TPM Still One Of The “Leggiest” Blockbusters

Believe me, it probably made Forbes’s Scott Mendelson cry to realize this:

As George Lucas said when promoting Attack of the Clones(paraphrasing): “I made More American Graffiti, I know what happens when people don’t like a sequel, no one goes.” But audiences did go and see The Phantom Menace in theaters that summer. More importantly, at least to the conventional wisdom that folks hated the movie as much as the hardcore fan base did, that movie didn’t just snag a huge total box office sum 18.5 years ago. It played all summer long, becoming one of the leggiest blockbusters of the modern era.

Just to add to this, TPM was playing somewhere in the Washington, D.C. metro area from May 1999 to January 2000. This includes its initial run, the discount theater/drafthouse run, and the charity run in December 1999 that in some places extended past the new year. I’m aware of contractual obligations some theaters had to run it so many weeks at a minimum but just because it was there didn’t mean people weren’t seeing it.

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19 Responses to “TPM Still One Of The “Leggiest” Blockbusters”

  1. Pedro Felipe Says:

    Yes!!! This is what we need: to debunk the haters ridiculous and false narrative. Literally all the facts are on our side, ven TPM 3D re-release made as much money as the titanic 3D re-release.

  2. Stefan Kraft Says:

    Please correct me if I am wrong: my impression is that most blockbusters are expected today to make the majority of their box office within the first few weeks (maybe the first month after the release?) and that this was not the case 20 years ago.
    I am not saying this to discredit TPM’s “leg length,” (which was remarkable according to the article cited above,) but more a general observation: the “legs” of blockbusters do not seem to be that important anymore.
    Another example were the different release times between the US and the majority of other countries. TPM was released in May, but only in August in Germany… Today, most international markets have the same release date as the US. (This was of course mentioned by LP during the “15 years of TPM” countdown.)

    • lazypadawan Says:

      Today, movies are expected to front load their box office because they don’t stay as long in theaters anymore. Even big hits are available to watch at home or on devices just three months after their release. But even for its own time, TPM performed impressively.

      • Stefef Says:

        Thank you for the info, LP. 🙂
        “… because they don’t stay as long in theaters anymore.”
        You’re right, that’s also a thing that has changed.

        ” But even for its own time, TPM performed impressively.”
        That I have not doubted (I tried to emphasize this with my remark of TPM’s remarkable “leg” length).

      • Anthony Says:

        Which kinda sucks, because there have been some movies I’ve wanted to see, and have almost missed out on. I didn’t want to go at first, because the theater was too crowded, and then I was busy with work, etc. And then when I do have free time and go to see it, they’re almost out of the theaters. “Already?!? But it’s only been one month!!!” And it’s not like they were badly reviewed; they’re just being phased out.

        I’m surprised (and pleasantly pleased) that “Wonder Woman” lasted in the theaters as long as it did.Although I guess that being the first major female-led superhero franchise had something to do with that. 😛

        And WB wanted to recoup some of their losses from “Suicide Squad”.

        Star Wars is largely immune from this, but with other movies, man, sometimes you have to get your butt to the theater seat within that first month, or else they’re gone!!

  3. Phen Says:

    I saw TPM 13 times in theaters. I loved it. I still love it. It’s a great movie. Haters gonna hater.

    • Stefan Kraft Says:

      TPM still holds my personal record of “movie most watched in theaters.” Believe it or not, but it was only three times! It’s not that I did not love it, it’s just that I do not go to the movies very often.

      • Keith Palmer Says:

        I deliberately saw Revenge of the Sith at the movies five times to make it my personal record, but with the 3D re-release I’ve seen TPM at the movies three times…

        Anyway, I’ve seen comments about TPM’s “good legs” before, and to me they’re a useful counterpoint to the wilder accusations about the movie being “instantly and universally offensive.” Unfortunately, I then have to sort out how to respond to the box office performance of AotC being claimed to be a “delayed reaction to its predecessor” or the argument just being shifted to “you can’t compare the reaction of the masses to those of true fans” (even should they add “just look at The Force Awakens…)

      • joe Says:

        as far as i’m concerned the prequel haters aren’t true fans of star wars f**k them

      • LadyJediScientist (@LJediScientist) Says:

        In regards to “how to respond to the box office performance of AOTC being claimed to be a “delayed reaction to its predecessor””, point out to them that Empire made less than A New Hope, both during the original release & the 1997 re-release. Additionally, Clones had stiffer box office competition then Phantom Menace- Spiderman, The Two Towers, and Harry Potter. Finally, audience actually went up with Revenge of the Sith based off box office receipts because Sith made almost as much money as Phantom Menace.

  4. matt Says:

    Phantom Menace was awesome. I was 8 years old when I saw it. Loved it then, love it now.

  5. Moose Says:

    And the Award for Most Caveats in a Pro-Prequel News Article goes to . . .

  6. KirkMan1701 Says:

    This whole campaign to smear the Star Wars prequels and all who enjoy them is ultimately based on a GIGANTIC PACK OF EPIC LIES! Star Wars Episode I; The Phantom Menace’s initial reception was positive. Me personally due to my own personal experiences and sentiments, I prefer TPM over the N64 Star Wars: Rogue Squadron abomination. I got Rogue Squadron for Christmas 1998 and I hated it with a purple passion whereas I relished TPM when it comes to Star Wars.

    The Phantom menace is the most universally positive Star Wars movie that was ever made and that is one reason I have embraced it. It bothers me when people obsessively hate on universally positive things for utterly silly reasons and that is the main thing I have against that infamous mass hatred towards Jar Jar Binks. The claim that “Titan A.E. is better than The Phantom Menace” is a full-fledged whopper because a spaceship blowing up Earth for no good reason is a far more serious issue than nuances like Jar Jar Binks.

    • Anthony Says:

      “Rogue Squadron” is one of those games that is considered great that I didn’t take to very well.

      The problem is the N64 controls. As someone who was looking forward to playing some of those Mario games, etc, I held off on the N64 until it was very cheap, because there weren’t that many games to begin with, and I was much more into Playstation, older SNES games, etc., at the time. When I finally got it, I was disappointed at how difficult it is to control your character in those games. That third joystick is a nightmare!!! 😛 Even Mario, which is my personal favorite, and has always been grand, sailed like a steamboat in that game. It’s just, ugh. Nintendo should have just followed suit and done a regular analog stick like everyone else. (Which is ironic, because they pioneered the analog stick, pretty much, with the N64. But Sony did it better.)

      “Rogue Leader” did it better. Now, the problem with Rogue Leader is that they made it super hard!! >_< Darth Vader himself couldn't beat that game easily, if he were playing it! He'd probably break it in a fit of Force rage. (In fact, knowing Anakin, he'd definitely break it in a fit of Force rage. 😛 If he were still Anakin while he was playing it, Ahsoka would have to calm him down and get Obi-Wan. :-D) The graphics were great, and I relished the thought of playing through some of those battles, but it was just too damn difficult to beat that game. I never played "Rogue Squadron 3". I didn't anticipate the ability to get out of your ship, and play a third-person character; we already had "Star Wars" games where you fought on foot. Why did you need to turn a vehicle shooter into another one?

      Naboo Starfighter did it better. Playing with Darth Maul's infiltrator and everything. That was followed up with "Jedi Starfighter", which remains the best flying vehicle "Star Wars" game I ever played, although it got too difficult near the end for me to beat. I know you're controlling Siri, but man, some of those obstacles are too tough for even a Jedi to make it through! Where's my backup, Adi Gallia?

      You're supposed to be my Master!

  7. Jim Raynor Says:

    Scott Mendelson is actually my favorite and most trusted movie critic and entertainment writer right now. He’s the only one I’m regularly following.

    He acknowledges the hardcore fan backlash in this article and mentions a few mild criticisms of his own. However, his central argument is that The Phantom Menace was not in fact a franchise killer but rather a very successful mainstream hit that created a new generation of Star Wars fans.

    Mendelson has in fact been a frequent Prequel supporter in the past, saying he liked the movies more than most. He had gripes with some of the commonly-criticized aspects (acting, less emphasis on characterization, etc), but appreciated that the Prequels were ambitious movies that added a lot to Star Wars. Revenge of the Sith is his favorite Star Wars movie after The Empire Strikes Back, and he credits The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones for their “subtle symbolism.”

    Also of note is that he was not too fond of The Force Awakens for being an Original Trilogy retread. He didn’t like Episode VII as much as the Prequels because of that.

    I like Mendelson’s articles because he writes with an analytical, fairly objective, and fact-based approach. Actual box office numbers are his focus, and one of his schticks is bursting supposed narratives and “conventional wisdom” in the entertainment world with hard numbers.

    That’s the kind of analysis I want to see more of in entertainment writing, as opposed to the often Prequel-bashing fake news that gets published over and over again in the geek internet bubble.

    • joe Says:

      if tpm was a franchise killer there wouldn’t have been more movies people should learn the meaning of the words fraanchise killer on tv tropes

    • maychild Says:

      It’s worth pointing out, and I’ve done so, that even the people who claim to hate the prequels, especially TPM, with every fiber of their beings, can’t stop watching the movies (why do they even have copies to keep watching?) and discussing/complaining about/bashing them. TPM is 18 years old, and they’re still going over it endlessly. I don’t see any of them discussing the movies they claim are vastly superior (i.e., the LOTR flicks or “The Matrix”) with such passion.

      Heck, I don’t see them discussing those movies at all, except in the context of using them to spank the prequels, on SW message boards, when you think they’d instead be on message boards devoted to LOTR and “The Matrix.” And much of the embarrassingly, exaggeratedly gushing praise that was heaped on “The Force Awakens (Yawns and Goes Back to Sleep)” centered around the prequels, how this was everything the prequels should have been, etc.

    • Anthony Says:

      Mendelson was looking forward to “Wonder Woman”, and was one of the frequent defenders of why DC needed that flick in their movie arsenal.

      He has his flaws, like all critics, but he’s definitely one of the better apples in the bunch.

      He’s also a surprisingly great gaming advocate. I’ve enjoyed more than one gaming article from him, regarding “Metal Gear Solid”, female characters, philosophical discussions in “Batman”, etc. The man is very talented. 🙂

  8. Jim Raynor Says:

    It’s true that we’re in a different era these days regarding how blockbuster movies make their money.

    Right now, even well-received Avengers movies are so front loaded that they can be expected to drop 60%+ by their second weekends.

    However, TPM’s box office holds aren’t just way better than almost anything we’re seeing now, they were great almost 20 years ago in 1999.

    If people hated the movie as much as the geek media alleges, they wouldn’t have been going out to see it in such large numbers over the course of several months. The raw box office, the small week-to-week drops, and the audience polling (Gallup, CinemaScore) all show positive reactions among mainstream moviegoers. Even the Rotten Tomatoes score was “Fresh” for over a decade, until a late-coming wave of geek media bashers took the 2012 3D rerelease as an opportunity to drive down TPM’s score (all the way down to a still not-so-bad 59% positive).

    I love that this recent Scott Mendelson article was published even if some parts of it can be taken as a friendly acknowledgement of the hardcore bashers. It’s facts and numbers like this that need to see more screentime over the blatant falsehoods that continue to be parroted in the geek media.

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