Why One Direction's Movie Missed at The Box Office: Fandom Isn't Everything
One Direction: This Is Us made $18 million over the Labor Day weekend. That means the One Direction movie did better than the Katy Perry movie and significantly worse than the Justin Bieber movie, which--fanbase-wise--seems intuitively right to me. But it's not a lot of money for a movie. It's $5 million less than Planes, Disney's poorly performing kind-of-sequel to Cars, made. It's $12 million less than John Carter of Mars.
Which is to take nothing away from One Direction; their movie cost $10 million, and it sells itself, so they're already making money. This is probably right in line with TriStar's projections. But in terms of absolute dollars it should be a humbling reminder to the internet as a whole: Fandom isn't everything.
Among its many other blessings and curses and blessing-curses, the internet has presided over the geekification of everything. Everything can be obsessed over, and so everything is obsessed over. The currency is hashtags and forum posts and single-use Tumblrs, fanfiction and fanart.
Everything reduces to fandom: If you visit a tech website you'll find that the most devoted users are not people who are fascinated by technology but people who have gone full-on sports-team in the course of rooting for Apple's iOS or Windows Phone or Android. The biggest cultural phenomena of the last decade--Harry Potter, say, or The Avengers--are worlds that can be geeked-out on and overthought.
In music, which has always inspired intense connections between artists and listeners, it's facilitated yet another teen-idol rebirth. Justin Bieber has 44 million followers. One Direction is going on 15 million. Even *NSYNC has picked up 226,000, despite having broken up several years before Twitter was invented.
People talk about this like it's the end of the monoculture: Big country-wide and shows everybody watches are dead, long live cheap, niche-targeted reality shows.
For all that, though, One Direction was outgrossed, over the Labor Day weekend, by The Butler, which was in its third weekend. All the Directioners in America couldn't beat a well-received drama with really good word of mouth.