Jem and the Holograms Cautionary Tale

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Colorful in hue, but not personality, Jem and the Holograms.

Based on a Hasbro toy line and 1980s animated TV series, the Universal Pictures release Jem and the Holograms was a disappointing opener, making a paltry $1.37 million on 2,413 screens the weekend of Oct. 23-25, for an average of roughly $545 per screen. The trades were quick to characterize that as the worst opening ever for a major studio release with a significant marketing budget (although the budget of the film itself was relatively low, at $5 million).

But before we are, once again, swept aboard the “movies for teenage girls can’t open” bandwagon, we’ d do well to read Forbes film analyst Scott Mendelson’s instructive “Why ‘Jem and the Holograms’ Flopping is a Truly (Truly) Outrageous Tragedy.”Mendelson conjectures that, aside from a budget that pales compared to the $125 million-plus funding for “boy-centric” properties like Transformers and G.I. Joe, Universal execs basically abandoned the exciting action-adventure elements of the original property, instead pandering. “The film took a source material that is over-the-top colorful and over-the-top exciting, filled with larger-than-life characters and musically-charged action sequences where Jem and her friends had to both be kick-ass rock stars and kick-ass crime fighters at the same time, and made a toned-down, muted, and overly patronizing ‘young girl gets in over her head due to fame and artistic success and forgets what matters’ fable that basically penalized its young heroes for wanting and achieving success and power,” Mendelson writes.

Summing up for teenage girls everywhere: “Eeeeewww!” Director Jon M. Chu (G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Step Up 2: The Streets) and producer Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity, Insidious) ignored the over-the-top sci-fi elements of the original cartoon series, opting for a more predictable, social climbing in the social media ear approach that fell flat with contemporary viewers and alienated fans nostalgic for the TV show. In other words, a recipe for disaster that really says nothing about female-themed films or those that target young girls.

And to prove it, the Jem opening — technically the fourth-worst ever for a film on 2,000 screens or more — did only slightly worse than the Bill Murray starrer Rock the Kasbah, about a washed-up manager who takes his sole remaining client, a female pop singer, on a tour of Afghanistan. Distributed by Open Road Films, it opened at $1.5 million on 2,012 screens, or about $750 per screen.

Overall, a bad weekend for music movies! (And really, all movies, as the box office pundits pointed out. While we’re on that trend, let’s point out that the Zac Efron-starring Electronic Dance Music (EDM) drama We Are Your Friends bombed in August for Warner Bros., with $1.77 million in 2,333 theaters, or $758 per screen.

 

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