The 8Asians Talk About: The Last Airbender’s Financial Success

Our internal e-mail lists have us discussing all kinds of stuff: Asian American identity, representation in the media, the experiences of activism in an academia setting and its progression as we transition to the working, adult world. And sometimes, we talk about why The Last Airbender still made millions of dollars, even though everyone on the planet pretty much thought the movie sucked.

Jeff: From the Washington Post: If Airbender is the year’s worst film, why are fans turning out?
“If current box-office trending continues, M. Night Shyamalan — criticized for being so wrong in matters of casting and story and dialogue — will be so right about the profits. And in Hollywood, if you can bend the bottom line, then so much else falls on deaf ears.”

Moye: Right, but how much was the budget? $150 mil? That’s still a considerable loss, right?

Edward: The film budget was $150 million and the marketing was $130 million but $70 million for its first week is very impressive. Not to mention that you have merchandise sales from toys, McDonald’s, and then the eventual DVD releases which will produce even more revenue. While it’s not absolutely astounding and upcoming films like Predators, Despicable Me, and Inception will definitely take the tops spots, The Last Airbender can hardly be called a financial disaster.

Koji: People are sheep.

Moye: More like children. I’m not surprised at the numbers. I mean, it’s not Avatar or even Eclipse, but there are probably tons of kids who didn’t know about the whole casting issue or are old enough to read reviews who still went to see the film.

Linda: I am one of those people who want to see it to see how terrible it is. Haven’t seen it yet, tho. Will probably download it. Not giving my money to Shyamalan.

Ernie: So, I’m going to admit something: I’ve never seen the original series before on Nickelodeon before. Until this week, where I’ve been watching the series on Netflix. Uh, guys, I’m actually surprised how good the TV series is, especially if it’s geared towards seven year olds. (I’m on Book 1 right now.) If I didn’t know any better, I would totally watch to see if the movie was good as the TV series.

Koji: One thing to remember: in the film biz, when you put that much into marketing, you generally will get a big opening weekend. That is expected, even on a bad movie. The real test is how it does on weekend #2, because that’s when word of mouth kicks in.

So for all the protests and Facebook boycotts and criticism about the movie, it boils down to this: has any difference been made?

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