased, too.  Minority, you say?  Yes.  Most folks have totally ignored the movie.  How do I know?  Have you looked at the box office numbers yet?  Have you seen the news?  Terms like “flop”, “tank”, “fail” are being used with some regularity about The Big Year.  How bad can it be?  Well.  Very, very bad.  In fact, record-setting bad.

Why am I upset?  Am I not making a ton of money on royalties for Jack Black playing my character in a movie?  Nope.  No royalties.  Not a penny.  I don’t make any money on whether or not this movie soars or sucks.  So why am I complaining about low numbers?  Simply put, it’s bad for birding.  Not the end of birding.  It’s just that we are losing this vehicle of promotion for our hobby.  If another movie is made soon about birding, it will not be kind to our hobby.

The Big Year movie brought in just under $3.3 million during opening weekend.  Sure, it came in 9th place, but it was a really bad weekend for movie-going.  How bad is $3.3 million?  Well, it is bad enough to set an ALL TIME BOX OFFICE RECORD–and not the kind that is enviable.  The Big Year comes in 29th on the list of All Time Box Office Worst Wide Openings (opening at more than 2,000 theaters).  Wow.  I read a Canadian paper last year that set the production budget for The Big Year at $85 million.  I’m not sure what their sources were.  But with moving a crew of 175 people to location after location every day, I am sure that this movie was not cheap to make.

I heard a recent quote on TV (about The Big Year) that there are 46 million birders in the U.S.  I think I’ve heard a 20% number from the mid-2000’s from the USFWS about the number of birders.  But I’m just throwing numbers out now.  I don’t have the research to back it up.  So how many people saw the movie in theaters opening weekend?  Using 2010 average nationwide movie price of $7.89, you come up with a little more than 400,000 folks who went to theaters to see The Big Year.  That is incredibly low even for a bad movie.  So where are the other 45 million birders?  Ahh.  Well.  I don’t know.  They certainly were not seeing a movie about their hobby.

So here we have a movie that does NOT paint birders in a bad light.  It actually attempts to make them out to be real people who are passionate about their hobby (or “calling” haha).  If Hollywood really wanted to make a boat load of money, they could have (and probably should have) lampooned us with derisive humor and made merciless fun at how silly we all are.  Now *that* may have performed much better at the box office.  Maybe that is what everyone else was hoping for?  I don’t know.

One thing is for certain now.  It is going to be a VERY long time–if ever again–that Hollywood will attempt to do a movie like this again.  Why?  Because only 400,000 people care (less than 1% of the total population of the U.S.).  So if you want to see this movie on the big screen, you’d better hurry–no RUSH to the nearest theater and see it now because I don’t look for a money-losing movie to stay in theaters for long.

22 thoughts on “The Big Flop

  1. I saw the movie this year and thought it was great! I think this is one where the critics got it very wrong. The Big Year will be one of those movies that will live on long after on DVD and streaming, even if it didn’t do well at the box office.

  2. We went to see the movie on the weekend, and we loved it! I was worried their wouldn’t be enough “birding” in the movie, but I thought they did a great job balancing the birding with the stories going on in the guys lives.

    I don’t think it’s not doing well in the theaters because it’s about birding, it’s probably because it’s to “real” for most people. Most people go to the movies now to escape, look at what does break records, definitely not movies about people doing what they love and dealing with real life at the same time.

    Loved this movie, and I think birders and non-birders alike would enjoy it, if they’d give it a chance.

    My favorite scene was the Great Gray Owl scene, and I hope to add one to my life list one day.

    Looking forward to reading the book.

  3. Greg, thanks for this post. Your review is very frank and accurate. The hard-core birders were all over this movie. As you’ve seen, just about every listserv has been a-buzz about The Big Year. Seeing the movie last weekend was all I could think about. However, when I got there on Saturday night, there were only 15 other people in the theatre, and a group of them worked at the local pet store.

    Anyway, I think the reason it was such a big flop was the lack of publicity. First off, the trailer didn’t come out until about a month before the actual movie. Most movies released at this time of the year have been strongly advertised for nearly the whole summer. The trailer for Footloose, for example, was released on June 22nd. I honestly think the movie was pretty good aside from it being about birds, but I don’t know many non-birders who had even heard about it.

    • Thanks Sean. I agree. The marketing was late and a bit misleading. I expected something more comedic, but what we got was more drama with light comedy. I think Fox mismanaged our expectations and the expectation of hilarious comedy must have been a big letdown to the general populace. The movie is growing on me. Right out of the gate it was not what I even expected and I had already seen the script. 🙂

  4. Buck up, Little Camper! A movie isn’t necessarily a total bomb because the powers that be deem it so. Other movies that were “box office flops” were Office Space, The Big Lebowski, Fight Club and (drumroll) Citizen Kane! 🙂

  5. That is just a shame. I saw the movie with friends on opening night and thoroughly enjoyed it. It also led to interesting conversations about work vs. following your dream, etc. And frankly, I’m a bit tired of the typicl Hollywood “gross out” comedy. Maybe good word of mouth will increase the numbers for “The Big Year” (we can only hope!)

  6. I saw it for my second time yesterday, and I liked it even better than the first. I totally agree that the “hype” for this movie came far too late and was far too little. Even the three stars making the rounds talked very little about the movie. Oh,well, I guess that means the DVD will come out sooner rather than later! It’s on my Christmas wishlist!

  7. I thought it’s a really, really nice movie! I had no idea what it was about when I went to see it, and I thought it was well done and told a great story. Although I’m not a birder, I do love birds. I guess people are looking for a crazy comedy or action film or something. It definitely held my attention and I thought the actors/characters were strong. They only showed it the first week-end at our local theaters and then stopped playing it 🙁

  8. I LOVED this movie. It caught me totally off guard and it’s going to be one of those movies to add to my collection in the future. It was so to me, because it was so different. I thought it was going to be “another one of those boring hollywood love drama craps” but this wasn’t. Then i was even more elated to find that the characters had some relevance and the story was actually based on a real story! WHOA! totally took me off my feet. There was so much to love about each of the characters (even bosco’s extreme birding machine was to be admired) that it was shocking to see that it wasn’t completely fabricated!
    It was interesting enough that i had to look up the big year, to see and look what i found! 😀 Good luck birding and other birders, have fun with your hobby!

  9. I just saw this movie on DVD and loved it. What a pleasant surprise. I don’t know anything about birding – just find birds fascinating – so I came online to find out how much of the movie was realistic and ended up on your site. It’ll be interesting to scroll through your posts and learn more. Anyway, I agree with several other posters here – critics, shmitics! This movie had no explosions, blush-worthy scenes, or any other reason you couldn’t bring your grandma. That’s probably why it didn’t do so well when it was released.

  10. Hi I just wanted to say the movie has reached me down here in Australia. I happened across the film by chance in a flight back from Europe when watching lots of movies. I was so surprised how good it was and how much I liked it! (I’ve never been into birding) I’ve just finished the book and raved about it to friends who enjoy birding and have just bought a camera with a 30x zoom for birds. It’s been great to learn about my local birds and I’ve always enjoyed bush walking. Your story is so inspirational to me Greg and I hope to encourage my 11 y.o. daughter to learn more about our birds too:)


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