Why ‘Glee Live! 3D’ failed where ‘Justin Bieber: Never Say Never’ succeeded

The movie’s gross was a letdown.

On Sunday, we all discovered some stunning news — while no one thought that the “Glee Live! 3D” movie would end up winning the weekend box office, it did end up managing to be a surprise dud. According to early estimates, the movie couldn’t even manage to gross its Friday estimate of $7 million, bringing in just $5.7 million in sales.

Why did this movie not live up to the hype set by so many of its predecessors? Really, we have to look at a success for inspiration — “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never.”

The hype machine

What the Justin Bieber movie offered that “Glee” did not was the promise that it would be more than just a concert film — it was also a look back into his life. Thanks to that, it was branded as a must-see for any Justin fan, and it generated buzz for a longer period of time.

You also had Justin relentless promoting this movie on his Twitter account for months — since we only really learned about the “Glee Live!” movie earlier this summer, it simply didn’t have the same means to promote.

Market misunderstandings

Yes, many people like to assume that “Glee” is just a brand for teenagers — but it also has a large audience of adults who tune in for the story rather than the music. Even though these people may download a song on iTunes here and there, there’s a big difference between paying $1.29 for a song and spending nearly $20 (if you include refreshments) to sit down in a movie theater with 3D glasses on and declare your geekdom to the world.

This may just merely be a case of misjudging the market, and in some ways it’s understandable. The actual “Glee” tour dates were all incredibly popular, but that was to actually see the cast live — the movie does its best to emulate the concert experience, but at the end of the day you are hearing songs that you already heard on the show … and with a few exceptions, these songs were all originally covered by someone else first.

Waning popularity

Is “Glee” as a brand already in trouble? Not yet, but it does need to take a look in the mirror. Ratings dropped quickly following the Super Bowl episode in February, and many critics felt as though the show abandoned more of a cohesive storyline in favor of tributes and playing out the same messages again and again. The ratings proved that people missed some of the stability from season one, where the stories seemed a bit less manic and the characters had more time to shine.

Ryan Murphy has already said that he is going to tone down some of the fluff for “Glee” season three, but when it comes to the movie the damage has already been done. The show can still turn it around, but it has to regain the faith of some viewers that there is good storytelling to be had here.

Despite this movie’s poor performance, we will still be seeing plenty more of “Glee” in the future — just don’t expect it to be on the big screen.

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