Why was Ex Machina a success at the Box Office?
Ex Machina is a British, sci-fi film that was released in 2015. It was produced by DNA films, Film Four and Scott Rudin Productions and was directed by Alex Garland. In the film, a programmer is selected to participate in an experiment involving artificial intelligence by evaluating its human qualities. However this film was made differently to others. It had a low budget ($15 million), little special effects and CGI, and no big fighting scenes... or any huge set pieces for that matter. Yet it managed to earn $38 million in the box office. So, why did it do so well at the Box Office when it's missing all the key features that most audiences today think make a 'good' film? I will be exploring some of the reasons why.
First of all, the audience that Ex Machina is aimed towards seems to be a reason for its Box Office success. It is not a four quadrant picture as there is full frontal nudity involved and so limits the number of people that can watch it. It could be assumed that for this reason the film wouldn't do so well, but the film is aimed at more matured audiences and, very recently, it has been shown that audiences ages 45 and over hold the biggest percentage of UK cinema goers. So having the film aimed at this age group strongly benefited its Box Office success. The genre of the film also contributed to the success of it as sci-fi is a very popular market to viewers.
Another possible reason the film was a success is the marketing that it used to promote the film. Although there were few, they used the most engaging of the advertising techniques; viral. This technique allows the audience to create a hype among themselves about the film, meaning the film makers were also able to advertise at a substantially lower cost. This would also have helped the success at the Box office as there was a smaller budget to make profit from. One of the viral advertising techniques that was used was the avasessions.com website, in which you could talk to Ava and have a portrait drawn for you by her. This was a very clever marketing technique as it was a very different approach and massively grabbed the audiences attention as they are provided with a first hand experience and insight into the main character of the movie.
The way the film was distributed will have also been a reason for its success as it was done in a clever and thought out way. As the movie was released at a very similar to The Avengers movie, which is a very popular blockbuster movie, they only released the movie onto 4 screens around the UK. This allowed them to save money that they knew would be wasted if releasing the film onto over 1000 screens. Instead they gradually increased the number of screens that viewed Ex Machina as The Avengers decreased in the number of screens, thus meaning people were more interested in going to see the movie and boosting up its Box Office earnings.
However, some features of the film that may make it surprising to some people that the film was a success is the lack of big actors, the minimal locations, and the lack of CGI, fight scenes etc. Usually, films that do well involve big names like Leonardo DiCaprio or Angelina Jolie but there were no such actors seen. However, fans of Star Wars would have been aware that one of the main characters in Ex Machina (Nathan) would also be appearing in the new Star Wars film being released this year. As both films are also sci-fi, it could be argued that a lot of viewers would have been trying to get a feel for the actor and in a way, give some insight into Star Wars as well. Another point to make is the actual number of actors; there are very low numbers of extras and only 4 main characters, one of which doesn't speak. There are also minimal locations seen in the film. These factors would usually not appeal to the audience, especially teenagers, as they can find it quite boring. A lack of CGI, which this film has, can also create this effect. However there is again the argument that the film is aimed towards the more mature audience in which less CGI in a film often appeals to.
The effects used to create the body of Ava were made simply by shooting the scene once with her in it and once without her in it, then what they didn't want was digitally painted out and the background restored behind her. This process was done during post-production, and is the extent to which any CGI/VFX/SPX occur. This meant that the film could be edited relatively quickly. The shoots that were used were very long (sometimes up to 10 minutes) and it often took only one or two shoots to get through a scene. Both of these factors meant production of the film took a very short amount of time; six weeks to be exact. These factors also reflect why the budget was small. However, being a British film the budget is actually relatively sizeable for this movie. It was actually Alex Garland's first time directing a movie, but has had experience in writing novels and co-producing movies beforehand. He has written novels such as The Beach in 1996, which was developed into a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio in 2000, and 28 Days Later in 2002, starring Cillian Murphy. Both these films did extremely well at the Box Office also and so Garland is well respected for these reasons in particular.
Overall there are many reasons to show why Ex Machina was successful at the Box Office, whether it was surprising to some people or not. I think the main reason was the strong difference of this film compared to others, including the use of VFX, the minimalistic locations, and the fact that it is outside of the Hollywood system. These factors can appeal to some audiences and attract the 'film buff aficionados'. However I do believe that the fact the fact that it did well at the Box Office does not necessarily affect whether or not it is a good film and whether it was liked by those who saw it. Personally I found the film very slow and dull, but can see the reasons of why it did succeed.