To really appreciate just how monumental the opening for The Inbetweeners Movie has been, try overly emphasising the last three words of the next few sentences in a disgruntled Kanye West tone. For instance: The highest grossing UK comedy opening ‘Of All Time’! The biggest TV spin-off in the UK ‘Of All Time’! It took in more cash in its opening weekend in the UK than Avatar. As everyone knows that motherfucker is the biggest movie, say it with me, ‘Of All Time!’
As industry experts and film fans pick their jaws from off the floor with one hand and grab the scalpels to dissect every inch of the ‘sleeper’ hit with the other, we’re gonna offer some theories of our own. Of course whatever conclusion we come to, we and they will be completely wrong. After all, this is the industry where everybody knows: ‘Nobody Knows Anything’.
He that first spaketh the famous phrase ‘Nobody Knows Anything’ was Oscar-winning screenwriter William Goldman. In his book, The Big Picture – a tome that dictates if anybody does know anything about the film business that person may well be Goldman – the writer of Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid talks of a phrase he hates: “non-recurring phenomenon”. The Inbetweeners Movie falls into this category.
Goldman believed if you ask any studio why a film that wasn’t expected to do well (e.g. not a franchise movie, not a star-vehicle), did do well, they’ll reply, “it’s a non-recurring phenomenon”. No need to explain it. No rhyme or reason to it. Like the England riots and the popularity of James Corden (hey buddy!) some things just can’t be explained. They’ll whistle a happy tune and go about greenlighting the next Green Lantern.
But let’s forget that ‘Nobody Knows Anything’ and let’s at least try to gain some knowledge. For the first word as to why we’re looking at the equivalent of a Twilight haul on a Ken Loach budget, let’s ask the writers. Goldman would like that. They reckon it’s all to do with “the four greatest comic actors of their generation”…
Bollocks. Ask the man on the street, who Will, Jay, Simon and Neil are and you may well get a response in the affirmative. Ask them who Simon Bird, James Buckley, Blake Harrison and Joe Thomas are and you’re likely to get results ranging from “that dead musician” to “the left back for QPR?”. These guys are not stars. They will not open other films. Hopefully they’ll go on to have decent careers, they seem like genuinely nice boys. But they are not, repeat not, stars. Nobody said “let’s hit the cinema this weekend and watch the new Blake Harrison film”. I’d hazard a guess, no one ever will.
So then it’s simple. It has a built in audience. Fans of the show means fans going to the cinema. But then Glee also has a built-in audience. Glee has a following on E4 of about half that of The Inbetweeners. Singing teens equals 1.1 million viewers. Wanking teens equals 2.2 million. Ergo, vis a vis, concordantly, Glee‘s opening weekend will be half of The Inbetweeners haul of £13,196,422 or at least there or there abouts. But Glee actually took £356,271. Anybody out there recently got an A-Level in Maths and fancies working out if that is half? Or even there or thereabouts.
Teenagers, when they’re not smashing up JD Sports and nicking trainers/offering to clean up the mess of PEOPLE OF ALL AGES smashing up JD Sports and nicking trainers (delete depending on age and newspaper choice), have a lot of cash. Well they don’t -or at least me and my friends never did when I was the age to be wanking into a sock – but they also don’t have bills. What they do have is, a phrase to make money men semi-erect, “expendable income”. A movie aimed at teenagers during the school holidays, opening on an Orange Wednesday. On the week of A-Level results when parents are rewarding their children financially. Now that’s good forethought.
Not being an avid Hollyoaks fan I’m unaware of the advert coverage The Inbetweeners is getting during the Channel 4 soap. I’d guess a fair bit. I’d also guess it’s about an eighth of what Harry Potter acquired. The poster was awful. The trailer was adequate. The social network coverage was pretty good. Most websites had at least some interviews or clips. FilmFour giving over their Twitter account to the four boys was a great piece of low budget marketing that seemed to work well, but no amount of press could account for £13million plus. But then there’s the reviews…
Surely a film reaps what it sows in terms of quality? Right? The reason The Inbetweeners Movie has done so well is because it’s a good film. It’s a well structured comedy with heart that, one ‘insanely good-looking and sexy’ reviewer said, “works for the uninitiated” (note the “may help its box office” statement too, I am available to film studios for consultancy work). So quality equals success. By that rational we can all pop Transformers: Dark Of The Moon in our Best Films of 2011 lists. Also Fight Club, Citizen Kane, ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ and Children of Men were all rubbish and should never be spoken of again. Even sarcastically that was hard to write.
So there we are. Lesson learned. Make a decent movie for teenagers starring the “greatest comic actors of their generation”, release it during the holidays and watch the money roll in. Easy really.
Oh and The Inbetweeners Movie 2. I’d bet approximately £13,196,422 on it.