M. Night Shyamalan Blackout Falls on ‘After Earth’
It’s been a rocky road for M. Night Shyamalan, who hit a career high in 1999 with the eerie Oscar-nominated thriller “The Sixth Sense,” but in recent years has struggled to stay atop Hollywood’s A-list of directors after several box office misses. Yet, ever since “Sixth Sense’s” surprise blockbuster success, the writer-director has been the marquee selling point for each of his films — until now.
With Sony’s post-apocalyptic “After Earth” set for release May 31, the studio opted to put stars Will Smith and his teenage son Jaden front and center in the marketing campaign for its $100 million-plus family picture, pushing Shyamalan out of the spotlight.
M. Night Shyamalan’s Box Office Track Record:
M. Night Shyamalan has never been able to duplicate the success he achieved with “The Sixth Sense.” Here are the worldwide grosses for his films:
Nowhere in the key promotional materials — the posters, trailers, TV spots and the film’s own website — is there a mention of the director. (You have to read the fine print in the credits to see his name.)
“Night is, without a doubt, a world-class filmmaker who we were thrilled to team up with on this project,” says Jeff Blake, Sony’s marketing and distribution chief. “Together, we decided to focus our campaign on both the action and Will and Jaden, given that “After Earth” is an adventure story of a father and son.”
Tracking for the film’s opening has picked up lately, with expectations of a $35 million-$40 million debut. That said, the marketplace is crowded with tentpoles, including newcomer “Star Trek Into Darkness,” which bowed May 16, and Memorial Day weekend pictures “The Hangover Part III” and “Fast and Furious 6.”
Shyamalan’s once-hot brand name means less to audiences today than it did before, given a string of disappointments, including his most recent effort, Paramount’s 2010 release “The Last Airbender.”
Despite his lack of visibility in “After Earth’s” marketing, surprisingly more than 60% of the approximately 1,000 moviegoers polled by Fandango in a proprietary survey conducted for Variety said they were aware that Shyamalan was directing the picture.
However only 39% said that fact made them more excited to see it. And on Facebook and Twitter, Shyamalan registers even less strongly, driving just 2% of the online chatter on “After Earth,” as opposed to Smith and son, who are the subject of a dominating 32% of the conversation — the vast majority of which is positive, according to social-media listening firm Fizziology.