Movies & TV / Columns

Thoughts on Sonic the Hedgehog’s Box Office Success

February 18, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson

To win big you have to bet big and Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog won big. Pulling in $57 million in North America and $100 million globally over President’s Day Weekend, it was the biggest take ever for a video game adaptation.

Sonic is on track to take in $68-70 million through Monday and has analysts applauding the decision to listen to fan feedback and fix the CGI on the movie. 

We can only speculate what might have been if Sonic director Jeff Fowler had decided not to go back and change things after the backlash the first trailer received. Sonic, which was budgeted at $87 million, was pushed back three months to redesign the title character. Time and money paid off as audiences gave the film an “A” CinemaScore. 

“The consumer always determines what is right and what is wrong. They made their voices clear, and we listened,” said Chris Aronson, Paramount’s president of domestic distribution. “This movie exceeded [audience’s] expectations. That’s a testament to that reset and terrific performances by Jim Carrey and the entire cast.”

Let’s take a moment and think about something. How often do people watch a trailer or see a picture from the set of a movie or TV show and then turn to social media to complain about it? Pretty regularly.

How often does a studio actually listen to the feedback and say they’re going to do something about it? Not too often.

I’m not sure if this is a good thing for future projects but it makes things more interesting while we find out.

Fowler heard the fan criticism over the appearance and design of the leading blue hedgehog and took to Twitter to let everyone know that design changes were “going to happen.”

“The message is loud and clear,” Fowler wrote. “You aren’t happy with the design & you want changes. It’s going tp happen. Everyone at Paramount & Sega are fully committed to making this character the BEST he can be…#sonicmovie #gottafixfast.”

Let’s be honest. This could have turned out badly or made the situation worse. 

Even other directors weighed in on the controversy. Detective Pikachu director Rob Letterman spoke to The Verge saying he “just heard about the Sonic situation 15 minutes ago,” adding he didn’t envy the position that Fowler and Paramount have found themselves in. Making the decision to alter a character’s design just months ahead of its release date is no easy task, Letterman says. He couldn’t speak to Fowler or Paramount’s process into reworking Sonic’s look but did offer some insight into how impossible it would have been for his Detective Pikachu team to take on such an undertaking.

“There’s no right or wrong to how you make one of these movies,” Letterman says. “It would be very difficult for us to redesign anything. We spent a year designing all the characters ahead of shooting so that we could get it all right. If we were off by an inch on Pikachu, [actor] Justice Smith’s performance would go right out the window. For us, it would have been impossible — but that doesn’t mean they can’t do it. I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes — they’re in a difficult spot.”

A spot they dug themselves out of. Fans spoke and they listened.

“This demonstrates the power of social media and the value it can bring to filmmakers and studios in terms of providing direct feedback from the fans who, at the end of the day, are the folks you ultimately want to please,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. “This type of organic social media-based conversation provides de facto real time market research and, when respectful and constructive, can be highly valuable to studios and producers looking to get the best results from their films,” he said.

We’ll see how this impacts fan feedback to studios in the future.