Disney’s Lone Ranger flop shows that marketing can’t do the heavy lifting for second-rate movies

We don’t usually do movies here but there’s growing evidence that Hollywood (aka the global film industry) is more dependent than ever on marketing and this ancient and revered activity seems to be letting it down.

The giant Disney studio’s new ‘blockbuster,’ The Lone Ranger starring the hitherto highly bankable Johnny Depp (left as Tonto), took just $48.9m in its opening weekend, a mere pittance compared to its production costs of $250m and an estimated marketing budget of at least $100m.

Big films, and this was supposed to be a whopper summer blockbuster, rarely get a second chance from the public although smaller films often do. Which is why Hollywood researches them to death, even changing the ending quite often to reflect the opinions of preview audiences.

Last year Disney had another summer bummer, Jack Clayton, although its Iron Man 3 has taken a staggering $1.2bn.

There seem to be two ways this can go: the big studios will realise (belatedly) that they can’t put all their eggs in a small number of summer blockbuster baskets or they will continue their crazy progress so they make just one film a year with a budget if $1bn in the belief that spending massively will guarantee success (ignoring the evidence that it doesn’t).

And the tried and trusted evidence that marketing only works if the product’s any good.

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