Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How Important Is a Title to a Book or Film?

This week, a number of articles discussed how the title for the most recent Tom Cruise movie, Edge of Tomorrow, helped sink the film at the box office. (You can read them here and here and here.) Despite getting really good reviews, the movie underperformed, so for the Blu-Ray release the studio changed the title to Live Die Repeat. Even more, they’ve relegated the original title to the fine print at the bottom of the Blue-Ray cover. All of this led me to wonder: How important is a title?

"Edge of Tomorrow"? - look at the red print.
Last month, I wrote a post about the book John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood, which documented the marketing debacle that led to the box office failure of Disney’s John Carter, based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' classic A Princess of Mars. Among the many marketing mishaps was the removal of the words “of Mars” from the title, leaving it the highly generic "John Carter."

He's Jimmy Carter's brother? No, you say, he's from Mars?
I feel strongly that the change from “John Carter of Mars” to “John Carter” was a disaster. I haven't thought much about the Edge of Tomorrow, but in reading these articles, I realized I barely knew the movie was out. I don't know if this was because of the title or some other marketing misfire. But I suppose now I’ll catch it on Netflix, whatever it is called by then.

If you have an opinion, I'm curious to know: How important is the title to a book or film?


Bill said...

I think the title is extremely important. Since our choices in entertainment compared with our time might as well be infinite, we have to make decisions quickly and frequently irrevocably.

Titling a movie about Mars "John Carter" seems crazy to me.

Joseph Finley said...

Thanks for the comment Bill, I agree completely!

Bill said...

I would add that I do indeed "judge a book by its cover" since I have to winnow them down somehow. This applies when encountering authors unknown to me.