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The Dark Tower's Ominous Opening Weekend


Stephen King fans are having quite the year, not just one, but two of Stephen King's novels are being released this year for the silver screen. First up, is Sony Pictures' The Dark Tower.

The Dark Tower film adaptation has been long awaited. Many thought the movie would never get made, understandably so since talks of a movie adaptation swirled around for many years, without any clear path.

Sony Pictures eventually acquired the rights to the movie, fast-forward to August 4, 2017, The Dark Tower's domestic movie release date.

This should be a time for celebration for fans of King and the novel series, but alas it is not. The source material, King's The Dark Tower novels, tell a rich and complex story. A story that understandably needs time to be told properly as a movie. Unfortunately, the powers that be had a different opinion, and opted to trim the movie to just an hour and thirty five minutes. To put things into perspective, The Emoji Movie runs for an hour and thirty-one minutes. In other words, The Dark Tower movie was given four more minutes than a movie about cell phone emojis. Having shorter movie run times is a good strategy for films because they can be played more times daily and that high turnover means more profit. Shortening a movie is only a good strategy when the story is either simple or not negatively impacted, but when a sweeping multi-layered saga is being told, the story is owed a decent amount of time to unfold.

A visit to Rotten Tomatoes' website shows why shortening complex source material is not a good idea. Early critics are panning the movie, and as it currently stands the movie has an 18% approval rating. Which means it's likely rotten!

Some might argue that critical disapproval does not mean a movie is not worth seeing, because what ultimately matters is that the fans approve. This will be tested this weekend as The Dark Tower enters its opening weekend, critically panned, but anticipated by fans. Actor Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson argued against the worth of critical reviews, earlier this year on his Twitter page when defending his Baywatch movie :

In a time gone by maybe Johnson's strategy to disregard critical approval could have had some merit. But, gone are the days when people show up to a movie theatre, and choose a movie to watch based on nothing more than an attractive poster or a familiar actor. This laid back approach usually meant that if the movie chosen turned out to be a dud, it was okay, it was a "at least we saw something" type of dopily satisfied mentality. However, with current movie theatre ticket prices nearing twenty dollars for a single admission, cheap/free entertainment via online streaming services, and our societies need to maximize our usage of time, nobody has the time or the money to invest in an expensive waste of time at the movie theatre. This is why Rotten Tomatoes rose to prominence, because people want and need critical reviews to know what movies are worth seeing, and by that being so it underlines why critical reviews matter.

The Dark Tower is treading the same murky 18% Rotten Tomatoes approval rating Baywatch found itself in its opening weekend. Dwayne Johnson's defense of Baywatch ultimately does not hold water because just like critics weren't crazy for the Baywatch movie, neither were moviegoers as is evident by Baywatch's poor domestic and international box office performance. Emphasizing the fact that their is definitely a connection between the opinion of critics and moviegoers.

Much is on the line for the The Dark Tower franchise this weekend. A strong box office performance this weekend is not an impossibility despite its Rotten Tomatoes rating. This movie also has several built-in fanbases invested in its success even before its release: Stephen King fans, Matthew McConnaughey fans, The Dark Tower novel fans, Idris Elba fans, and fans of western/sci-fi movies, a genre combination not always available. Notably, a poor box office performance this weekend could potentially mean the end of any future adaptations of the next installments in the Stephen King novel series. By Monday we will know if The Dark Tower movie series has a future or if it doesn't because of past production and distribution strategy miscalculations.

[Image: Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.]

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