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Snakes on a Plane scrapes top spot, still shakes marketing rulebook

shakes on a planeThe Samuel L Jackson film, Snakes on a Plane, described by one blogger as 'the most Internet-hyped movie of all time' has disapointed in it opening weekend, struggling to hold the top spot in the US ahead of last weeks' Talladega Nights. The film, which went back into production to shoot extra scenes following huge web interest, was hoped by some to show the web's potential for making or breaking a film. Some argued that distributor New Line Cinema's decision to not allow any pre-release press screeners scared off movie goers, while others expect the film to pick up in its second week following strong word of mouth.

However, the box office disapointment (and a no.1 spot for a B-movie title isn't exactly a failure) shouldn't overshadow what has been a trendsetting marketing campaign for the studio. As well as providing endless images, video and audio materials for people to brighten and personalise their blog or myspace page, the film inspired dozens of spoof videos and audio tracks months before even the trailers began to circulate.In a further unusual move, the studio partnered with CafePress.com to permit fans of Snakes on a Plane to become official licensees of Snakes on a Plane merchandise. This opened the door for anyone to design and sell - for free - 'official' t-shirts, mugs and so on.

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Wikipedia background

The storyline of the film is credited to Dalessandro, a University of Pittsburgh administrator and first-time Hollywood writer, who got the idea in 1992 from a nature magazine. "I read about the Indonesian brown tree snake climbing onto planes in cargo during World War II". He originally wrote the screenplay about the brown tree snake loose on a plane and called it "Venom". He soon revised it to be about poisonous snakes, and then crediting the film Alien revised it again to include "lots of them loose in the fuselage of a plane."[6]

Dalessandro's third draft of "Venom" was turned down by all 30 Hollywood studios in 1995 and the Pittsburgh administrator lamented "My big foray into Hollywood. They put it on a shelf." In 1999 though, a producer for MTV/Paramount followed up before NewLine took over.

The film's title and premise generated a lot of pre-release interest on the Internet. One journalist even wrote that Snakes on a Plane is "perhaps the most internet-hyped [sic] film of all time."[7] Much of the initial publicity came from a blog entry made by screenwriter Josh Friedman, who had been offered a chance to work on the script.[8] The casting of popular actor Samuel L. Jackson further increased anticipation. At one point, the film's working title was altered to Pacific Air Flight 121, there was also a fake working titled called Anaconda 3. In August 2005, a perturbed Samuel L. Jackson told an interviewer, "We're totally changing that back. That's the only reason I took the job: I read the title."[9] In another interview in early 2006, Jackson claimed that once he learned about the movie title being changed he said: "What are you doing here? It's not Gone with the Wind. It's not On the Waterfront. It's Snakes on a Plane!"[10] On March 2, 2006, the studio reverted the title to Snakes on a Plane.

In recognition of the unprecedented Internet buzz for what had been a minor movie in their 2006 line-up, New Line Cinema ordered five days of additional shooting in early March 2006[3] (principal photography had wrapped in September 2005). While re-shoots normally imply problems with a film, the producers opted to add new scenes to the film to take the movie from PG-13 into R-rated territory and bring the movie in line with growing fan expectations. Among the additions is a line that originated as an Internet parody of Samuel L. Jackson's traditional movie persona: "Enough is enough! I have had it with these muthafuckin' snakes on this muthafuckin' plane!".[3]

Although New Line hired two additional writers to smooth out the screenplay, the original idea dating back to Dalessandro's 1992 version carries the entire middle of the movie. As he put it "...once they get on the plane, [it's] mine".[6]

Media coverage

In mid-July 2006, New Line Cinema revealed that it would not be showing any advance screenings for critics. Gitesh Pandya of BoxOfficeGuru.com stated that "These kind of movies are marketing-driven, not critic-driven. So the only thing the critics could do is hurt it. And even if the reviews are good, they wouldn't mean much." The film debuted on August 18, 2006 with some late-night screenings on August 17, 2006. Despite the lack of advance screenings, the movie has garnered much publicity in various media.

During a July 21, 2006 panel discussion at the Comic-Con Convention in San Diego, California, a ten-minute clip from the film was shown to a crowd of more than 6,500 people. The panel included actors Samuel L. Jackson and Kenan Thompson, director David R. Ellis, and snake handler Jules Sylvester. Afterwards, fans were allowed to ask the panelists questions.[11]

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Games Workshop has published the novelization of the film, written by Christina Faust.[12] On June 13, 2006, comic book writer Chuck Dixon announced on his web site that he would be writing the comic book adaptation of Snakes on a Plane. DC Comics has since announced that their Wildstorm imprint will release a two issue miniseries on August 16, 2006 and August 30, 2006. In January 2006, Wired featured the film as "The best worst film of 2006", based solely on the title and concept of the movie.[13]

An illustrated book from Thunder's Mouth Press, Snakes on a Plane: The Guide to the Internet Ssssssensation by David Waldon details the internet phenomenon and was published July 28, 2006.[14] Waldon details various viral videos relating to the SoaP craze, and interviewed their producers to find out what about the movie captured their attention.

Sterling Publishing released the tie-in sudoku book Snakes on a Sudoku on August 1, 2006. According to the book description, the puzzles are standard sudoku puzzles, but with the 3x3 blocks of numbers replaced with "deadly snakes" (actually, snake-shaped groups of squares).

Music and audio

On March 16, 2006, New Line Cinema publicly announced a contest on TagWorld[16] and a website promoting the film.[17] The contest allowed artists on TagWorld to have their music featured on the movie. A flood of S.O.A.P themed songs by artists like Captain Ahab, Louden Swain, the Former Fat Boys, Nispy and others are now available because of the TagWorld contest. In addition, a music video for the film, released July 10, 2006 on MTV2's Unleashed, has also generated publicity for the movie. The video is for the first song on the soundtrack CD, Cobra Starship's "Snakes on a Plane (Bring It)". Additionally, the video appears during the beginning of the credits, after the movie.

In October of 2005, Nathanial Perry and Chris Rohan recorded an audio trailer spoof, which helped fuel the internet buzz. Perry and Rohan recorded the "motherfucking snakes" line in the audio trailer which was added to the film during the week of re-shoots.[18] In July 2006, New Line Cinema signed a worldwide licensing agreement with the Cutting Corporation to produce an audiobook of the film.[19]

The soundtrack is currently available for streaming in its entirety on MTV's The Leak.[20]

Television and video

Beginning in May 2006, episodes of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and its sister show The Colbert Report contained references to Snakes on a Plane’s title, famous line, and general premise. Colbert accompanies the references with an imitation of Samuel L. Jackson saying "I am tired of these muthafuckin' snakes on this muthafuckin' plane!". One notable example on The Daily Show occured just after the alleged terror plot in August 2006, which resulted in a large number of items being banned from airplanes in the UK and USA. This story was accompanied by the satirical tagline "Snakes not allowed on a plane". On August 15, 2006, Samuel L. Jackson guest featured on The Daily Show, opening with his already very famous line. Keith Olbermann has featured stories about the movie and Internet buzz several times on his MSNBC news program Countdown. In addition, G4's Attack of the Show features a semi-regular segment entitled "Snakes on a Plane: An Attack of the Show Investigation", and even had a week dedicated to the movie which included interviews - including a conversation with Sunny Mabrey in a recreation of an airplane bathroom - and a day where hundreds of actual snakes were on set. Additionally, MTV Canada's MTV Live has made sketches of an eager man waiting in line for months to see Snakes on a Plane first.

In June 2006, New Line Cinema commissioned famed UK audio-visual film remixers and chop-up artists Addictive TV to cut and sample Snakes on a Plane to create trailers for the US television networks.

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Merchandising

Several independent T-shirt manufacturers have made T-shirts with graphics illustrating various humorous representations of the film. One, created by Jeffrey Rowland, depicts a frontal exterior view of a plane cockpit, with the pilot and copilot depicted as snakes. Another uses vintage road signs to formulate "Snakes + Plane = Snakes on a Plane". A third showed a cartoon representation of Jackson's Mace Windu character from the Star Wars series cutting down snakes with a lightsaber. It was pulled, presumably for copyright reasons.

A Snakes on a Plane t-shirt is also now available at Hot Topic retail stores. Samuel L. Jackson was dressed in the snakes in cockpit fanshirt in the official music video Snakes on a Plane, though this is only readily obvious from still photos from the day of the shoot, and only a fraction of the shirt is visible in the video. The shirt he is wearing is from TopatoCo; it is unknown if he chose the shirt himself, or if someone working on wardrobe selected it. On the August 3, 2006 edition of TNA iMPACT!, wrestler Christian Cage was the latest person to sport the "road sign" t-shirt.

In a move which goes against usual movie merchandise practices, New Line Cinema partnered with CafePress.com to permit fans of Snakes on a Plane to become official licensees of Snakes on a Plane merchandise. This opened the door for millions to design and sell not only t-shirts, but other gift items such as mugs. Designers are restricted from using any copyrighted images or content created by New Line Cinema (e.g. images from the film), or images/depictions of the individual actors in the film. Fans have already responded by creating hundreds of designs including those using the full title of the film, something allowed by the New Line Cinema/CafePress partnership.

Internet

Snakes on a Plane became an Internet phenomenon soon after Josh Friedman's blog entry [8] and mentions on several Internet portals. The title inspired bloggers to create songs, apparel, poster art, pages of fan fiction, parody films, mock movie trailers and even Short film parody competitions. Snakes on a Plane has also inspired the creation of graphics for fictional movies about other animals in odd settings, such as "Bears on a Submarine" and "Sharks on a Roller Coaster" (Tagline: You must be this tall...to DIE!).

Some fans from 4chan have taken to attending the movie wearing black suits and afro wigs.[21]

Snakes on a Plane was promoted highly on the Pod-cast Filmspotting, formerly known as Cinecast.

The phrase "Snakes on a Plane" has been used on Internet forums to indicate that a given topic is nonsensical. With creative uses of capital letters, bold or italic text, and punctuation the title has been manipulated to reflect surprise, horror, or absurdity, among other things. The meme is often interspersed with images of Samuel L. Jackson reprising his role as Mace Windu and quoting lines recalling his roles from both the Star Wars series and Pulp Fiction. The slang form "SoaP" is used in place of "Shit happens" or "Oh well, what'cha gonna do?"

A viral video entitled "Snakes on a Plane Early Auditions" features comedian Dave Coyne doing impressions of actors Christopher Walken, Jack Nicholson, Joe Pesci, and Robert De Niro, and muppet Beaker, doing casting auditions for the movie.[22] The film has been featured on Digg, iFilm, and YouTube, and was included as enhanced content on the film's soundtrack. Dave's voice acting talent can be heard in the audiobook dramatization of Snakes on a Plane.

In March of 2006, the Zebro comedy group produced the first ever Snakes on a Plane music video contest. Contestants were told to write and record original songs inspired by the movie and then make them into music videos. The top 3 videos were produced by Zebro itself, including the rap song "Snakes on an MP3" which has been featured on Extra, MTV, CNN, and MSNBC after being put on Youtube. Another song entitled "100%: A Tribute to SoaP" is a claymation video dedicated to the film. The videos are in discussion to be put on the official DVD produced by Automat Pictures.[23]

The August 16, 2006 installment of the anthology webcomic Joy of Tech depicts a parody of the film named "Sapiens on a Planet"; specifically, it shows a movie theatre headlining this movie, in a world where the roles of people and snakes are reversed.[24]

Many of the early false trailers and other viral videos circulated via YouTube, and captured media attention there, such as:

On July 6, 2006, the official Snakes on a Plane website started a promotional sweepstakes called the "The #1 Fan King Cobra Sweepstakes". The contest makes innovative use of the publicity-generating potential of the Internet, requiring contestants to post links on forums, blogs, and websites and collecting votes from the users of those sites.

Recently, Varitalk has started an advertising campaign in which fans can send an amusing semi-personalized message in the voice of Samuel L. Jackson to telephone numbers of their choosing.

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Trailers

The official teaser trailer premiered before X-Men 3: The Last Stand, and the first official trailer appeared online on June 26, 2006.[25] Another trailer circulated in July 2006, showing several of the snake attacks and a missing pilot and co-pilot.[26] In addition, New Line Cinema commissioned famed UK audio-visual film remixers and chop-up artists Addictive TV to cut and sample the film to create trailers for the US television networks. Rotten Tomatoes has video clips of the official trailers, as well as fan-made trailers.

US Box Office (from boxofficemojo.com)

TW LW Title (click to view) Studio Weekend Gross % Change Theater Count / Change Average Total Gross Budget* Week #
1 N Snakes on a Plane NL $13,806,311 - 3,555 - $3,883 $15,206,301 $33 1
2 1 Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby Sony $13,755,387 -37.8% 3,741 -66 $3,676 $114,341,263 $72.50 3
3 3 World Trade Center Par. $10,901,350 -41.8% 2,998 +41 $3,636 $45,105,868 $65 2
4 2 Step Up BV $10,157,605 -50.8% 2,639 +172 $3,849 $39,738,435 $12 2
5 N Accepted Uni. $10,023,835 - 2,914 - $3,439 $10,023,835 $23 1
6 4 Barnyard: The Original Party Animals Par. $7,581,622 -21.9% 3,227 -84 $2,349 $46,088,273 $51 3
7 12 Little Miss Sunshine FoxS $5,610,845 +115.5% 691 +538 $8,119 $12,692,059 $8 4
8 6 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest BV $5,212,351 -28.0% 2,277 -664 $2,289 $401,253,092 $225 7
9 N Material Girls MGM $4,603,121 - 1,509 - $3,050 $4,603,121 - 1
10 5 Pulse Dim. $3,519,889 -57.1% 2,323 - $1,515 $14,695,988 - 2
11 8 The Descent Lions $2,437,269 -47.2% 1,720 -375 $1,417 $22,320,119 - 3
12 7 Miami Vice Uni. $2,427,730 -48.4% 1,680 -979 $1,445 $59,852,850 $135 4
13 9 Zoom SonR $2,415,611 -46.4% 2,501 - $965 $9,023,155 - 2
14 10 Monster House Sony $1,970,819 -40.0% 1,673 -761 $1,178 $67,372,407 $75 5
15 15 The Devil Wears Prada Fox $1,307,434 -30.1% 824 -311 $1,586 $118,996,040 $35 8
16 11 John Tucker Must Die Fox $1,103,954 -63.3% 1,218 -995 $906 $38,637,285 $18 4
17 14 The Ant Bully WB $1,041,357 -44.4% 850 -1,155 $1,225 $24,616,815 $50 4
18 13 You, Me and Dupree Uni. $1,005,675 -47.6% 760 -592 $1,323 $72,887,490 $54 6
19 N The Illusionist YFG $927,956 - 51 - $18,195 $927,956 - 1
20 18 Superman Returns WB $848,255 -31.7% 383 -367 $2,214 $194,165,746 $270 8

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