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Movienomics: Analyzing the Cheek-Embracing World of Nicholas Sparks Movie Posters (updated)

June 20, 2016

 

I love researching movie posters. I’ve already studied Jason Statham posters and explored whether explosions on action movie posters matter.  That is why I am excited to bring you this post. Nicholas Spark’s has had an incredibly schmaltzy run throughout the last 16 years and the movie posters for his book adaptations tell a tale.

Sparks movie posters

Nicholas Spark’s book adaptations have become a moneymaking machine that combine well-known actors and a whole lot of melodrama. Sparks has become a brand and when you say it is a “Nicholas Sparks film” people know exactly what to expect.  What does it mean to be a Sparks film? The movie needs beaches, mud slides, drowning, ghosts, cancer, untimely death, spunky grandparents, cute kids and some sort of lie.  A pattern is afoot and I wanted to check if there is a correlation between the movie posters and box office/critical reception.

I wrote the original post before The Longest Ride and The Choice were released and decided it needed an update. Also, news came out recently that Nicholas Sparks was shutting down his production company. The writing was on the wall but this might actually be good news for Sparks fans. Why? Well, his movies do better when he isn’t a producer. Here is the breakdown.

Average Critical Reception (according to Rotten Tomatoes) and average domestic box office (according to box office mojo) of the films he produced (Safe Haven, The Best of Me, The Longest Ride, The Choice) = 15.25% RT and $40,210,150

Average Critical Reception and average domestic box office of the films he didn’t produce (Message in a Bottle, Nights in Rodanthe, A Walk to Remember, The Notebook, Dear John, The Last Song, The Lucky One) = 30% RT and $75,769,785.

The audiences scores were roughly the same (Sparks produced = 64.75. Did not produce = 66.85) but there was a massive drop in quality in the later films. If you’ve watched all 11 of the films you will realize they are all bonkers, so any of them if done right had the chance to succeed. I actually like The Longest Ride (for a Sparks movie) and felt that is was on par with earlier Sparks films, but audiences were still sour from The Best of Me so it was doomed. The Choice never had a chance because of the watered down nature of the Sparks name.

So, if bigger studios decide to go back to the Sparks world they should consider having somebody else write the screenplay. If might work!

Here is the revised Nicholas Sparks data!

 

 

Here are the movie poster for The Best of Me. The Longest Ride and The Choice

Sparks posters

The following post takes a look at the posters and analyzes the box office, critical reception and audience ratings. The average domestic box-office (per Box Office Mojo) is $59,448,130 and the average Rotten Tomatoes critic score is 24.6%. The thing I find most interesting is that these films are critic proof. The critic score is 24.6% but the audience score is 66% (Per RT). The average budget is $28 million and the average box office is $59 million dollars! However, things are changing and so are the movie posters.

Here is the data from the movie posters

Posters featuring cuddles: Message in a bottle, Dear John, The Choice and Walk to Remember have accrued a 24.75% RT (-.25 on average) score and 65.25% (=) Audience score. the box office average is $63,840,500 (+ $4,392,370)

When I first collected the data the posters featuring cuddles had a much higher critic and box office average. However, The Choice happened and the numbers plummeted.

The good thing according to EW is they are some of the least ridiculous of Sparks films. Walk to Remember is the least ridiculous at eight while John and Message rank six and three. Dear John was the last film to be released before Sparks took over writing the screenplays so that is why the critical and box-office scores are higher. The posters are more creative as well. The posters are expansive, intimate and most importantly no faces are grabbed. Too bad The Choice dragged the critic and box office numbers down.

Posters featuring head grabs of doom: Nights in Rodanthe, Safe Haven, The Best of Me, The Last Song, The Lucky One and The Longest Ride have accrued an 20% (-5) RT score and 64% (-2) Audience score. The average box-office score is $56,635,747 (- $2,812,383).

Sidenote: I’ve included The Longest Ride poster in with this bunch because Scott Eastwood is grabbing Britt Robertson’s hat. It isn’t extreme but it comes close.The 30% critic score and 72% audience score helped a lot. I kinda like this movie.

The Longest Ride movie poster

The Nicholas Spark’s films have taken a serious nosedive as of late. The last six films have an average 16.8% RT score and the posters basically look the same. With the exception of Nights in Rodanthe (2nd most ridiculous Sparks film and my least favorite of the 11) they’ve gotten progressively more soul-crushing (sans The Longest Ride) and Sparksesque (Safe Haven was ranked the most ridiculous).

Why are the face palm posters so critically reviled? Well, four out of six screenplays were written by Spark’s himself. The Last Song, Best of Me and Safe Haven were the three lowest RT ranked films. The only other film ranked that low was The Lucky One which collected a 20% RT score. These four films have become like the Saw, Final Destination (sans five) and Paranormal Activity movies (They built up a good name, follow a formula and have gotten progressively worse). The face palm romances follow a bonkers beat that introduce ghosts, lies and so much sap it could crush the most stalwart of fans.

Colbie Smulders Safe haven

Cobie Smulders in Safe Haven =  A lot of confusion.

Posters featuring the woman embracing the man’s cheek: The Notebook collected a 52% RT (+27) score and 85%(+19) Audience Score. The box-office is $111,915, 500 (+$52,467,370).

The Notebook was incredibly passionate and super bonkers (They die at the same time!) Rachel McAdam’s character is by far the most three-dimensional of Spark’s ladies (she literally fought for her character) and Ryan Gosling became a megastar overnight because of this movie. The Notebook is by far the most popular of the nine films because of the great acting, passion, and all around care spent on the script. I would rank the poster #1 on the romance scale. They look genuinely involved. If you look at the other posters the people look sorta bored.

Conclusion: The first five films attempted to take Nicholas Spark’s books and do something with them. They tried to work around the schmaltz, contrivances, syrup, mourning, melodrama and sentiment. However, eventually they gave up and gave in to Sparks. He started writing the screenplays, and now they stick to a safe formula and face palming posters.

Maybe Sparks productions shutting down might be good for future Sparks adaptations.

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