Well, blogger triumphalism certainly crashed and burned this weekend. Despite a heavy duty Internet campaign designed to use weblogs to promote the theatrical release of Joss Whedon’s directorial debut SERENITY (based on his TV show FIREFLY), the film failed to make it into the #1 position on its debut weekend; in fact, it barely cracked $10-million — about $5-million behind the FLIGHTPLAN (which held on to the #1 spot for the second weekend in a row) and less than half-a-million ahead of Tim Burton’s CORPSE BRIDE (which was in third place).
The interesting thing about this is that several popular weblogs (even ones like Washington Monthly, which are not entertainment-oriented) deemed SERENITY worthy of coverage as if it were a major theatrical release on par with a new STAR WARS film, instead of a minor cult item that would appeal only to fans of the canceled cable television show on which it is based. The result was a sort of echo chamber effect for several weeks, with bloggers hyping the film to such an extent that you almost could have been fooled into thinking it would be a hit. Almost.
If there’s a lesson to be learned from this, it is that blogs tend to reach a specialized, narrow audience; it’s hard for them to achieve the sort of critical mass that impacts the larger culture, unless their chatter is picked up by a mainstream news source. They may be effective at reaching a cult audience, but in the case of SERENITY, the audience pre-existed and were probably going to buy tickets on the opening weekend anyway. A $10-million debut indicates slightly more than one million ticket buyers, so it’s reasonable to question whether the weblog coverage brought in any veiwers who were not previously fans of the series.