Speed Racer Could Have Been Star Wars, Says John Scalzi

Illustration for article titled Speed Racer Could Have Been Star Wars, Says John Scalzi

In an interesting column over at AMC, scifi writer and film critic John Scalzi explains why Speed Racer is doomed not so much because of its content, but because of the changing economics of film distribution. He points out that when Star Wars went into wide release in 1977, it garnered the equivalent (adjusted for inflation) of about $20 million its opening weekend — exactly what Speed Racer earned. And it was considered a monster hit. What has changed? For one thing, Star Wars was able to stay in theaters for nearly a year.


These days, a hit film usually scores over $50 million at the box office its first week, and it's not unusual for it to have as much as a fifty percent dropoff in the following weeks. In other words, hit films are almost never created via word-of-mouth anymore. Either the studio and reviewers have created enough buzz about a film before opening day to drive insane crowds into the theaters, or the film flops.

Says Scalzi:

What Star Wars could do that Speed Racer and other movies today generally can't is just keep running. From its first limited release on Memorial Day weekend, 1977, Star Wars stayed in movie theaters for nearly an entire year, and for that year, experienced very small drop-offs in business from weekend to weekend: Between ten and twenty percent each weekend. Compare this to last year's Transformers, which made $300 million in six weeks — and experienced 40 to 50 percent dropoffs in attendance each week. In both their eras, Star Wars and Transformers are state-of-the-art blockbusters, in terms of how they made their money — it's just that the state of the art evolved.


While Scalzi doesn't claim that Speed Racer is as good as Star Wars — he's careful not to get into the "good" or "bad" of either movie — what he does imply is that Speed Racer might have been a hit in another era. An era when movies that open slow might still have a chance to cross the finish line as winners.

$20 Million Now, $20 Million Then [AMC]

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@diverguy: "Titanic was clearly a love story who's core audience was teenage girls."

Gee, I was first in line at Grauman's Chinese... just to see the ship!

(But then, I go nuts over those amazing ship models people build where every plank's nailed together!)

I sat with a group from some Titanic historical society, and we all oohed & aahed with every beauty pass, especially that one shot where the camera flies through the smoke trailing from the smokestack.

The sinking sequence was the most impressive I've ever seen at the Chinese. That image of the propellers rising out of the water is burned into my memory.


Never wanted to see it again in the theatres ('cause I can't stand DiCrapio) and I never took the wrapper off the 2-cassette VHS copy I bought at Costco.