Expert reveals the effect Dakota Johnson’s ‘unhinged’ press tour had on ‘Madame Web’s dismal box office (2024)

Dakota Johnson’s new superhero movie “Madame Web” tanked at the box office last week and was overwhelmingly panned by critics.

In the film, the 34-year-old actress played the titular character of Cassandra Webb/Madame Web, a clairvoyant paramedic linked to the iconic superhero Spider-Man. “Madame Web” earned only $26.2 million over the six-day holiday weekend from its premiere on Valentine’s Day to Presidents Day, per Variety.

“Madame Web’s” debut marked the lowest opening for any film in the Sony Spider-Man universe and one of the worst starts for any movie based on a Marvel Comics character. The movie was met with an onslaught of negative reviews and currently holds an abysmal 13% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes, with an underwhelming 55% audience score.

The film’s implosion comes after its star, Johnson, often appeared notably disinterested and dismissive of the movie and the superhero genre in general during a promotional tour that some social media users described as “unhinged.”

Fans of Johnson are familiar with the “Fifty Shades of Grey” star expressing her trademark candor and dry sense of humor during interviews, including her famously awkward exchange with Ellen DeGeneres on the host’s now-defunct talk show in 2019.


Since kicking off the press tour for “Madame Web,” Johnson has garnered attention for her blunt remarks about the film.

During an appearance on Magic FM earlier this week, Johnson revealed that she “hadn’t actually seen” “Madame Web.” The actress added that she tends to sneak out the backdoor at her movie premieres and “go to have dinner.”

“I probably won’t – I don’t know when I’ll see it,” Johnson said of “Madame Web.”

“Someday,” she added vaguely. Johnson went on to say that she rarely watches her own movies. “I don’t like to,” she said.


“For me, it’s a way to not have, like, an existential crisis,” Johnson continued. “Not watching my movies is like self-care.”

Meanwhile, in an MTV interview, host Josh Horowitz noted that there was a scene in the movie in which Johnson’s character dies for three minutes.

After Johnson appeared confused, Horowitz asked, “Do you remember that?”

“She does? I haven’t seen the movie,” Johnson said. “You could be right.”

During her press tour, Johnson also raised eyebrows with comments that she made about working with her younger co-stars.

In “Madame Web,” Johnson’s character Cassandra “Cassie” is a paramedic working in New York City alongside Benjamin “Ben” Parker, the uncle of Peter Parker/Spider-Man. After a near-death experience, Cassandra begins to develop clairvoyant abilities and becomes drawn to protect a trio of young women, Julia Cornwall (Sydney Sweeney), Anya Corazon (Isabela Merced) and Mattie Franklin (Celeste O’Connor), who have been targeted by the antagonist Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim).

“I love them, and they annoy me, and I love them,” she joked to “Late Night” host Seth Myers last week.

She confirmed she meant she was annoyed on a “generational level,” telling Myers “all the time, every second of the day” after he asked when Sweeney, 26, O’Connor, 25, and Merced, 22, made her feel the oldest.

“I’m not that much older than them,” Dakota protested.

She also joked to E! News that the Gen Z co-stars have excluded her from a group text chat, which she quipped is “certainly” because she is a millennial.

“I’m older than them, and they make sure that I’m aware of that,” she told the outlet.


The three admitted to E! News they have a private chat group called “The Boo Crew,” which is a reference to their “Madame Web” characters, but it’s not a reflection on how they feel about Johnson, who they said gives them “big sister” vibes.

However, during a recent appearance on MTV UK, the three actresses joked about bonding over Johnson ignoring their text messages.

“Dakota definitely left me on read,” O’Connor said. “Dakota doesn’t reply to me,” Sweeney added. “Never!” O’Connor said with a laugh. “It’s been two years,” Merced chimed in.

“Been on read for two years,” O’Connor said while laughing. “We check occasionally,” Sweeney noted.

While some have argued that Johnson’s unconventional press tour hasn’t done “Madame Web” any favors, a number of fans have found the actress’ “unhinged” and “chaotic” antics entertaining and praised her deadpan humor and forthrightness.

“Reading all the Madame Web tweets and I kinda want to see it. I heart Dakota Johnson, her vibe is a little chaotic,” one fan wrote on X.

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“every unhinged interview that Dakota Johnson gives makes me want to see Madame Web even more,” another social media user enthused.

Public relations expert Doug Eldridge of Achilles PR weighed in on whether Johnson’s press tour had ultimately contributed to the failure of “Madame Web.”

“The lack of critical and commercial success of this film does not fall squarely on Dakota’s shoulders,” Eldridge told Fox News Digital. “There is a recent string of superhero movies, which have fallen flat at the box office for reasons beyond mere PR missteps by their stars.”

He continued, “The Rock [actor Dwayne Johnson] is arguably the largest draw at the international box office, yet ‘Black Adam’ was dead on arrival. Similarly, in an ever-expanding superhero lexicon, ‘Captain Marvel,’ ‘Morbius,’ and ‘Blood Shot’ are just a few of the titles which never found their foothold, as the market for capes and tights is getting increasingly crowded and less appealing to the broader viewing audience.”

“That said, stars play a significant role in the media rollout of any film, but they are only one piece of the larger puzzle,” Eldridge added. “For instance, the studios have a marketing budget for each film; summer blockbusters or Pixar films are often paired with fast food brands, to drive awareness and demand for the ‘family ticket.'”

“Additionally, there is the distribution element, meaning how many theaters the movie will appear in across the United States. Finally, there is the media or press junket, which precedes the opening. After all of this, there is the fan reaction and ‘formal reviews’ from critics. Each is important in its own right and the last thing you want is your star stepping on the message. In sports, we’d call this an unforced error.”

Eldridge emphasized that press tours can have a significant impact on a movie’s success in some cases, citing the backlash that Rachel Zegler received after her criticisms of the source material behind her upcoming Disney film “Snow White.”

“Press tours are critical in Hollywood, as it not only drums up interest in various markets – both domestic and international – but it helps drive the initial wave of ticket purchases,” Eldrige said.


He continued, “The impetus doesn’t just fall on the studios, but on the stars as well, especially given the new Hollywood model of back-end gross as a means of compensating stars, compared to the standard, upfront, $20M paycheck in the ‘90s and early ’00s. Two great examples of this are Tom Cruise and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Not only are they the two hardest working guys in Hollywood, but they’re also famous for their all-out approach to the press and publicity tour as their films open around the world. This is a big draw for fans and helps create the critical buzz for the initial stage of tickets buys.”

“For context on the importance of press tours and media junkets, look no further than the ‘failure to launch’ status surrounding the recent Snow White remake,” he added. “Rachel Zegler, who plays the titular role, had a series of off-putting comments regarding the iconic character and the need to not only remake the movie, but in so doing, rewrite the underlying premise, based on current social mores.”

“Her comments drew immediate and well-deserved blowback from fans and critics alike, which put Disney in the awkward position of having to delay production and purportedly reshoot much of the film altogether. While it’s up for debate whether the film would have been a success in its initial reboot, the PR torpedo unquestionably sunk the film in its current format.”


“Madame Web’s” box office collapse has also apparently quashed Sony Pictures’ hopes for a Johnson-led franchise, though the actress told Total Film that she would “definitely” return for a sequel if asked.

“We’re not going to see another ‘Madame Web’ movie for another decade-plus,” one industry insider told The Hollywood Reporter. “It failed. Sony tried to make a movie that was a different type of superhero movie.”

Eric Schiffer, chairman of Reputation Management Consultants, told Fox News Digital, “Madame Web’s premiere spanned multiple days with early abysmal reviews. A positive press tour can’t save a disaster of a movie. If you watch most Dakota Johnson interviews, she’s deadpan, straight to the point. Her demeanor and personality did not cause ‘Madame Web’’s epic flop opening weekend and ratings.”

Schiffer noted, “Sony is hellbent on making their cinematic Marvel universe come to life but continues to fail enormously with its other characters like Morbius and Venom, which have been total flops. Critics and Marvel fans were not expecting anything different with ‘Madame Web.’”

“‘Madame Web’ is set to be the worst movie of 2024, but many people think it’s one of the worst movies of all time. At the end of the day, ‘Madame Web’ failed because it sucks,” he added.

Fox News Digital’s Brie Stimson contributed to this report.

Expert reveals the effect Dakota Johnson’s ‘unhinged’ press tour had on ‘Madame Web’s dismal box office (2024)
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