The fan-response to a movie can certainly make a big splash, but does it really make a difference in whether a movie eventually succeeds or fails?
Top image from X-Men: The Last Stand
In response to this post on the movies that the box office loved but the fan base hated, a discussion began over just what the role of fan communities was in a movie's overall success — and how that success should be defined, whether by financial success, critical reception, or legacy:
This pretty much confirms that "the fans" are more or less irrelevant to the success of a film, no matter how they colour its legacy.
Yes, that's exactly right — you nailed it. The fans don't make or break a movie at the box office at all. For one thing, the fans will probably go see it anyway, so they can complain about it. On the other hand, fans will shape how a movie is discussed 10 years later, because they do a lot to shape the discussion. So, legacy.
And by the same token - being financially successful doesn't equate quality. The masses tend to lap up anything big and flashy, regardless of quality.
However, the fans are relevant to the sustainability of a film franchise.
Notice how a lot of these films are sequels and sequels down the line (3rd films). By that point the series has cache with both the strong part of the fanbase as well as the casual fan who has picked it up.
And how many of those films got a fourth film, how many had to reboot or go in a new direction? Spider man had to reboot. X Men had to subsist on Wolverine and then went to prequels. If we get more Iron Man films it will be because the whole MCU works and people still like Downey. Fantastic Four didn't even get a 3rd film before the need to reboot.
To be fair there are situations fans don't apply to. We'll have to see an Indiana Jones, that was iffy before the film sucked obviously. Star Trek? Again, that's an odd situation. Dark Knight was always only ever going to be a trilogy anyway. Star Wars has only ever been about Lucas and his whims obviously. And clearly Transformers has built its own modern young base to where the older fans don't matter any more.
I don't think fans have ever been essential to the success of a movie. There's just not enough of them to make or break a $250M production, and their influence over word of mouth is pretty minimal.
A lot of people credited Harry Knowles for "taking down" Batman & Robin through advance negative publicity, but the reality is that it was just a shitty-looking movie that nobody wanted to spend money to see. I remember seeing a trailer for it about five or six months before it came out, and people (regular moviegoers, not comic fans) were audibly groaning in the theater.
What do you think? Do the fans have a role in how successful a movie is and just how do we measure that success? Does fan response matter more for some movies than others? Give us your take in the comments now.