Is all publicity good publicity? The producers of the action-sports movie Real Steel hope so after nationally syndicated radio host and ESPN personality, Jim Rome dedicated a half hour of his syndicated talk show to thrashing the Hugh Jackman movie which is set for nationwide release on October 27th in theaters and IMAX.
Real Steel stars Jackman as Charlie Kenton a washed up boxer who gets a second chance at glory as the trainer for a robot boxer. Aiding Charlie in his robotic return to the ring is his son Max played by Dakota Goyo who discovers a rundown robot in a junk yard and urges dad to help him rehab the machine for a run at the title. Former Lost star Evangeline Lilly plays Jackman’s ex while Anthony Mackie and Karl Yune take on supporting roles.
Jim Rome, like the rest of America, has yet to see Real Steel but was exposed to the film and its premise by the ubiquitous ads that have been shown during the NBA Finals series between the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks. The trashing of the film began at 2 PM eastern time when Rome repeatedly played a clip from the Real Steel commercial with star Hugh Jackman yelling the phrase “Let’s Make Some Money!”
The clip led to merciless mocking of the film’s premise based on Rome’s incredulity at the idea that the actor who was Wolverine would star in a movie about boxing robots. The ascerbic talk show host went on to compare Real Steel to the kids game Rock’em Sock’em Robots a meme that his national audience picked up on and began emailing and Tweeting @jimrome about the ‘Rock’em Sock’em Robots Movie.’ That conversation spun off a meme on other kids game to movie adaptations that often returned to pointed jabs at Real Steel.
While one half hour of one radio show several months prior to a movie’s release may not be enough to affect the opening or the long term box office prospects of Real Steel. The fear however, is that the poking fun, the pointed jabs somehow become a meme that sticks to Real Steel. Jim Rome’s audience of men age 25 to 50 may be slightly older than the audience Real Steel hopes to attract, ads indicate the film is being aimed at family audiences, but if older male audiences pick up on the meme it threatens to trickle down into all audiences.
Bottom line, Jim Rome did the producers of Real Steel no favors today. Sure, he made millions of people aware of Real Steel but not in the way that Hugh Jackman and company want people to be aware of it. There is still time to change the story, adjust the meme, but the marketing at Dreamworks and Touchstone Pictures, the two companies behind Real Steel, now have their work cut out for them. Real Steel carries a budget of $80 million dollars so the stakes are very high for Real Steel.