Scott Pilgrim vs. The Abysmal Box Office Failure

Kim Pine

After a month of abuse and gross neglect in North American theatres, it has become clear beyond any doubt that the otherwise excellent Scott Pilgrim vs. The World has been a financial disappointment of considerable proportions. This jeopardizes not only the chances of ever seeing a Scott Pilgrim animated series, but also the future of mainstream films with incidental Canadian settings.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World has not done well in the box office. This is not news, and it is useless for me to pretend that it is. On its opening weekend, it earned fifth place with a disastrous $10.6 million, leaving desperate fans scrambling to generate more interest in the film, despite the already more-than-generous marketing push that Universal had given it. The amount of positive buzz that ensued would normally have been enough to cushion any theatrical release with strong enough legs to withstand a devastating fall. That was not the case this time, further solidifying the sentiment that popularity on the internet does not always translate to success in the real world.

Ideally the fact that the film was shot and set in Toronto would have generated more interest from Canadian audiences. Sadly, the appeal of characters casually eating at Pizza Pizza and Second Cup just wasn’t strong enough to pull them away from less critically acclaimed offerings, and thus the movie was just as proportionally unsuccessful in Canada as it was in the United States. In fact, the only market where Scott Pilgrim has performed on any acceptable level is in the UK, where it managed to earn £1.6 million (about $2.5 million) on its opening weekend. This can almost certainly be attributed to the unyielding faith placed on director Edgar Wright from audiences in his home country.

Although the film is clearly set in Toronto, just as its source material was, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World rarely forces your attention onto this fact. Maintaining this trait was a huge source of interest for many Canadian fans of the series, as well as those hoping that such a bold move would lead to greater acceptance of mainstream films set in non-the-United States, and lead to fewer Juno incidents.

Greater yet was the hope that this approach would be carried over into the all-too-obvious dream of seeing a full adaptation of the Scott Pilgrim comics in the form of an animated series. After all, it would certainly be a refreshing change of pace from most Canadian television productions which take great pains to remind viewers ever 5-10 minutes that the program they’re watching is, indeed, set in a major Canadian city. Normally such thinking is what drives the production of scripted television in Canada, forcing it to plod along in a monotonous routine, waiting for some deified production to come along that will change the stagnant status quo forever.

Well, obviously if any franchise was going to fit that bill, it was Scott Pilgrim. With a distinctly Canadian setting, a distinctly Canadian cast of characters, a distinctly Canadian creator who only happens to have moved to California, and a built-in fanbase, it seems like a no-brainer. Awareness and popularity in the franchise as a whole has grown monumentally, since the general hype that seemed to carry on for aeons before the actual theatrical release in August could be interpreted as a phenomenon unto itself. Sadly, the film’s poor reception was likely just enough to place Scott Pilgrim back into the “too risky” category.

The major irony is that that the film’s failure is a major reason why Michael Cera, fitting the bill as a Canadian star, would likely see playing the lead in an animated television series as gainful employment. No offence to him of course; these things happen.

If an animated series does ever happen, it seems more likely that Adult Swim will be the entity to oversee it. Scott Pilgrim vs. The Animation (a YouTube stream of which can be viewed below), produced by Titmouse Studios, certainly does a lot to tantalize its audience over how great a full animated series would be. If it does come to fruition, that would be great. However, it would leave the lingering feeling that the Canadian animation industry has, perhaps, made a redundancy of itself by letting such an obvious creative opportunity escape.


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