August 18, 2006 10:00 AM PDT

'Snakes' on Times Square

NEW YORK--The people in line outside AMC's Empire Theater in Times Square on Thursday night looked like a mix of hacker conventioneers and mosh pit survivors from a Fall Out Boy concert: a little quirky, a little geeky, extremely enthusiastic and almost exclusively under the age of 30.

But they weren't waiting to hear music or trade tech secrets. This was the opening night of the movie that wasn't supposed to be a blockbuster, "Snakes on a Plane." What had once been a relatively low-ranking action flick in New Line Cinema's 2006 lineup has become one of the most talked-about premieres of the summer.

If Sam Jackson thinks he's doing a movie called "Snakes on a Plane"...you're doing a movie called "Snakes on a Plane."
--Josh Friedman, screenwriter and blogger

A poll posted by Internet Movie Database ranked it as the most highly anticipated movie of August, easily beating recent box-office champ "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," with 30.5 percent of respondents citing "Snakes" as their must-see movie in August versus 21.7 percent who cited "Ricky Bobby."

"Snakes" leading man Samuel L. Jackson was cheered wildly as he made promotional appearances on talk shows ranging from NBC's "Today" show to Comedy Central's "The Daily Show." Yes, "Snakes on a Plane"--or "SoaP," as it's popularly truncated--is a genuine cult phenomenon.

And, as with so many things these days, we have the infamous Internet zeitgeist to thank for that.

"I am so pumped for this movie!" one young woman squealed. She and her friends had dressed for the occasion by draping rubber snakes around their necks. Another was decked out in an airline pilot's outfit. Still others had showed up in movie logo T-shirts, some homemade, some purchased from Internet fan sites.

Down the street at Madame Tussauds wax museum, grinning tourists of all ages jumped at the opportunity to be photographed with a life-size figure of Jackson that had been set up outside the Times Square landmark.

Click here to Play

Video: 'Snakes,' a test case
What brought folks to the movie opening in S.F.--typical movie hype or the clip posted on YouTube?

Unlike other viral Internet fads that seem to appear out of nowhere (who really started "O RLY?" anyway?), the "SoaP" phenomenon appears to have a concrete origin.

Experts on the subject--like Brian Finkelstein, a law student who runs a fan site called Snakes on a Blog--point to an otherwise innocuous blog called I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing, operated by "War of the Worlds" screenwriter Josh Friedman. A year ago, Friedman posted an entry about how he had recently turned down an opportunity to work on a New Line movie that had been called "Snakes on a Plane" and briefly renamed "Pacific Air 121" before returning to its working title at the request of leading man Jackson.

Thoroughly enamored by the movie's wacky title, Friedman wrote in the post, under the headline of "Snakes on a (expletive) Plane," that "if Sam Jackson thinks he's doing a movie called 'Snakes on a Plane'...you're doing a movie called 'Snakes on a Plane.'" He also suggested that the title had the potential to capture the popular imagination and emerge as a synonym for "what're you gonna do?" or "(expletive) happens." (Sample use: "Your laptop battery exploded? AOL is trying to dig up your backyard. Hey, man, snakes on a plane.")

"Everyone who read it had the same reaction that (Friedman) did," Finkelstein said in an interview.

Fans do "Snakes" dance
But even if the origin of a viral online fad is clear, the forces that propel it into public consciousness are complex and often mysterious. Like Chuck Norris jokes and Sen. Ted Stevens' series of tubes speech, "SoaP" spread like wildfire.

Fake trailers popped up all over YouTube, many of them incorporating a sample line of dialogue proposed by Friedman and inspired by Jackson's previous work in over-the-top action movies: "I've had it with these (expletive) snakes on this (expletive) plane!"

Fans rolled out rap videos, T-shirts and artwork. And would-be obscure news stories about people actually finding snakes on planes were picked up by national news media.

CONTINUED: When studios listen to fans…
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10 comments

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The O RLY Phenomenon
OT > You
Posted by Banana Mike (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Idiots
I bet the media can make Hitler popular and Genghis Khan look like a saint...with the masses happy to follow like retarded sheep. This movie......It might be time for me to move to a small island and live in a cave away from all the mindless stupidity.
Posted by City_Of_LA (118 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Well
Thats why its great.. its a stupid and absurd concept and thats what makes it fun. Thats why the name is perfect. No one goes to this film to see a serious action movie they are fans of it because its completely retarded and not ashamed to admit it. New Line really hit the mark when it decided to not take itself and the movie so seriously and instead catered to the fans who wanted something fun rather than another generic action/drama movie.
Posted by Fray9 (547 comments )
Link Flag
Incredulous!!!
What spin!
What a concept!
How clever!
****!!!

Dear Mr Samuel Jackson,
Did you ask your agent for this gig? Are you that desperate for a film or were you tricked into it with a bogus script? Come on. Just turn down the temperature on the aircraft. After 20 minutes, the snakes will be in hibernation from the cold. Done.
So what if you need a jacket. You a badass MF!

Hollywood is so desperate for movies that it spends more hyping them (social networking via MySpace? YouTube?) and pursuing dead pirates (MPAA vs dead grand parent) then actually hiring talented writers.

I'd only watch this, if it were free. No wait, I want free popcorn and a date with me too. Someone that won't comment or talk during the movie. Can you dig it?
Posted by Below Meigh (249 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Joining a long line of bizarre cult flicks...
Although I won't see SoaP - don't like snakes that much, like
"horror" movies even less - I recognize that SoaP arises from a
long genre of "impossible movies" involving things that tend to
repulse and disgust us. The movies "Arachnophobia" (the shot of
the spider crawling out of the mortician's nose has to be the
classic gross out scene in a non-slasher movie in the history of
film) and Tremors - my all time favorite cult film - come right to
mind.

There is no way that anyone can take this film seriously. Just like
no one could take Arachnophobia or Tremors seriously. I do
admit, it looks like SoaP is less of a "thrillomedy" than
Arachnophobia and involves a whole lot more real nasties than
Tremors, (as well as lacking Reba McIntyre in a staring role), But,
really, could anyone even think the premise of this movie is
plausible?

Then, again, if someone from the DHS or the TSA sees this
movie, we could be prohibited from carrying rubber snakes
onboard airlines for a long time... LOL
Posted by MTGrizzly (353 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Cult flick?
I tend to enjoy a good cult movie from time to time, but this movie still looks awful to me. It doesn't even look interesting enough to laugh at.
Posted by ddesy (4336 comments )
Link Flag
Huh?
Did anyone notice that you are running an article about the premier
of a movie next to an advertisment touting that same movie?
Posted by JeffPelline (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Some people just don't get it.
This isn't supposed to be a "good" film. It isn't supposed to be smart, thought provoking or logical in any sense. It's just supposed to be fun, in the purest form.

Much like any other fantasy film, it puts abstract ideas in unrealistic settings. However, this 'comedy' goes one step further by playing itself off as an action movie.

This film did/does what it should: Prove that movies aren't just an art form, they're entertainment too.
Posted by Tomcat Adam (272 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Saw it...
I went and saw this on opening night. Well worth the ticket price, just a bunch of fun to be had. Even some people who really didn't like the movie said they had fun going to see it.
Posted by zaznet (1138 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Saw it...
I went and saw this on opening night. Well worth the ticket price, just a bunch of fun to be had. Even some people who really didn't like the movie said they had fun going to see it.
Posted by zaznet (1138 comments )
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