Sonic The Hedgehog’s success is a lesson in studios listening to, and not insulting, their audience

Audiences reward movies that entertain them, not lecture them.


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Sonic The Hedgehog director Jeff Fowler took to Twitter to thank fans for their support after the movie smashed box office projections for its opening weekend.

At the time of writing, estimates are now projecting Sonic is on track for a 3-day gross of $54 million and a 4-day holiday gross of $68 million at the box office.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the Audience Rating for the movie currently sits at 95 percent Fresh, making it one of the highest rated video game movies of all time – not an easy feat as movies inspired by video games have historically not translated well on the big screen.

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“We tried making a for everyone,” Fowler added.

The voice of Sonic, Ben Schwartz – called the rating “amazing” on Twitter as he celebrated yesterday evening.

Sonic’s opening weekend also crushed the likes of Birds of Prey, which was released last week to an opening weekend bringing in just $33 million.

The success of Sonic is annoying the rabid online Birds of Prey fans who were hoping Sonic would flop at the box office after their own movie ended up being unable to recuperate its budget.

Many Birds of Prey fans thought that the second weekend would give a boost to the movie’s fortunes, only for audiences to reject the movie once again, in favor of Sonic – sending Birds of Prey’s second weekend audience down over 50%.

The success of Sonic and the failure of Birds of Prey is especially stand-out in today’s always-online social media world and highlights how social media has given audiences a voice and an ability to comment on what they think of the way movies are being created and marketed.

When working with such beloved characters as Sonic The Hedgehog, or Harley Quinn – characters that many have grown up with – you would think that movie studios would be keen to take extra care in making sure they get it right, and that they please audiences.

After all, if you’re not working to please audiences, what’s the point of making the movie?

The indications that Sonic’s production team was listening to fans came very soon after Sonic’s first trailer was launched last August.

Paramount listened to fan feedback and changed Sonic’s look before the movie’s release

Online audiences who saw the first trailer were overwhelmingly aghast at what Sonic looked like, cringing at the new weird-look the movie studio had given him, with small eyes and a ratty-like appearance.

The movie was set to launch in November of 2019, but Paramount delayed the movie, taking audience feedback on board and went back to the drawing board to redesign Sonic in a way fans would enjoy.

When Sonic was released this weekend, it’s clear that fans appreciated the studio taking the effort to get things right – and the movie is soaring in both ratings and in revenue.

But contrast that with the way the recent Birds of Prey was marketed.

It became clear early on during the marketing of Birds of Prey that the movie studio was more interested in pushing social messaging, rather than just producing a good movie fans would enjoy.

Back in October, actor Ewan McGregor – who played Black Mask in the movie – said that Birds of Prey is a “feminist film” and would take a “true look” at misogyny.

Specifically: 

“What interested me with Birds of Prey is that it’s a feminist film. It is very finely written, it is in the script a true look on the misogyny. And I think we (the men) need that, we need to be more aware of how we behave with the opposite sex. We need to be taught to change. The misogynists in the movies are often extreme: they are raping, they beat women… And it’s legitimate to represent people like that, because they exist and they are obviously the worst. But in the dialogues of Birds of Prey, there is always an allusion to everyday misogyny, to those things that we say as a man we do not even realize, to mansplaining… All this is in the script in a very subtle way. I found that brilliant.”

And that kind of messaging set the tone for the rest of the movie’s marketing.

Birds of Prey was promoted as a feminist movie, giving audiences good reason to stay home

In this day and age, when streaming services give people access to thousands of movies at less than $10 per month, getting someone to give $10 for one movie in a theater can be tough.

Audiences are more likely to spend that $10 where they expect a good, fun movie they can watch to escape from their everyday lives – not to have to pay $10 for a lecture and be subjected to moral grandstanding from Hollywood.

Interest in Birds of Prey became so low that executives changed the name of the movie’s listing in theaters (to Harley Quinn instead of Birds of Prey) mid-release to try and get more attention on the movie.

It appears that studios would rather struggle and make desperate attempts to save their movie after the fact, rather than just resisting the urge to create an agenda-driven movie in the first place.

After Birds of Prey’s release, Blue Checkmarks on Twitter were quick to defend the movie and express disappointment that it wasn’t performing better – making things worse and putting audiences off further by doubling down on the feminist angle.

Caillou Pettis, a Rotten Tomatoes movie critic, said the box office performance “honestly crushes me” before going on to suggest that “misogyny” was to blame for the movie’s failure.

With Sonic, even Jim Carey – who’s known to constantly be virtue signaling on Twitter, managed to bite his tongue during the marketing of the movie and let it get the success it deserved.

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Cindy Harper

Cindy Harper is a tech news staff writer based in Maryland, USA. After getting her start in local journalism, Cindy now reports mostly on social media stories for Reclaim. [email protected]