M. Night Shyamalan: Critics never get me

M. Night Shyamalan says he has learned to turn a blind eye to his detractors, particularly the ones across the pond.

“I don’t know what’s going on with me and the critics in the United States. They’ve never got me and it’s getting worse!” said the filmmaker.

Despite high praise for 1999’s The Sixth Sense, which was nominated for six Academy Awards, follow-ups including The Village and Lady In The Water went down like lead balloons.

The writer and director thinks cultural differences may play a part:

“I’ve always had a European sensibility to my movies, so the pacing is always a little bit off for (Americans). It feels a little stilted, they need more electricity. 

“I’m very used to getting on a plane from the US having been savaged by them and going to – in this case – Japan next, and then they’re like ‘genius!’, he added.

Poor reviews or not, Shyamalan has already penned the sequel to The Last Airbender and a strong peformance at the US box office means it is likely to be made.


  1. He’s totally right. Unfortunately, regular American moviegoers do not know how to regard highly artistic films, only popcorn flicks.

    • Totally agree Gustvo. It’s frustrating to those of us that do appreciate quality, well thought out films. But sadly, here in America, I think we are in the minority.

  2. It sounds like he’s playing the blame game to me. Apparently Europeans don’t have a European sensibility either because the critics over there hated The Last Airbender just as much (probably more so) as the critics in the United States did. I understand that some critics are very harsh and tend to go after him instead of the movie sometimes but if he doesn’t take the legitimate criticism to heart then he can’t grow as a filmmaker. If he can’t accept the faults (there are many) of the first Airbender movie then I don’t want him to touch the even more complex second Airbender movie if there is one.

  3. I am a little tired from hearing from M. Night and his army of apologists that Night makes films that the critics hate, but audiences love. Sadly, that just has not been the case in recent years. I have been going over the numbers since reading some dubious movie sites that have been saying M. Night’s latest films were “successes”, yes I know, despite 98% of the critics in the US have said otherwise. Please feel free to research the validity since I took them off MovieMojo.com.

    Lady in the Water earned a pedestrian $42 million at the domestic box-office. It was the 73rd highest grossing film of 2006. Considering Night is a very well-known director with has a track record of success and a big studio marketing budget behind every movie he makes, which is a terrible showing. 2 years later, The Happening earned just $64 million from US moviegoers. It was the 49th highest grossing film of the year, again a poor showing considering Night’s name and the studio muscle behind the film. Especially troubling was the fact that it made $30 million its opening weekend in theaters and then just tanked to earn a total of only $64 million. Most wide releases earn about a quarter of their box-office the opening weekend. For a film to do half of its total take its opening weekend it is a sign that the people who did see it the first weekend went out and told all their friends how horrible it was. It is a sign of massive negative word-of-mouth. The notion that these films were successes with audiences is a fallacy and a disservice to the readers of this article.

    Finally, the latest of Box office abortions The Last Airbender is another great success story. The production budget for the film was 150 million (Marketing costs were another 130 million, but that’s another story) and so far it has made domestically $129,344,805 and since HALF goes to the theaters that show it, that amount is less than 65 million. Now if you add the the foreign gross (54 million) and we have about 188 million worldwide. However since half has to go to the theaters, the movie has only made less that 95 million so far after a month and a half. Still a failure in both counts.

    I wonder if the authors of these articles had an agenda and wanted to preserve their relationships with Night so they wrote a puff piece that ignores the facts. I will admit that Air bender has been a decent “success” at the box-office, especially when compared to Night’s recent films. However, when you consider that the film had a $150 million budget and a marketing budget of more than $130 million, there seems to be little chance it will be a money-maker for Paramount. I find it amusing that Night says Paramount is waiting to decide on making sequels. The odds of a sequel to a film that lost money are slim and none. Most astute Hollywood observers know that Air bender is going to lose tens of millions.

    • well there still are chancesx that thid movie will make it because of the fact that there are countries besides america who enjoy shamalans sense of story and artistic vision.im not saying that your math is wrong im just saying ive seen a lot of people sating the same thing about the movie finacially

    • Whilst I appreciate your write up, there are many things wrong. I won’t go into them all but I’ll simply point out that the ‘half goes to cinemas’ is utter nonsense. Having run a cinema myself, I know for a fact that is not true. Why do you think the price of confectionery products is so high in the cinema? To make up for what they don’t make on the movie…because they DON’T TAKE HALF. You shouldn’t be so presumptuous.

  4. I know, right? I wonder if having an English mother is the reason why I’m so “Un-American” in my movie/music tastes. I’m patriotic and all, but I don’t mourn that part of me. Especially since I have Shyamalan films to love. 🙂

  5. Besides Signs and the Sixth Sense ,all his films are shit. I’m into highly artistic films myself, and i can say that while the concepts are the best , the writing and plot fails.

    I believe the main beef to why Airbender sucked was with Paramount and their higher-ups. His original cut was fantastic, albeit a few flaws and was a huge improvement over the others.

  6. This is a joke, right? He is WHINING. How can he say with a straight face that critics “never” got him, when his first movie garnered him so many Oscar and Golden Globe nominations? The only thing clear here is that he hates being challenged or criticized and loves being called a genius. His career has gone steadily downhill for just this reason: his massive ego. His belief that he needs no editing, no oversight and that what he creates is perfect. The pacing has zero to do with it. “Paranormal Activity” was a slowly-paced movie that was a HUGE hit Stateside, along with “Let The Right One In” (very profitable on an “art-house” scale) and a slew of others I could name. All he is doing is coming up with excuses for his own failure. And until he is able to acknowledge his own capacity for making awful movies, his career will continue its swift slide downhill. But at least he’ll still be a genius in Japan!

  7. I agree completely. I sent Shyamalan a fan letter recently telling him to ignore the haters. Airbender had two things going against it in the eyes of the critics: one, it was an adaptation of a cartoon, two, it was made by M. Night. For some reason they hate him, and I can’t understand. I’m what you’d consider a very american moviegoer, and I know a good story when I see it. I see it in airbender.

  8. MikeAT you’re wrong about movie theaters taking half the profits of a movie. They get a pitifully small percentage. I used to work for one and at our theater, the breakdown was something like five cents per ticket sold unless the movie was in its third week of a run, in which case it shot up to 25 cents per ticket sold. They charge crazy prices for snacks and let commercials play because that is the only way they can make a profit.

    And Michael, you said you know a good story when you see it. Well Airbender is not Shyamalan’s story. It’s something he adapted from pre-existing material. I went and watched the whole series this past month and I can assure you, it is a great story, and was a great story long before Shyamalan had anything to do with it.

  9. Kaduzy you are so wrong.

    let me show you some thing

    When viewing box office numbers I’ve often wondered about what it takes for a movie to actually be profitable.

    For example, let’s say a movie has a production budget of $100M and a marketing budget of $30M. Then it makes $100M from domestic box office and $30M from international box office. Sounds like it broke even, right? Well, obviously not. There are many questions that need answering:

    1 – What percentage of domestic box office goes to the studio?
    2 – What percentage of international box office goes to the studio?
    3 – How much would a $100M box office movie typically make from DVD sales, and how much of that would go to the studio?
    4 – How much would a $100M box office movie typically make from DVD rentals, and how much of that would go to the studio?
    5 – How much would a $100M box office movie typically make from TV rights, and how much of that would go to the studio?
    6 – How much would a $100M box office movie typically make from merchandising, and how much of that would go to the studio?
    7 – What other profit streams does a movie bring in?

    I know that’s a lot of questions, but I’m sure there are insiders on this forum that can give us a basic idea pretty quickly.

    Part II

    First, the studio will usually get about 50%-60% of domestic theatrical ticket receipts. International distributors will get about the same in each market, although this is complicated by pre-sales, where the producer sells the rights to a particular market before it is released, and by foreign currency fluctuations, among other things.

    Video sales and rentals are very roughly each about equal to the box office for a movie. i.e., Two thirds of consumer spending is in the video market ($20bn annually in North America), and one third in the theatrical market ($10bn annually in North America). Once you factor in marketing and distribution costs, you can assume, again as a rule of thumb, that about half of what is spent by the consumer on video goes back to the studio as profit. The video market is a bit smaller internationally.

    TV and ancillary revenues can be estimated as 25% of box office.

    So, to take your example… the total cost to release your film would be $160 million (assuming $30m international marketing).

    Domestic receipts would be $300 million (box office + video sales + video rentals), of which about $150 million would go to the studio, plus another $25 million from TV and ancillary.

    International receipts would be $80 million (box office + video sales + video rentals) (factoring in smaller international video sales), of which about $40 million go to the studio, plus another $6 million from TV, perhaps.

    So the total revenue to the studio would be about $150m + $25m + $40m + $6m, or $221 million in total, for a gross profit of $61 million on the initial $160 million investment.

    Note, however, that this doesn’t take into account studio overheads, which would add up to around $80 million for a movie like this. These would be taken out of the gross profit before any distribution of profits. So in this scenario, the movie would probably report a small loss. This is the notorious “Hollywood Accounting” issue, which can be stated as follows: Because the studio allocates its overheads based on how much a movie makes (the so-called “distribution fee”), which is accounted for as a percentage of revenue, it’s very rare for a movie to make a “net profit” from the theatrical and home markets.

    To drop into sales mode for a moment, this is the kind of analysis that professionals do for producers all the time — either projecting the likely income for a project they’re working on, or analyzing the returns from previous releases. The breakdown for a real movie will depend on many factors, but the above is a decent rule of thumb, I think, for a generic studio movie. Email [email protected] if you’re interested in full analysis services.

  10. Beatrice you re right at the money you should work for hollywood. So far the movie has made 225 mil worldwide, and the movie will premier on Mexico and the rest of south america this friday. Lets hope that it will produce more money for a sequel, which it will in Argentina the movie was NUMBER ONE.

  11. You might have an opinion. All I say is don’t force it on others. This just shows what the masses really care about. I hold similar opinions about Transformers 2, Hulk (the original Ang Lee version of 2003), and all other M. N. Shyamalan’s stories, including Lady in the Water. I haven’t watched the cartoon series yet but I have to say I was highly impressed with the concept and how the movie was made. I don’t know what you people were expecting him to come up with. The guy has a talent for story telling, and I’m all for the movie. The conversion to 3D might not be a smart move but the movie was by far as good as any action movie that came out in the recent years. I say this for myself and from almost all my friends. Hats off to him. Eagerly awaiting the next 2 sequels.

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