now that’s a bad buzz

When I saw Casino Royale the other night, I witnessed the strongest reaction ever to a movie trailer … well, unless you count some of the vintage trailers shown before movies at Alamo Drafthouse, and that’s not at all the same thing. I mean the strongest reaction to a movie not yet released.
I was at a preview screening the night before Casino Royale officially released, and the theater was packed but fairly well-behaved. And then the trailer played. No, I’m not talking about the Apocalypto trailer, which seemed to leave people cold but didn’t generate a lot of reaction.
I’m talking about Rocky Balboa. The negative reaction was astounding. Most people seemed not to be aware that the movie had actually been made, that it would be released in the next month. “Unbelievable!” I heard. I think some people thought at first that it was a joke trailer. “They’re not seriously gonna make that.” “Aw no. You’re kidding.”
The audience as a whole was incredulous that Sylvester Stallone’s character would actually be returning to the ring and fighting, that this was being presented as any kind of realistic option. Stallone as a trainer, they might have bought. But the theater echoed with derisive laughter. Every time Stallone or Burt Young appeared on screen, they laughed. They snickered at “Junior” too.
If this were a highbrow crowd at one of the arthouse theaters, the reaction I saw to the trailer wouldn’t mean much to me. But the trailer played before Casino Royale, one of a number of trailers for obviously male-centric films (I started wondering if I would see a single non-wife in films in the next six months, then remembered the target demographic for a Bond film), and the audience was a mix of people who didn’t mind going to a second-rate multiplex for a free movie. In other words, apart from the press, not film geeks.
Rocky Balboa could turn out to be a great movie. I have no idea. But if people in general are reacting like they did to that trailer, it’s going to tank at the box office. Is it poor marketing, or is the premise truly that silly? Guess we’ll find out in a couple of weeks.

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