Two days ago as I was running around and preparing to fly to Manhattan I read Claude Brodesser Akner‘s New York piece about how David Fincher‘s The Girl With The Dagon Tattoo isn’t tracking all that well with women. This, Brodesser reports, is why Sony has moved the opening day up to 12.20 — i.e., to get a little jumpstart on the word-of-mouth.
My immediate thought was, “Wait…it’s not tracking well with women? Under-40 women are supposedly the core audience for this film, no? Aren’t they the the ones who’ve been reading the Dragon Tattoo books for the last three years? I’ve seen them myself in cafes and airport lounges and on subway cars. So I don’t get it.”
Brodesser nonetheless reports that “insiders tell Vulture that the real reason for the move is that the studio is concerned about the $125 million film’s inability to get more traction with females, who have been largely responsible for making Stieg Larsson’s trilogy a global hit in the first place.
“And yet [the book’s] female fans seem to be backing away from Fincher’s dark film adaptation” he writes. Brodesser qotes a former studio marketing chief saying that the film “has had a problem with women since it came on tracking.” Awareness is deep and wide, “but only 36 percent of [older or younger] women expressed ‘definite interest’ in seeing it. Men are about five percentage points lower in awareness in both demos, and yet at about the same percentage of definite interest.”
“The movie is hardly tracking to be a bomb,” Brodesser writes. “The issue is more that by scaring off women, it could be leaving money on the table, or at least in purses and handbags.”
So what’s the problem exactly? Most likely “the unforgivingly creepy and dark marketing for the movie that has scared off female fans of the book,” Brodesser writes. He quotes a marketing exec saying that “hyper-realistic violence against women is very different from the average horror movie. They’re escapist, ‘movie-date’ oriented. This is different, and I suspect the female numbers…are inflated by title recognition, not actual desire. Do women really want to see a movie like this at this time of year?”
So I happened to stop and look at the Dragon Tattoo poster last night as I was waiting for the J train. All along I’ve been processing this film as a sequel to the Danish-Swedish original and as the latest Fincher and so on. So I took two steps back and just looked at that gray-and-black image, and I began to understand all of a sudden why some women might be a little antsy about the film.
The tones in the poster look quite grim and somber and oppressive, in a way. This, of course, doesn’t represent what the film is, at all. In my mind there can no such thing as a lifeless or oppressively drab or excessively somber-toned David Fincher film. But if you look at the poster from the perspective of moviegoers who are staunchly opposed to any kind of thoughtful, all-things-considered reactions to this film — people who refuse to think beyond their instantaneous gut response to the ad materials — then I understand the reluctance.