three-day gross of $14.95 million on it's way to an appalling $29.1 million, which was less than half of its reported $60 million budget. The film didn't fare much better internationally, grossing just $49.1 million, which meant that the movie vanished with barely a whimper.
The film received a terrible critical response and judging by this poster, it's not difficult to understand why.
The poster is quite stylish, depicting a mysterious hooded individual, named Priest (Paul Bettany), crouching on a ledge and drawing a knife while watching over a futuristic city. The blend of blue/black creates a sense of unease and is a clear indication of an impending danger, which is further emphasised through the smog that has engulfed the sky.
A section of the city, almost castle-like in structure, is raised much higher than the rest, indicating a class-divide within society or symbolising a dominant hierarchy that has sparked tensions with anyone who does not agree.
This is further emphasised by the tagline (see below), which quite literally refers to an eternal war.
It quickly becomes evident that the marketing team has opted for style over substance and in doing so, they have created a one-sheet that raises more questions than it answers. My analysis thus far is total speculation, largely due to the fact that this poster gives nothing away whatsoever. It has been established that there is a war, but who is this Priest? Is he a hero or villain? What is this war and where is the threat?
From the poster, the city seems fairly peaceful, it would appear that their biggest threat is pollution. So, is this Priest on an eternal war to protect the environment? Or is this a metaphorical war relating to his own religious beliefs or struggles?
In my opinion, this tagline is the epitome of such a poorly conceived poster design.
How can the war be eternal if his mission is just the beginning? Unless the movie starts at the beginning of time, this makes absolutely no sense. The tagline also affects subsequent interpretations of the poster because if his mission is the beginning, it must surely mean that he starts the eternal war. It is worth noting that he does look suspicious, his face is disguised by a hood and he is clutching a knife, so it is feasible to assume that this man might be an assassin.
Here's the synopsis:
PRIEST, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller, is set in an alternate world -- one ravaged by centuries of war between man and vampires. The story revolves around a legendary Warrior Priest from the last Vampire War who now lives in obscurity among the other downtrodden human inhabitants in walled-in dystopian cities ruled by the Church. When his niece is abducted by a murderous pack of vampires, Priest breaks his sacred vows to venture out on a quest to find her before they turn her into one of them.
Where in this theatrical poster is it evident that this is a vampire movie? Let alone his controversial quest to save his niece from a vampire clan. The film's primary demographic has essentially been ignored within the main theatrical one-sheet. This is lazy marketing, and when coupled with the nonsensical tagline, it is no surprise as to why this film under-performed at the box-office.
This marketing campaign is a clear example of how a lapsed attention to detail can damage a film's financial prospects. For example, if the second ''The'' was removed from the tagline, it would read - "The War Is Eternal. His Mission Is Just Beginning", a vast improvement and one that now makes total sense. This simple amendment would undoubtedly have altered initial interpretations of the theatrical poster had it been implemented.
Ultimately, if the marketing team are content with a bog-standard campaign, that undersells the project, there can be no excuses when the film loses money. It is pointless raising too many questions in relation to plot, genre and character because the information should already be visible on the poster.
It's another poor example of style and tone being used to sell a movie. However, if there's no anticipation, what's the point?
The following are a selection of lesser-known character posters for Priest, that are much more effective but only when viewed in succession.
It is baffling as to why there was no consistency throughout the entire marketing campaign, especially for a genre movie with a very basic plot. If the film itself was known to be poor, it becomes absolutely vital to counteract any bad buzz and reignite some anticipation for the movie, in order to ensure a strong opening weekend at the very least.
Something that failed to occur.